Every year, the Sundance Film Festival attracts more and more stars — this year’s will feature Zach Braff, Michael Fassbender, Aaron Paul, and Christina Hendricks, to name a few — but the indie festival still manages to provide a launching pad for some lesser-known talent.
This year, Land Ho! — which is executive produced by David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls, Eastbound and Down) — may just be Sundance’s unlikely breakout hit. And BuzzFeed has an exclusive first look above.
Land Ho!, a collaboration between established indie directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, is a throwback to the now-classic road trip movies that dominated the ’80s and ’90s. The twist is that it features two older actors and sends them all the way to Iceland — oh, and one of them, Earl Lynn Nelson, isn’t actually a professional actor. In reality, he’s just a quirky cosmetic surgeon who happens to be Stephens’ second cousin; he did her the favor of acting in bit parts in her first few movies, providing enough highlights to inspire her make a movie with him as one of its stars.
“When I was a child, he just had this deep booming voice and he’s lived most of his adult life in New Orleans, so he has this strange drawl. And as a kid, you’re just sort of like, This guy is out of control,” Stephens joked in a conversation with BuzzFeed. “But once I got old enough to start really appreciating things, you get to the age with your family where you don’t think of them as adults anymore; you think of them as people. And you really start paying attention to how weird some of your old relatives are.”
Katz and Stephens shot Land Ho! in Iceland in mid-September, leading to a mad dash to the finish line before it debuts at Sundance later this week. Even making a film like this in the first place required some major help, starting with Gordon Green, who kept in touch with the filmmakers for years after they graduated University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which was also his alma mater.
Gordon Green came aboard as executive producer on the project thanks to his relationship with the two, and his love of watching Nelson work was an added bonus. He actually cast Nelson in an episode of Eastbound and Down because, as he put it, “Earl was willing to do things that other older actors were uncomfortable with.”
Joining Nelson is Paul Eenhoorn, an Australian actor who wowed at Sundance last year with his performance in This Is Martin Bonner, one of the most overlooked movies of 2013. Now living in Washington state, Eenoorn also sang in a rock band called Kopyrite in the early ’70s, making Land Ho!’s one of the more unique casts at Sundance this year.
The film premieres on Sunday, Jan. 19, at the massive Library Center Theatre in Park City.