Director Ruben Östlund on Oscar Nominations for ‘Triangle of Sadness’

Director Ruben Östlund on Oscar Nominations for ‘Triangle of Sadness’

Published January 24, 2023
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The awards keep on coming for Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund. The two-time winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival just spent Monday night celebrating a six-trophy sweep at Sweden’s esteemed Guldbagge awards that included a win for Best Director and Best Film.

Now, on Tuesday morning speaking with Deadline, Östlund is elated as he celebrates three Oscar nominations in Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director for his dark comedy Triangle of Sadness.

The film follows Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), a celebrity model couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the super-rich and famous by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). After the boat capsizes, the glamorous shipwrecked crew must learn to survive the harsh realities of being stranded on a desert island.

Here, Östlund discusses his Oscar nominations, the importance of equality and recognition in film, and his upcoming project.

DEADLINE: Where were you when you heard the nominations? And what was the vibe of the room?

RUBEN ÖSTLUND: It’s fantastic. It’s almost 5 p.m., and the nominations were at half past two. We had a beer [to celebrate] because the thing is, the Swedish Awards [The Guldbagges] were yesterday, and we got six prizes. So, today, we were sitting here really nervous and didn’t really expect anything. You know, in the back of my mind, it’s always that YouTube clip with the Swedish director who freaks out when he misses a nomination for Force Majeure… but this time, it was the complete opposite of that YouTube clip. We were at a restaurant called The Frog [Grodan] in Stockholm, and I was with my colleagues, friends, and people who have worked on the film. So everybody shared this moment together. When we got nominated, we were a little shocked actually. It was like we were super happy for the script and then, like, they announced Best Director and then Best Picture. We were like, ‘Oh, shit.’ We did not expect this; we were really happy. [laughs].

DEADLINE: With your film being about race, social class and elite status, and now having been nominated with another top-prize award, do you consider it a bit ironic?

ÖSTLUND: No. For me, the great thing with these awards is that they give attention to the film’s content. And I mean, getting a nomination also shows people are interested in this kind of film and are interested in the problematic situations that we are dealing with. I think one thing that is specific for human beings is that we are very interested in equality, and I’m happy that we get attention for that.

DEADLINE: Considering your film is outlandish—in the best way—are you still surprised at the reception of the film? What do you think people are responding to?

ÖSTLUND: I think one thing is that the film works really well in the cinema with a large crowd. So it becomes an event to go to the cinema to watch the film. And I have been so happy when I’ve been watching the film with the crowd because one of the goals that I had was that we want wanted to create a wild rollercoaster ride for adults. And it feels like that when you go see the film. For example [the food poisoning scene], one of the goals was that if [the audience] sees vomit, they will expect a certain kind of outcome. But my idea when I did that scene was that I have to go 10 steps further than the audience would expect me to, because then you’re also creating something that is not completely safe, and a certain kind of tension comes with that.

DEADLINE: It’s a risk that has paid off with three nominations. What does this newfound relationship with the Oscars mean to you now moving forward?

ÖSTLUND: At the end of the day, the feeling that you have when it comes to Oscars is that it’s one of the prizes in the world that gives you a lot of attention. So as soon as this happens, your phone goes completely crazy and you’re getting messages and so on. So you can feel the kind of prestige and brand when it comes to the Oscars. So it’s amazing to be a part of that, of course.

DEADLINE: What’s next for you?

ÖSTLUND: I’m making a film that is called, The Entertainment System is Down. It takes place on a long-haul flight that is about 15 hours, and quite soon after the takeoff, the passengers get the horrible news that the entertainment system is not working, so they have to spend 15 hours without any digital distraction while their iPhones and iPads aren’t charging up. So, it’s going to be a horror movie for modern human beings that are addicts, especially when it comes to scrolling.

DEADLINE: Sounds like another awards conversation in the making. What is it about these social satire films that resonate with you?

ÖSTLUND: It’s a way to be provocative and raise questions, where the audience has to accept a challenge. It’s a great way to talk about society and history. You can always see the political message in some way in the core of our society, so it [making these films] is a great way of doing something entertaining but, at the same time, really really serious.

The 95th Academy Awards are set to take place at the Dolby Theatre on March 12.

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