Los Angeles — Eurovision Song Contest is a popular international song competition featuring singers from primarily European countries and held every year by the European Broadcasting Union. It is, to say the least, colorful and eccentric.
And so when Will Ferrell chanced upon it, he thought of making a feature presentation. And so “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” was born.
Now streaming on Netflix, "Eurovision" stars Will as Lars Erickssong and Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir of aspiring Icelandic duo "Fire Saga." Pierce Brosnan joins them as Erick Erickssong, the disapproving widowed father of Lars.
In the movie, "Fire Saga" finds itself representing Island in Eurovision. With elves, a terrible hamster wheel incident, and a hot and hairless Russian on the agenda, the movie is perhaps the comedic break we all could use as we traverse the pandemic.
We interviewed Will, Rachel and Pierce virtually and they share with us how it was filming in Iceland, how much fun they had, and coping with COVID-19.
Below are excerpts of our conversations with them:
You have encountered Eurovision for the first time 20 years ago. What have been the highlights for you since then?
The reaction to “Volcano Man” was fantastic when we released that. In fact that was always part of the marketing plan, to just release this video on YouTube, and just play it straight: that there was this new band from Iceland called Fire Saga, have a little fun with it and to have people connect the dots, that 'oh no, that is Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell.' What is this leading to?
It was nice to get such a fun reaction, especially from people who wrote and posted look, 'I know this song is supposed to be funny but I actually like it. I am actually playing it again and again and again.' Which was one of the goals of the movie, to make the music comedic, but also something that is a song that you actually want to listen to over and over again.
In terms of watching, having some of my favorites, I think the first year I saw it was the year where they had the act from Russia, the singing grandmothers, the babushkas, all singing. And I just remember being like, what is going on here?
Some of these songs are very straight and very much like pop songs that you’ll hear on the radio, others are these incredible performances and we of course, we were in Copenhagen to witness Conchita Wurst winning that year. She had an amazing performance along with her presence.
And of course we saw Netta perform in Portugal. The hamster wheel that we have in the movie was lifted directly from one of the acts that we watched while we were in Lisbon, Portugal, as well. So every year there’s always something that’s very memorable and that is kind of what makes Eurovision so special and unique.
Talk about having Pierce Brosnan as your father.
Yes, I mean it’s pretty nice to have James Bond as your father. And it’s also so great when you are writing the script and you literally write the actor in that you want to play the part, and they actually want to do it.
So we were having fun with writing Lars’ father as the most handsome man in all of Iceland. And we thought like Pierce Brosnan, for instance. And to his credit, he thought it was funny and weird and different enough to want to do it. And he’s as you guys know, just the ultimate gentleman, the perfect dinner party guest. He can kind of talk about any subject. And no matter how silly you try to make him look he still looks cool.
I mean we were shooting that scene on the fishing boat where he gives me this triumphant speech about being a Viking and pursuing your dream and we were filming that day in five foot swells and the entire crew was getting sick. And in between takes and then there’s Pierce with his aviator sunglasses taking selfies, just having the best time. He truly is James Bond, he does not ruffle, ever.
But my dad was not in the least bit jealous, he was just like ah, please can I meet him someday? So I have to make that happen, I have to make that happen.
What was your experience in Iceland?
It was great. Shooting on those lava fields was something I will never forget, that was where we shot the “Volcano Man” sequence and that was our last day of filming.
And it was really — even though it was freezing cold, what an amazing kind of environment to kind of get to shoot in and here we were, ostensibly shooting a really silly music video in the middle of nowhere.
It was just one of the cooler days of filmmaking I had ever done. But the people couldn’t be better, so it’s really a very film friendly place.
How are you handling life during this lockdown? What have you learned?
Well, I guess it’s been ok. I lived sort of in a rural area so I’ve been able to get outside every day and roam around a little bit and enjoy the natural world. So that has kind of helped my mental health, I think. I’ve been lucky that way to have a bit of space.
What have I learned? I guess, I’ve just learned how truly connected we all are and what a responsibility we have to each other to keep each other safe and healthy. And the great irony is that we have to stay away from each other to do that so that’s unfortunate, but I think this will make us appreciated the time we do have together so much more when we are able to really come back together as a community.
It’s really so overwhelming, isn’t it? There’s so many things every day that come up that are so new and unexpected. Anyway, that’s kind of the basics for me right now.
What are the daily things that you do these days during self-isolation which are sometimes just too much to do?
I thought I would get a lot more done at this time. I’ve heard that from a lot of people, they’re surprised at how little they’re actually doing. But I’ve managed to be able to do some yoga. And fortunately I live kind of out in the woods to I’ve been able to do some walking and roaming and getting outside with nature and that’s definitely helped my mental health. There’s not a lot of hair and makeup happening so I’m really excited to be dressed up today. I’ve got on even shoes, high heels, no one can see it but I’m enjoying it.
Talk about working and filming in Iceland. I know some of the actors were also from Iceland?
Yes, I love Iceland. I had been there once before but really only traveled around Reykjavik, so this was just even more extraordinary because David insisted that we shoot in a town that Sigrit and Lars were actually from in the film, which was a teeny tiny fishing town, just as it’s portrayed in the movie, in the north of Iceland.
And it was really just such a magical place. Every morning I’d wake up and walk down to the mountains and walk along the shore and all the boats are going out for the day and the whale watchers. I’ve been there twice now; I still haven’t caught the Northern Lights, but maybe one day.
But the food was extraordinary, the people were so welcoming and I just thought the Icelandic actors in the film are fantastic. Every single one brought such a rich character to life with only so much screen time. And it was great, there’s nothing like being able to be in the place where your character is from to grab the essence of what that person is and what their life has been like. So I absolutely loved it, I feel very lucky we got to go there and actually shoot there.
Can you talk about your relationship to singing?
l love singing. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I grew up doing choir and singing more on a stage, doing a lot of theater when I was younger and in university.
And I’m a huge music fan, I always have music on in the house, it drives everyone crazy because the house is never quiet. And I’m often singing along, which also drives everyone insane. Yeah, what do I sing in the shower? I love Fleetwood Mac, I love Canadian artist Sarah Harmer and Hannah Georges and I’m a big Neal Young fan — I’m trying to think of my go to songs. Oh “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper would be my karaoke song.
Where are you self-isolating?
Greetings from the North Shore of Kauai. This is where you find me sitting at the kitchen table and it's a little bit rainy and grey out there but, you know, you stick around and the sunshine will be back.
I am here with my wife Keely and our two sons Dylan and Paris, our Golden Globe Ambassadors, thank you so much. That's so very memorable and wonderful memory in all our lives. Thank you. We had a great night with you.
So how is it isolating in Hawaii? I also read that you had two close friends who passed because of COVID-19. Can you please talk about that?
Well, no-one is very far away from this virus. The earth is very tiny, as we know, and there are many of us so there is nowhere really to run away to. Paradise is somewhat of an illusion but having said that, it is very beautiful to be here. I came here in March, end of March. I was in London on a film “Cinderella” with Camilla Cabello on March 13th, Friday the 13th and they came home here to Kauai and I've been here ever since and it's very beautiful.
We have a little house that's right here on the water's edge and so far so good. There's been a few cases of COVID-19 here on the island. They are opening the islands up now so that it's very concerning because it is such a small island and I lost two dear friends to COVID-19, Jay Benedict who is my brother in life. He and I were in the theatre together. I'm godfather to his sons and a wonderful man Andrew Jack who was a great dialect coach. We worked together on the James Bond movies and many other movies so, yes, the tentacle of the virus has touched all our lives and it comes with a thump of anxiety each day.
People all around us – our age or older - are getting sick from corona virus. Did you reflect on that as well?
Oh, this comes with fear, there's no question about it. You'd be a fool if you said otherwise, I think. The planet hasn't seen the likes of this in any of our lifetimes so yes, you know, you do, you confront your own mortality and the possibilities of getting such a virus, such a disease and what would happen so yes and you can only sit in that moment for so long and then you have to pick yourself up and get on with life and enjoy it and it gives life a great sense of brilliant beauty and reality and, you know, you realize the simple things in life and your family, your friends, your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, your sisters it just brings you together in a very good way. No, it's definitely a spiritual journey of sorts.
When you were watching Eurovision as a young man, did you have fantasies of participating in it?
Good God no. I was deep in my world of acting and wanting to be Marlon Brando and wanting to be Robert De Niro and oh, I was, no, no, no, but that was very frivolous fare for me. I was 25, 26, the Eurovision Song Contest had no deeper meaning to me than just a rather delightful show on the telly.
Will Ferrell told us he only had you in mind to portray his dad. Talk about that, working with Will and being in the movie itself?
I'm a big fan of Will's work, always have been and it's been a glorious career to behold and to watch him to go from strength to strength, creating these characters. So my agent sent me the script and Will Ferrell, brilliant Eurovision. I knew about the Eurovision Song Contest being a European. Playing his dad — really? Really it's come to that I'm playing Will Ferrell's father. Anyway, I got the joke. You get the joke on Page 1 where it rolls up and it's Mamma Mia, Waterloo and the locations were fantastic.
Opportunity to go back home to London, Scotland, Iceland, travel with my darling girl Keely and make a movie so it was like a busman's holiday, as they say.
Your character delivered a great speech about following one’s dreams. What kind of speeches do you have with your own sons?
I used to talk to them when I drove them to school. When they were little, I would talk like that — not quite like Lars, but talking about the passion of life and living life and being with people and, you know, dealing with yourselves, living through life.
I don't know that any of it sunk in but I would drop them off at school with my kind of Irish philosophies, which are essential in life passing on and you want to give them everything. You want to give them as much knowledge as you possibly can as a father and that still carries on in quieter ways. They now give me the knowledge. They now teach me so it's a two-way street but they do come to me for counsel.
What are they teaching you actually?
Oh, it's just how to see the world and their own curiosity about how this world is working right nowm which is traumatic but I think it can also be very uplifting. I think this is a time of renewal. You know, so much of acting is about constructing and destroying and what is happening now is a kind of construction and a destroying at the same time our lives and they just – well, what do they teach me? They teach me how old I'm getting.
Is there a routine that you do like praying, meditating, meditating or going to nature to keep yourself safe during these days?
I paint. I have a wonderful wife in Keely who gets me out there and we inspire each other. We live here in Kauai on the North Shore so there's a beautiful garden. It's a small little cottage right on the water's edge so we go out and swim in the mornings, swim in the evenings.
In this time of lockdown this is a real paradise to be part of and so we're blessed with having this refuge and I have a studio here and I'm working on having an art show sometime. It was going to be at the end of the year in November but I think it's going to be probably next year now so and I read. I am reading more which is delightful. I have books by my bed that I read between Hemingway and Hamlet and books on Matisse. And a little bit of prayer. Always a little bit of prayer. — LA, GMA News