Birthdate: February 27, 1966
Birthplace: Reykjavik, Iceland
The acclaimed Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (birthname: Baltasar Kormákur Baltasarsson) is one of his country’s most internationally successful writer-producer-directors over the past two decades, breaking through to global fame with his second feature, 101 Reykjavik (2000), with Victoria Abril, Hilmir Snær Guðnason and Hanna María Karlsdóttir.
Kormákur’s overlooked debut feature was the comedy, Go Lazy Town (1996). Still, it was 101 Reykjavik that established him as a leading light of a new, more adventurous generation of Icelandic film artists, winning the Discovery award at the Toronto Film Festival and the Youth Jury award at the Locarno Film Festival.
Kormákur’s third feature enjoyed a similar international festival run and a healthy distribution pattern for his drama about the rich, The Sea (2002), with Gunnar Eyjolfsson and Hilmir Snær Guðnason. Kormákur’s first English-language feature was the crime noir, A Little Trip to Heaven (2005), with Forest Whitaker, Julia Stiles, Jeremy Renner, and Peter Coyote.
Kormákur won the Karlovy Vary Festival’s Crystal Globe prize for his next crime drama, Jar City (2006), with Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. For his next feature, Kormákur turned to Chekhov (his play, Ivanov) for his Icelandic-language film, White Night Wedding (2008), with Guðnason, Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, Laufey Elíasdóttir, and Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson.
A shift to an American setting marked Baltasar Kormákur’s 2010 drama, Inhale, with Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger, Sam Shepard, Vincent Perez, and Rosanna Arquette, released by IFC Films. With co-producer Mark Wahlberg (as well as producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner), Kormákur directed Contraband (2012), a U.S. adaptation of the thriller, Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008), in which Kormákur starred and produced; the new version, Kormákur’s first Hollywood studio (Universal Pictures) project, starred Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, and J.K. Simmons.
In a busy 2012, Kormákur directed, co-written and co-produced Iceland’s (shortlisted) Foreign Language Oscar submission, the true-life survival drama, The Deep, with Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. Wahlberg and Universal Pictures reunited with Kormákur for the wild, comic book-based buddy cop action movie, 2 Guns (2013), co-starring Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, and Edward James Olmos.
The spectacular 1996 Mount Everest disaster was the basis for Everest (2015), the William Nicholson/Simon Beaufoy-written script that Baltasar Kormákur directed (and also co-producer) for Universal Pictures and Working Title Films/Cross Creek Pictures/Walden Media, premiering at the 2015 Venice film festival and released in IMAX, ultimately grossing a profitable $203 million. Kormákur directed a cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, and Emily Watson.
Kormákur returned to Iceland (as director, co-writer, and star) for The Oath (2016), which premiered at the 2016 Toronto film festival and co-starred Hera Hilmar and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. Once again, Kormákur (as director and producer) turned to a real-life survival story as the basis for a movie, Adrift (2018), dramatizing the Hawaiian tragedy around Hurricane Raymond, and co-starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. Kormákur returned to Universal Pictures (as a distributor) for Beast (2022), a fictionalized survival thriller set in South Africa with Idris Elba, Sharlto Copley, and Iyana Halley.
As an actor, Baltasar Kormákur has appeared or starred in such features as Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s dark comedy, Devil’s Island (1996); Fridriksson’s true story, Angels of the Universe (2000), co-starring Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson and Hilmar Snær Guðnason; his first English-language film as an actor, Hal Hartley’s fascinating Beowulf adaptation, No Such Thing (2001), with Sarah Polley, Robert John Burke, Helen Mirren, and Julie Christie; Lenka Hellstedt’s Finnish romantic drama, Me and Morrison (2001); and Solveig Anspach’s drama, Stormy Weather (2003), which premiered at the 2003 Cannes film festival’s Un Certain Regard section and co-starred Élodie Bouchez-Bangalter and Sigurðsson.
Solely as producer (and, in some cases, as producer and star), Kormákur’s projects include the music documentary, Pop in Reykjavik (1998); Stormy Weather; Dis (2004); Olaf de Fleur Johannesson’s drama, The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela (2008); Reykjavik-Rotterdam; writer-director Grímur Hákonarson’s fantasy, Summerland (2010); writer-director Dagur Kári’s well-received Virgin Mountain (2015), which premiered at the Berlin film festival and starred Gunnar Jonsson, who won the best actor at the 2015 Tribeca film festival; and the historical survival film, Against the Ice (2022), premiering at the Berlin film festival and released by Netflix, with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Charles Dance.
Baltasar Kormákur was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland, by Catalan-born painter-father Baltasar Samper and Icelandic-born mother Kristjana Samper. Kormákur studied acting at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Reykjavik in 1990. Kormákur has two sons, actors Baltasar Breki Samper and Stormur Jon Kormákur Baltasarsson. His height is 6’ 1¼”.
Multi-lingual: Baltasar Kormákur is fluent in Icelandic, English, Spanish, and Danish.