Mikael Håfström had a wealth of experience directing horror, suspense, drama, and action with memorable films like Evil (2003), 1408 (2007), Shanghai (2010), and Escape Plan (2013). He entered his first foray into science fiction for Netflix's Outside the Wire that pairs stars Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Damson Idris (Snowfall). The earlier well established himself within sci-fi circles with memorable turns on Black Mirror and Altered Carbon, both on Netflix. I spoke with the director about how his leads helped make the film work.
"I got the script from a friend of mine, who's a producer on the film a few years ago," Håfström said. "In pre-production, I learned that Anthony Mackie read and loved the script. He was interested in playing the lead. I also learned the Netflix picked it up and liked it. It came together because both Anthony and Netflix became interested. It all happened very quickly." Mackie, a co-producer, plays Leo, an android who works with a drone pilot to prevent a global catastrophe between pro-Russian insurgents and local resistance in Ukraine. When it came to casting the drone pilot Harp, the director broke down the process.
"When it came to casting, there was nothing specific about the ethnicity of the characters," Håfström said. "We had African American actors, Asian actors, etc., so let's find the best person for the job. When I saw Damson Idris, I just realized very quickly he was the guy. He has the humor, charisma, and obviously the acting skills. Everybody really liked him." The director noted how difficult the film was to shoot, but having his two leads on set helped the process. "Making the film was really hard, but Anthony and Damson made the experience really enjoyable," he continued. "Anthony is experienced. Damson is so focused on this. He's a very meticulous actor. Both are consummate professionals and have a great sense of humor. Having done this for many years, you have to have fun."
Håfström said while the film is set in the near future in 2036, a balance needed to be met to keep it grounded. "It was very different [from my previous work]," he said. "It has visually intense than my other projects. It had its own challenges. It had technical ones I hadn't encountered before, but it's fun. We try to be as realistic as possible." Written by Rob Yescombe and Rowan Athale, Outside the Wire also stars Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, and Pilou Asbæk. The film is available to stream on Netflix.