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‘Eurovision’ Director David Dobkin Had Never Heard of the Song Contest, But Then Fell in Love

John Wilson/NETFLIX

Like many Americans, David Dobkin had by no means heard of the Eurovision Song Contest. But when the script for “Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga” from Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele landed on his lap, the director of “Wedding Crashers” instantly fell in love with the characters. Soon he was diving down an web rabbit gap to study all about Europe’s largest singing contest and signing on to direct the film, which is now streaming on Netflix.

For those that aren’t already followers of the supremely kitschy annual occasion, yearly since 1956, pop singers and teams from all the nations in Europe (plus Israel, Australia and several other others), have convened in a unique nation to vote on one another’s competing songs. The contest helped launch the careers of acts together with Abba and Celine Dion.

Ferrell stars as Lars alongside Rachel McAdams who performs Sigrit; collectively they lead a duo referred to as Fire Saga with a dream of representing Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Dobkin talks to Variety about making a love letter to the contest, his necessary opening scene, making the movie accessible to a world viewers and casting McAdams and Dan Stevens.

What do you know about Eurovision earlier than this movie?

Before I had learn the script, I didn’t understand it existed. I used to be fully in the darkish. I learn the script and beloved the characters, after which I went onto the web and was blown away.

I can inform you, in attempting to drag off something near the actual contest was such an enormous feat. I had no sense of how large it was. It’s not a TV present, it’s large. It is so distinctly European. It’s so particular in the way it was created, why it was created to deliver individuals collectively, and to the place it’s at the moment. Europe has an actual tradition round this contest; the seriousness and the not so severe, the depth of the contest, all of it blends into this particular tone that I had by no means seen earlier than. It’s so distinctive and so particular.

Why did you determine to open with ABBA in 1974?

It was so necessary as a result of it units up the film. And the second ABBA sang “Waterloo,” Eurovision was one thing totally different, the world modified.

Will and Andrew wrote that scene and wished to indicate how that second pulled the younger boy watching out of his grief. It’s one thing that offers him pleasure and he can’t assist dancing. He transmutes his grief into pleasure and he decides his mission.

I didn’t wish to make enjoyable of Eurovision and wished to make it a love letter to the entire factor. I do know individuals who love Eurovision will love the film and I made it for them. I learn the trailer reactions and folks cared about if I bought it proper.

What went into the casting with Will, Rachel McAdams and Dan Stevens?

Well, we now have Will at the entrance. I beloved that he created this character for himself. We had been looking for somebody reverse him. I wished a excessive powered actress who may additionally deal with the comedy. I assumed of Rachel as a result of we had labored collectively and he or she’s one of the most gifted individuals I’ve ever labored with. She might be reverse the Elephant Man and also you consider it. She creates chemistry with everybody.

She was scared of having to study, to sing, to must study to play the guitar and study to play the piano. But I do know her, she’s such a tough employee and a perfectionist that I knew if she mentioned sure, she was gonna dive into it.

Dan Stevens. I keep in mind being at breakfast in Tel Aviv at Eurovision. I’ve all the time beloved him and all of us love him in “Downton Abbey.” He’s only a monster of an actor.

How did you discover a solution to make it accessible for individuals who aren’t conversant in the contest?

There was quite a bit of dialog and we puzzled if we wanted a prologue to clarify it. We examined it to see if there was confusion. Were they following alongside? Did they perceive the guidelines? In America, we examined it 3 times, no one had any questions and there was no confusion. I suppose there are such a lot of contests that they adopted alongside. They’ll by no means get the joke that no one votes for the U.Okay., however it doesn’t matter as a result of the core of the story is a common one about love and following your desires and the way it can blind you in case you don’t open your eyes. I feel individuals will comply with the character story and associate with the relaxation of the story.

What was your favourite music to shoot?

The Song-A-Long with everybody singing “Believe,” “Ray of Light,” “Waterloo” and “I Gotta Feeling” was unimaginable. Just the expertise of attempting to coordinate and choreograph that entire factor was a monster, however there was a giant satisfaction with that quantity. That concerned large lengthy reside takes however everybody nailed their half.

The semi-finals had been a beast too simply in time and staging. All the totally different bands had been coming in and out for that. We shot the full songs too. The smartest thing was that I had my cameras and cranes in the actual place as in the contest, so it felt like I used to be directing Eurovision itself.

And, that final music may be very particular to me. It was one of my favourite moments of making the movie. When we did the first take of the music, we requested the viewers to not applaud at the finish. They bought so misplaced in it and the efficiency and so they went insane. That second introduced a chill to my backbone.

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