Spoiler alert! The following details key moments in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” So beware if you haven’t seen the Netflix comedy yet.
Demi Lovato burns up the screen in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
Like, Lovato, 27, literally burns onscreen as songstress Katiana Lindsdottir, the ill-fated but greatest Eurovision contestant ever to come from Iceland. Katiana comes back to life as a still-smoldering spirit after she is killed in a suspicious boat explosion – a fiery demise that’s key to sending the hapless duo Fire Saga (Will Ferrell’s Lars and Rachel McAdams’ Sigrit) to the international song competition.
“Eurovision” director David Dobkin knew he wanted Katiana’s disturbing ghost to warn Lars of upcoming doom, an homage to Griffin Dunne’s werewolf-mauled character returning in “An American Werewolf in London.”
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But he wanted to make sure Lovato knew what she was getting into, even double-checking with the management team about the goofy-but-dark humor.
“The real question was whether she was going to get the joke of Katiana coming back and looking like hell,” says Dobkin. “And she loved it. I actually checked in after they said yes and asked, ‘Did she really read those scenes?’ I even sent some internet photos of Griffin Dunne from “American Wolf in London’ to be clear, like, this is what we’re doing.”
Lovato was still definitely game, and flew to the London set, enduring a three-hour ordeal in the makeup chair to have the prosthetic burn carnage created and applied. (The smoke is added CGI effects.)
Then Lovato sent up sparks with Ferrell, playing the ill-fated spirit missing her arm. “She and Will had a funny rapport,” says Dobkin.
Lovato showed her vocal chops for scenes before Katiana’s demise, singing the ballad “In the Mirror.” While rehearsing the song, Lovato’s manager, Scooter Braun, suggested Katiana’s dramatic arm-out maneuver of looking into a hand-mirror. It was key to draw attention to Katiana’s arm, which lands, still aflame, in front of Lars and Sigrit after the boat explosion.
“We had to see her arm as clearly as possible for the audience, so that later when it lands at their feet, they can identify it,” says Dobkin.
Twitter fans reacted positively to the wild Lovato appearance, even if some decried a perceived lack of significant “Eurovision” screen time.
Lovato is not the only real music star onscreen. Dobkin fills “Eurovision” with pop-culture Easter eggs, including real Eurovision song contest winners and contestants from the past decade. France’s 2010 contestant, Jessy Matador sings while walking down the stairs with Loreen (the 2012 winner from Sweden) in a “songalong” party sequence.
The song relay scene prominently features what Dobkin calls “the coup de grace of the entire sequence” – appearances by Austrian 2014 contestant Conchita Wurst and Israeli 2018 standout Netta Barzilai.
“We have the biggest names of the last decade, with seven of the 10 winners in the last 10 years. This was a huge campaign and took months to pull off. It was insane,” says Dobkin. “Each one of these singers is a huge celebrity in each of their own country.”
Dobkin was particularly proud of convincing Portuguese 2017 winner Salvador Sobral to rerecord his song “Amar Pelos Dois” and appear as a street busker singing the tune.
“He didn’t want to do it. He didn’t understand what the movie was and he’s a jazz musician now, that chapter is behind him,” says Dobkin. “It was a campaign. But eventually we got him on a plane and and he rerecorded it. And that sequence, it’s just a really beautiful thing.”