TRUENORTH: Meet the Icelandic production company on Hollywood’s speed-dial
By Lena Hunter
TRUENORTH is the number one film and television production company in Northern Europe, specialising in the highest quality filming services in spectacular landscapes. Founded in 2003, its portfolio of major international films, landmark TV series and original content has not only made TRUENORTH a household name in Hollywood but has skyrocketed Iceland’s reputation as a film-production hotspot.
“It was when we did Flags of Our Fathers with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg in 2005 that we became the go-to Nordic production company for Hollywood films,” recalls founder Leifur B. Dagfinnsson. This was not a project for the faint of heart. On set for the military beach invasion scene of Flags were a thousand people, monstrous fleets of ships, helicopters and planes, staging a blistering attack on the volcanic peninsula of Reykjanes. “We were recreating the invasion of Iwo Jima. The scale was huge… we basically staged the only war ever held in Iceland!” laughs Dagfinnsson.
TRUENORTH’s head-spinning work on Flags paved the way for their production of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Oblivion with Tom Cruise, Noah with Russell Crowe, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller, and Thor: The Dark World – all in one year. “That really put Iceland on the map as a filming destination,” says Dagfinnsson.
While Iceland attracts film productions with a 25 per cent tax rebate, it’s still no stretch to credit the country’s glowing Hollywood reputation to TRUENORTH. So much so, that when Norway introduced the same rebate in 2016, Dagfinnsson was called in. “I was approached by one of the country’s finest line producers, who suggested we bring TRUENORTH to Norway,” he says.
Since then, the Icelandic company has filmed over 20 productions on Norwegian soil, including the highest-grossing film of 2021 No Time To Die, Dune, Tenant, Succession and two Mission Impossibles, with a third in the pipeline. Today, TRUENORTH’s newest hubs are in Finland, Sweden, Greenland, the Canary Islands and the Faroes, where the company was behind the spectacular final sequence, and James Bond’s iconic death scene, in No Time To Die.
Experts in dramatic landscapes
Iceland is riddled with volcanic craters and rock formations, waterfalls, geysers, rugged black-sand beaches, glaciers and otherworldly lava fields. “The Icelandic landscape can double as many different locations in the world and we are open to solving any challenge,” says Dagfinnsson. “Take filming on top of a glacier in winter. Nobody in their right mind does that, but we’ve done it with George Clooney in a snowstorm at 1,400 metres!”
The list of large-scale production companies in Europe who could pull these types of shoots off is short. “Our expertise is in enabling large crews to film safely in epic locations. In Iceland, you can drive for 20 minutes outside Reykjavik and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s the accessibility of these huge cinematic expanses that makes Iceland so attractive,” he says.
Protecting that environment is therefore at the top of TRUENORTH’s agenda. The company practices a ‘green filming ideology’ – a commitment to using renewable and sustainable energy in all of its future productions. In practice, this means powering 76,000 square-feet of partially sound-proof stages, offices and sets with clean electric and geothermal energy.
Steering the Nordic film industry
TRUENORTH is currently producing the entirety of the HBO series True Detective’s fourth season in Iceland. It’s a ground-breaking project for Iceland and became a springboard for Dagfinnsson and HBO to urge the government to increase the tax rebate to 35 per cent for certain productions. “That’s the major industry news of the past nine months,” says Dagfinnsson.
Another headline development is TRUENORTH’s new venture into original content. “We are currently developing a film called OUTSIDE with Scott Free Productions, based on the books of our most famous Nordic Noir novelist Ragnar Jónasson. But our crown jewel is the epic saga of Sturlungar. It’s basically The Godfather of the 13th century – a story of family conflict, power, violence and betrayal, spearheaded by a high-profile director, which we hope to announce very soon,” says Dagfinnsson coyly. “We have so much experience, and now we want to put our own creative stamp on what we produce. It’s an exciting new chapter for TRUENORTH.”
Indeed, after 20 years in the film business across seven countries – not forgetting, adds Dagfinnsson, three Star Wars films – TRUENORTH already has an enviable stamp on both the Hollywood and the Nordic scenes. “I’m very proud of what TRUENORTH has been able to do for Iceland in terms of strengthening its economy, creating jobs and putting it on the industry map,” says Dagfinnsson. “It’s an accolade for everyone on our team who is continually positive and ambitious. When you look at our track record, I cannot name a company in Europe that matches us.”
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email