Over his career, the Swedish filmmaker Mikael Håfström has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Aniston, John Cusack and Anthony Hopkins. It’s hard to imagine that he got his start as a writer for Swedish television shows. In 2004, his film Evil received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and that’s when he went from directing films in Sweden to helming movies in Hollywood.
Håfström’s newest film is Outside the Wire, on Netflix. It stars Anthony Mackie as a top secret android army officer who recruits a drone pilot, played by Damson Idris, to stop a nuclear attack. The sci-fi thriller delves into philosophical questions about humans and morality. The relationship between Mackie and Idris echoes the relationship Denzel Washington’s and Ethan Hawke’s characters had in the film Training Day.
On CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast, Håfström explains the challenge of finding the perfect look on screen for Mackie’s cyborg character, Captain Leo.
“He is a bio technical prototype. He looks like you and me,” said Håfström. “One of the biggest jobs, obviously, was to try to figure out exactly what he looked like. What his interior looked like. I don’t know how many versions we went through to find something that didn’t feel overdone, but was also visually interesting. And hopefully it’s something that we haven’t seen in other movies.”
During our conversation, we discussed the parallels between the way nuclear weapons are shown in popular culture and the way they are secretly present in all of our lives. Håfström also shares what it was like working with both Schwarzenegger and Stallone in the film Escape Plan.
“It was a good thing that they were both in the movie, because they were sort of competing at being the nicest guy on set,” said Håfström with a laugh. “They were older, and their rivalry had passed. And now they were old friends sitting on set smoking cigars, telling war stories and it was just a good time.”
You can listen to my entire conversation with Håfström on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can watch Outside the Wire on Netflix. Also, you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.