Scan Magazine, Issue 140, March 2022

Page 99

Scan Magazine |

Culture

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Anita Briem

Anita Briem: Getting new eyes “This film is not only hugely close to my heart, in terms of the story and the character, but working on it has been a pivotal event. It changed my life.” By Paula Hammond |

Photos: Saga Sig; hair and make-up by Elín Reynis

Anita Briem is talking about her new film, Quake, which is based on the best-selling novel Grand Mal by Auður Jónsdóttir. Quake was the film that brought her back to her native Iceland after 14 years of living and working in LA – something, she says, she never thought would happen. “I was born and raised here in Iceland, but by the time I was 14 or 15… it was starting to feel incredibly claustrophobic. Just like with any small-town community, I felt uncomfortable at how everybody knew everyone else’s business.” Briem’s career began treading the boards with the National Theatre of Iceland. “I was convinced,” she laughs, “that I was a grown-up at nine, when I got my first acting job. I told my parents, ‘I’m a working woman now, so you can’t drive me to school’. I insisted on taking a bus and my mum let me, but still secretly drove behind the bus to make sure I was okay!” Flying the nest At 16, Briem moved to London to study and then went onto the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). “It was a huge

moment of growth. When I came to London, all of a sudden I was a blank canvas. I didn’t have anyone’s opinion on what I could and couldn’t do hanging over me. That was incredibly liberating and I was able to explore lots of aspects of myself that I’d been convinced I wasn’t very good at. To be honest, I imagined I would stay in London forever, but then work took me to America and I started a whole new chapter.” 2006 saw her starring in the American police procedural The Evidence, followed by playing Jane Seymour in Showtime’s smash hit series The Tudors. Then, in 2008, she had her first taste of the action blockbuster, starring opposite Brendan Fraser in Journey to the Centre of the Earth. “It’s funny, because in Iceland I was terrible in gym class,” Briem says. “I would just get six out of ten every time for anything to do with movement. But at RADA, I started training and I thought it was an amazing thing to have these new tools to tell a story in a physical capacity.”

She loved it so much that she won the John Barton Award for Stage Fighting. “That confidence in my physicality definitely helped with a film like Journey because, even though I’m five foot four and very petite, from the training I had had, I felt strong. I felt capable. And playing next to Brendan Frazer, who is really, really tall, that was a good attribute for my character, Hannah, to have. She didn’t know her own size and was big in spirit.” Home sweet home Briem returned to her native shores in 2019 to shoot a series called The Minister. “I was here for six months with my daughter and creatively, socially — being close to my family, which I hadn’t been in a really long time — it just changed everything. It hit me like a thunderbolt: I need to be here. But I hadn’t quite figured things out, because I’m married to a Greek-American and we were building a house in LA, so moving wasn’t exactly on the books!” Briem had met Tinna Hrafnsdóttir while working on The Minister, and Hrafnsdóttir asked her to audition for a feature she was directing called Quake. Quake tells the story of Saga (Briem), a single mother who is hit by a fierce epileptic ‘brain quake’ that results in significant memory loss. Afraid of losing her son, Saga March 2022

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Issue 140

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