Ruben Östlund Recorded His ‘Triangle’ Oscar Nomination Reaction But… [Interview]

Apr 3, 2023

Eight years ago, Ruben Östlund made history, it just wasn’t the history he was hoping for at the time. After earning massive critical acclaim, his breakout black comedy, “Force Majeure,” was snubbed as Sweden’s submission for the International Film Academy Award. His reaction to the nominations was recorded and is forever available on YouTube (and other social media options) as “Swedish director freaks out when he misses out on Oscar nomination.” Happily, history did not repeat itself when the 2023 Oscar nominations were announced last month.
READ MORE: “Passengers”: “Triangle Of Sadness” director Ruben Östlund shares his original pitch for the Sci-Fi drama
Östlund, who earned a nod for International Filmin 2018 for “The Square,” didn’t want to have his reaction captured when “Triangle of Sadness” came up to bat, but his longtime producer Eric Hemmendoorff, was, well, stubborn.
“He wanted us to record once again when we were listening to the announcement and I was like, ‘No, please, I don’t want to do that.’ I didn’t have a good gut feeling,” Östlund recalls. “I believe that we will not get nominated. But we were recording it anyway, so we were sitting in a bar in Stockholm. It was the day after the Swedish Guldbagge, which is the Swedish Film Award, and a group of friends, everybody working for the same company, and yeah, it was amazing. It was really, really fun. First script came in then, O.K. Best Director, and then Best Film. Yeah, it was fantastic.”
For those curious, yes a video exists of the “Triangle” triumph, but Östlund notes, “It’s not as fun to see people when they succeed. It’s much more fun when you see them and they fail.”
Every film is a journey, but “Triangle” has been a unique roller coaster of emotions for all involved. After triumphantly winning the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival (remarkably, Östlund’s second win), one of the film’s stars, Charlbi Dean, died unexpectedly at the end of August. She was only 32 years old. The film then had what could only be described as a disappointing theatrical release in October. To date, it’s earned just $4.3 million in the U.S. and $23 million globally off a $15 million production budget. Throw in critical reactions that were all over the place domestically (it eventually balanced out to a 63 grade on Metacritic) and many believed its chances of landing any major Oscar nominations were a stretch.
They were not.
What was also clear from Cannes, where eight of the nine festival jurors were AMPAS members, was that the class, culture, and social media satire would speak to members of The Academy. When the nominations were finally revealed “Triangle” not only landed a Best Picture nod and an Original Screenplay nomination (the only one truly expected) but a somewhat shocking Best Director nomination as well. Östlund admits it’s the recognition from his peers in the Director’s branch that means the most.
“I was happy to see when the colleagues that are working in the industry were voting for it, that we got three of these nominations,” Östlund says. “But the one that I was most surprised about was, of course, Best Directing because it was not predicted anywhere really. And I didn’t get a Best Direction for BAFTA. So that was something that I was really happy about”
While many American viewers focus on the social media and class commentary in “Triangle,” Östlund’s intent was also to shine a spotlight on the continuing differences between the “liberal” Western and “socialistic” Eastern ways of thinking. Or as he puts it, “those old rhetorics that came from when Reagan and Thatcher were in England and in the US.”
“I had one screening in Paris that was kind of interesting because then it turns out afterward it was a man that was standing up and screaming when we were having the Q&A,” Östlund recalls. “He basically interrupted everyone and just screamed, ‘It’s not that simple, it’s not that simple.’ And I’m like, ‘Sorry, give the mic to that gentleman. What is not so simple?’ ‘Well, if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, then I can’t explain it.’ And then he ran out. And then I asked the distributors and they were laughing. They came up to me and they said, ‘You know who that was? That is one of the richest guys in France. He’s a billionaire and he’s a philanthropist.’ And I’m a little bit like attacking philanthropists and billionaires.”
Östlund pauses and adds, “I always get a little bit angry when I get that kind of reaction, some that say, ‘It’s not that simple.’ No, but I’m sorry, it is that simple. It’s about how you share the resources. How you try to create an equal side. It’s simple. It’s not a complicated question. It’s a lot of work that has to be done and has to be done in many different levels. But if you really measure how you reach the result, it’s very simple.”
No matter what the outcome at the Dolby Theater on March 12, Östlund has still made cinematic history. He’s one of just 10 directors (if you count the Dardenne brothers individually) who have more than one Palme d’Or honor to their name. And that begs the question: Where does Östlund keep his Palme? On his mantle? In a vault for safekeeping?
“You know what they are actually in, you say the closet, of my producer in his apartment in Stockholm. Both of them. Both there,” Östlund reveals. “And that is because we were having them when we were going on a tour with a ‘Triangle of Sadness’ in Sweden. We were in 18 different cinemas in Sweden presenting the film. And then we brought both the boat of Golden Palme statues and showed them to the audience. And then after that tour, the producer brought them home and they have still not left the closer that he has in his bedroom.”
And will he eventually get them back?
Östlund laughs and replies, “I definitely hope that because otherwise, he will be in trouble.”
“Triangle of Sadness” is now available to rent on digital platforms.

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