PARK CITY, Utah -- Sony Pictures Classics announced Wednesday morning that it has picked up the men-of-a-certain-age road trip comedy "Land Ho!" for distribution and plans to release the film this year.
The film, which premiered Sunday as part of the Next section at the Sundance festival, follows two retirees on their way to Iceland, mixing road trip misadventures with an unexpectedly deep self-discovery. As The Times wrote before the start of the fest, "Land Ho!" began its life when filmmaker Martha Stephens texted friend and fellow filmmaker Aaron Katz about going to Iceland. The West Virgina-based Stephens and the Los Angeles-based Katz share writing and directing credit on the film.
Stephens, Katz and the two stars of the film, Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson, sat down for a video interview Monday at The Times' photo and video suite in Park City.
"I wanted to make an independent film there before anyone else did," Stephens said of the decision to shoot in Iceland. Though the country has been used in some science fiction films, she added: "We thought it would be fun to make a movie where Iceland is Iceland as opposed to somewhere else, like outer space."
Eenhoorn appeared in the film "This Is Martin Bonner," which played in the Next section of last year's festival. Nelson is a surgeon in Kentucky and a relative of Stephens; he appeared in two previous films she directed.
Though there was a script, the pair would often veer off of it.
"There'd be times I'd get off track and be off the dialogue by two or three pages and he'd bring me back," Nelson said of working with Eenhoorn. "And a couple times I brought him back on track."
Added Katz, "Every beat in the scene would happen, but in some crazy order, something towards the end would land back at the beginning and then get back to the thing."
The film's sleight-of-hand blending of on-the-road high jinks with more resonant emotional moments is remarkable, maintaining a light touch even as it explores the inner lives of men who are not done developing and discovering themselves.
"When we were in there doing it, we knew it was funny in places, but we didn't really see it as a comedy," Nelson said. "I kind of thought of it as my everyday life, stuff that I live everyday."
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