'22 July' Stars on Film's Cautionary Tale Against the Rise of Extremism

"This is happening in a time where far-right extremism is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. Even if he was a lone wolf, they often come from a herd, and there are many people out there who share these ideas," Danielsen Lie said.

The 2011 Norway attacks, referred to in Norway as 22 July, are revisited in Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Paul Greengrass' latest production, where the Captain Phillips director exposes the visceral impact of terror. 

22 July tells the true story of the far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik (played by Anders Danielsen Lie), who killed 77 people after detonating a car bomb in Oslo before carrying out a mass shooting at a leadership camp for teens. The film features a Norwegian cast and crew depicting survivors of the attack, who struggle through physical and emotional trauma as the country tries to recover in the aftermath of the disaster. 

Accompanied by Danielsen Lie, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Seda Witt and Jonas Strand Gravli, who play survivors Lara Rashid and Viljar Hanssen. 

The two actors both recounted the invaluable advice they received from their real-life counterparts, who gave them their blessing to tell the story. 

"[Lara Rashid] lost her sister, and I spoke to her before we started shooting and during the filming. She was absolutely amazing, and she gave me so much to work on," said Witt.

Similarly, Gravli touched on the resilience he had to personify for his role. "[Viljar Hanssen] was shot five times, and [I had to reveal] the aftermath and his road to recovery  after the attacks."

Danielsen Lie described his efforts to schedule a meeting with the imprisoned Breivik in order to tap into the pathological personality traits of a terrorist.

"I believe that the only thing I could do was to try to make a truthful portrait. That felt like the most responsible and respectful thing to do. But he declined," the actor said. 

Instead, he became deeply entangled in court transcripts and forensic psychiatric reports to discover the human being who delivered immense suffering. Danielsen Lie noted that Brevik's call to action was politically motivated, citing the film as a cautionary tale against the rise in extremism.

"This is happening in a time where far-right extremism is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. Even if he was a lone wolf, they often come from a herd, and there are many people out there who share these ideas," Danielsen Lie said. 

The cast also recounted Norway's ability to come together after the attacks to show the world who remained victorious, likening the experience to the fight for gun control by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

"We need to show the world that he didn't win and that love is the strongest. We had this big rose march that happened where thousands of people gathered with flowers and just marched for peace," Witt recounted. 

22 July is based on the book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — and Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad and is being distributed by Netflix after premiering at the Venice Film Festival. The film is available for streaming now. 

Watch the video above to hear the cast of 22 July discuss the trial's impact in their home country, why it was important that the film was told in English and more.