‘Triangle Of Sadness’: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson Lead Satire From Palme D’Or Winner Ruben Östlund; Imperative, 30West, WME Join

The Square and Force Majeure writer-director Ruben Östlund is – quite literally – about to set sail on wild, fashion-world satire Triangle Of Sadness. Palme d’Or winner Östlund will begin the film’s 70-day shoot on February 19 in Sweden and Greece, where cameras will roll on the Adriatic Sea.

Leading cast in the English-language movie will be rising Brit actor Harris Dickinson (The King’s Man), South African actress Charlbi Dean (Black Lightning) and three-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), we can reveal.

The film, which has a brilliantly wicked premise, will follow fashion model couple Carl (Dickinson) and Yaya (Dean) who are invited on a luxury cruise. When the yacht sinks they become stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires and a cleaning lady (De Leon). In the fight for survival, old hierarchies are turned upside down since the cleaning lady is the only one who knows how to fish. Think Lord Of The Flies meets the fashion world.

Östlund tells us that Harrelson will play an eccentric Marxist sea captain who spouts the communist manifesto at his passengers during a storm which has his precious cargo reaching for the sick buckets.

Also among the ensemble will be Croatia’s Zlatko Buric (Pusher), Germany’s Iris Berben (Miss Sixty) and Sunnyi Melles, Sweden’s Henrik Dorsin (Solsidan), The Philippines’ Dolly De Leon (Verdict), Denmark’s Vicky Berlin (Anja & Viktor – In Sickness And In Health) and the UK’s Oliver Ford Davies (Star Wars Episodes I, II and III).

“I was raised with the idea that looks don’t matter, that it is the inside that counts,” said Östlund. “Even as a child I realised that this was a well-meaning lie. Through the models, Carl and Yaya, I want to explore the significance of looks in three different environments – In the fashion world, on a luxury yacht amongst billionaires and on a desert island. On the island, a Filipino cleaning lady ends up on top of the hierarchy. At the same time Carl finds a new way to use his good looks.”

The project, budgeted at between 10-15m euros, is Östlund’s biggest and most ambitious to date. It’s his first entirely in English.

Producers are regular collaborators Erik Hemmendorff at Plattform Produktion and Philippe Bober at Coproduction Office. Joining the movie are U.S. producer-financiers Imperative Entertainment with Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas and Ryan Friedkin as executive producers, and 30West, whose Micah Green and Daniel Steinman will also serve as exec producers.

30 West and WME will co-rep sales rights in North America. International sales are being handled by Philippe Bober’s Coproduction Office. SF Studios has Nordic rights to the film, BAC has rights in France and Alamode in Germany.

The feature reunites the filmmaker with director of photography Fredrik Wenzel (Force Majeure, The Square), production designer Josefin Åsberg (Force Majeure, The Square) and costume designer Sofie Krunegård (The Square).

The in-demand project has a cornucopia of partners. Producers are Plattform and co-producer backers are Film I Väst, Essential Films, Coproduction Office, SVT, BBC Films, Arte France Cinéma, and ZDF/Arte, Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, the BFI, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Danish Film Institute and Nordic Film & TV Fund.

It’s being produced in association with Bord Cadre Films, Sovereign Films and Piano Films. Among co-producers are Marina Perales Marhuenda, Giorgos Karnavas, Konstantinos Kontovrakis, Per Damgaard and Julio Chavezmontes. Mike Goodridge (the Macao Film Festival chief’s UK production company Good Chaos is ramping up) is among executive producers from Europe.

Östlund told us that he traveled the world to meet many of his actors in person during which time they did improvisations. The road-trip took him to Berlin, Paris, London, LA, New York, Manila, Stockholm and Copenhagen. “Woody responded well to the role,” the director said. “I think we share political views to an extent.”

He added, “The film is about how our behaviour changes according to our position in an economic structure. It’s inspired by Marxist theory….I want to combine the best parts of European and U.S. filmmaking. Sometimes I think there’s a problem with European arthouse filmmaking, which becomes almost a style or genre of its own. I wanted the movie to be thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time.”

Clearly, the acclaimed filmmaker is much in-demand among European and U.S. funders. Unlike many creatives, he is resisting the streamers and TV for now.

“I teach at a cinema school. That collective experience of watching something is still so important. In Sweden, in homes, it seems like the Eurovision Song Contest is the only thing we watch together now. I really enjoy working with my production team and at a pace that suits me. There’s good stuff coming out of the streamers but there’s also the chance that algorithms don’t always lead to the best content. It’s funny when people talk about ‘making a Netflix movie’. ‘I’m making a Netflix movie,’ they say. When people name-check Netflix rather than the content they’re making, that says something to me.”

Harris Dickinson is represented by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment Partners; Charlbi Dean is represented by Silver Lining Entertainment & Innovative Artists; Woody Harrelson is represented by CAA.

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