“I felt a lot of responsibility to tell the story in a correct way,” reveals “22 July” star Jonas Strand Gravli. He plays Viljar Hanssen, a terrorism survivor who was shot several times by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik (played by Anders Danielsen Lie) during Breivik’s devastating attack that killed 77 in Norway’s deadliest terror incident since World War II. Directed by Oscar nominee Paul Greengrass (“United 93”), this Netflix release recounts that horrifying true story. Watch our exclusive video interview above with Gravli and Seda Witt, who plays fellow survivor Lara Rashid.
Breivik became radicalized by anti-immigrant and misogynist ideas, and on July 22, 2011, he murdered 8 people with a van bomb outside the government quarter in Oslo before shooting 69 others to death at a political youth summer camp on the island of Utøya. Teenagers Hanssen and Rashid were among the few survivors on the island. Hanssen was shot five times, while Rashid lost her older sister.
Witt formed a friendship with Rashid after meeting her several times. In fact, it was Rashid who encouraged the young actress to audition to play her in what would be her screen debut. Once she got the role Witt spent more time with her real-life counterpart, learning as much as she could about her experiences. “She told me everything,” Witt explains. “She was so open to me doing this role the way I wanted to portray her, as well as the way I wanted to pay tribute to her family and her sister.”
Similarly, Gravli spent time with the real Hanssen, who struggled through rehabilitation after sustaining nearly fatal wounds. “The most important part for me was to really show how brave Viljar was,” he says, “and how focused he was in the road to recovery,” especially since he would soon be testifying in the trial against Breivik. “He had to really focus on getting to that goal of going into the courtroom and facing this man who tried to take his life.”
“22 July” opened in select theaters and on Netflix on Wednesday, October 10.
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