Eva Maria Daniels, the Icelandic producer and film festival favorite behind such recent indie dramas as What Maisie Knew, Hold the Dark and Joe Bell, has died. She was 43.
Daniels died Friday in London after a battle with cancer, her friend and publicist Jessie Cohen told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in March 2020 with a type of Stage 3 cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, but she declared herself cancer free in an interview with THR‘s Chris Gardner a year later.
“Eva died on the same terms as she lived,” director Börkur Sigthorsson wrote on Facebook. “She played her cards close to her chest. She didn’t seek recognition when she had success. She didn’t seek pity when she suffered. I will miss her friendship greatly, but mostly I will miss seeing what she would have done next.”
Daniels most recently executive produced the Sydney Sweeney-starring Reality. Directed by first-timer Tina Satter in an adaptation of her off-Broadway/Broadway play Is This a Room, it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this year and on HBO Max in May. In his review, THR chief film critic David Rooney called it “a forceful gut punch of cinema vérité.”
Daniels also exec produced two films directed and co-written by Oren Moverman and starring Richard Gere: Time Out of Mind (2014) and The Dinner (2017).
What Maisie Knew (2012), a melodrama about a broken family helmed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, bowed at the Toronto Film Festival and starred Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgard in a modern adaptation of Henry James’ 1897 novel.
Hold the Dark (2018), an Alaska-set thriller directed by Jeremy Saulnier and starring Jeffrey Wright and Skarsgard, premiered at TIFF and on Netflix.
Joe Bell (2020), directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Brokeback Mountain pair Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, starred Mark Wahlberg in the true story of the father of a gay teenager (Reid Miller) who walks across America to draw attention to anti-LGBTQ bullying. It debuted at TIFF and played in theaters via Roadside Attractions.
During her all-too-brief career, Daniels enjoyed fruitful partnerships with producer Riva Marker — they collaborated on five features — and distributor A24 and also consulted with the Icelandic Film Fund.
Born in Reykjavik on July 5, 1979, Daniels studied business and philosophy at the University of Iceland and added a degree in film production from KBH Film & Fotoskole in Copenhagen in 2003. She then worked as a producer for the postproduction outfits The Mill, based in London, and Company 3, based in Los Angeles and New York.
She launched Eva Daniels Productions in New York in 2010. The first two films from her company were The Romantics (2010), written and directed by Galt Niederhoffer and starring Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin and Josh Duhamel, and Goats (2012), directed by Christopher Neil and starring David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga.
She also exec produced the road movie End of Sentence (2019), starring John Hawkes and Logan Lerman as a feuding father and son in Ireland.
Survivors include her husband, Moritz Diller, and 5 ½-year-old son, Henry.
When she spoke with Gardner in 2021, she had just opened an art gallery in Switzerland dedicated to the work of artists from her Iceland home.
“We have this pure DNA of freedom where we can do anything because we know we’ll get away with it,” she said. “It’s a special island with no limits, no boxes to fit into, wild parties, no audience, no rules to follow, and I love all that. It inspires me every day.”
She added: “During my career in film, I collected art, on a slow pace. It had always given me so much joy. When I was living in L.A., I was going to try to combine film and art, and I even hosted a few art shows in California in the past with some actors that I was working with. During treatment, I returned to that question of how to incorporate more joy. Even though film development is the greatest thing ever, it can be slow and painful. I also have a son, and I thought, ‘How do I bring him into my work life and spend more time with him?’”