From Norwegian writer/director André Øvredal, Troll Hunter is a hugely entertaining film that makes use of documentary style filmmaking to bring a unique and suspenseful story to life that features beasts known only to Norwegians in stories from their childhood. When the government says that there is a problem with bears in the mountains and forests of Norway, a trio of college students sets out to find the truth. With a video camera always on, they trail a mysterious man (Otto Jespersen) who they are determined to get answers from, not knowing that they will risk their lives on a quest to capture trolls on film. The film is both original and darkly humorous, making use of the stunningly beautiful countryside of Norway to bring this horrific story to life.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, filmmaker André Øvredal, who has made the transition from being one of Norway’s most successful commercial directors, talked about taking on a very Norwegian subject for his first feature, hiring a very famous Norwegian comedian to take on the role of the very serious Troll Hunter, all of the extra footage they have for the DVD release (they shot 50 hours of footage), and how unbelievable the overwhelmingly positive reaction for the film has been. He also talked about the American remake he is currently finalizing a deal for, possible sequel ideas, and his desire to work in the Hollywood system. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
ANDRE ØVREDAL: The idea popped into my head as far back as 1999. I was sitting in an office in a commercial production company that I worked at, at the time, as a director, and I was just thinking of ideas for a feature film, and the idea of a guy who hunts trolls for a living was something that I thought of, among other ideas. And then, the idea popped into my head again in 2005, without me even realizing it was the same idea that I had years ago. And then, I started working on the concept and developing what kind of film it really was, whether it was scary or funny. I was working on the world and the character for years, while I was making my living doing other things. I knew, from the moment I got the idea, that this was the film I wanted to make. Nobody had done anything with trolls, in my opinion, since the 18th Century. They’ve made them into tourist things, instead of actually making them into a piece of our culture. Also, you couldn’t make a film like this in Norway until we did it because of the technology. It was way too expensive 10 years ago and basically impossible. We didn’t have the people or the equipment to do it.
Where did your fascination with trolls come from?
ØVREDAL: I loved the idea. I wanted to make a film that was something very Norwegian, so we needed a character that was actually as Norwegian as the trolls for the character of the Troll Hunter. He’s based in my own family, in the fact that he’s a working class person. To a degree, he does something amazing, but he doesn’t really see it. He just sees it from a very droll, every day perspective. I also took the idea from my own experience. I’m actually doing an amazing job. I’m directing commercials and now a feature film, and sometimes you forget that you’re actually doing something amazing because it’s just part of your every day job. That’s how I tapped into the character.
Since you looked for actors who could be the characters that you wanted to have in the film, was there something specific about these people that led you to believe that they were the right ones for the roles?
ØVREDAL: The young actors were unknowns that I found in auditions, but the Troll Hunter (Otto Jespersen) is a very famous Norwegian comedian. He’s the most famous Norwegian comedian, and I wanted to infuse the film with his humor. They were so natural. I’m not really into directing specifics. I want to cast correctly, and then I want them to live on screen. If I cast the wrong actor, I’m screwed. But, if I cast the right actor, it really works out. The casting process is so important. We talked about psychology and the meaning of the scenes, and I wanted to have them perform it. I wanted to have as much of them as possible on screen. That’s why I chose them.
When you decided to do it in this documentary style, which has been used in a bunch of different films, including The Blair Witch Project, did you get inspiration from any of those films?
ØVREDAL: I loved The Blair Witch Project. I thought it was a great film. However, I deliberately did not see it during the process of prepping for this film. I hadn’t watched it, in its entirety, since it was in the theater, and I think that was 1999. But, it’s there. That was just so strong because it was so unique. If you run through a forest with a camera, people are going to think of The Blair Witch Project, no matter what you do, but that’s fine. I don’t mind having that reference. But, my references are Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Men in Black and Ghostbusters, more than anything, but I had to do it in a completely different way, so that I wasn’t copying those films. I didn’t want to get too close to that way of making it. I wanted to keep it much more real, and I think the humor of the film comes from the camera. The style of shooting it is very real while the monsters are very unreal, but they had to look real. Everything had to look real, but the absurdity of the story is what creates the humor for me.
ØVREDAL: We have tons of footage. We shot 50 hours of footage. With a different editor, I could have cut a completely different movie out of it. Actually, the first cut he showed me was a completely different movie. The DVD will have a lot of stuff. We actually have more that we didn’t put on, so maybe we should talk to Magnolia about that and make it an even bigger release for the U.S. version.
Are you surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve gotten with the film in America? Were you ever concerned that it wouldn’t interest American audiences, or did you think it was a universal story that could appeal to everybody?
ØVREDAL: I made the film for a Norwegian audience, but I hoped and thought that it should perform outside the country as well. We were talking about them maybe putting it out in Germany because we knew they liked trolls down there. But, beyond that, I wasn’t really thinking about it. So, when we suddenly got an invitation to Fantastic Fest in Austin and showed it there, the interest was just off the map. The last six months have been quite an unbelievable time period, in my life.
ØVREDAL: In a way, it’s so crazy that it just becomes words. I’m just the same person that I was then, except I’ve suddenly become a genius because some people liked the film. I take it with a grain of salt, but I’m so proud and honored by all of this. I got to show the film at Sundance and Magnolia picked it up. That’s all fantastic and, obviously, a huge surprise to me.
Is it strange to think about an American remake of the film? Have you thought about any actors you would like to see, if that does actually happen?
ØVREDAL: There are definitely some famous American actors who would be great as the Troll Hunter. I’m not going to name anybody, but I do have some names in the back of my head. We are talking about a remake, absolutely. I hope we will finalize that deal soon. It will be exciting to see an American version. Hopefully, it will still take place in Norway, so that we can keep our trolls.
Do you have any desire to make a sequel, at some point?
ØVREDAL: There are tons of ideas for a sequel that were left over from the script process, which are very useful for a sequel, so that is in the back of our minds. Right now, I think a remake is the most important thing to get going.
ØVREDAL: I think so. I’m very much looking forward to working in the Hollywood system, absolutely. I’m having lots of talks about various projects with people I have personally admired for decades, so it is a very, very crazy situation to be in suddenly. I’m very much looking forward to doing a proper Hollywood film with my own sensibility. I have to be strong about my own tastes because I think that’s what the director’s job is. The core of a director is the person’s tastes in what elements go together and how they go together. It’s a puzzle. To me, a film is like a piece of architecture. There are so many details that all, in the end, end up being one thing. If your taste goes wrong in four, five or six of these elements, or you listen to other people’s tastes too much, even though they could make a fantastic movie out of it with their own tastes, if they blend their tastes with mine, it’s probably going to be a mess. When you’re in a system that is as strong as the Hollywood system, I can see that that might certainly be an issue, but it’s going to be fun. It’s just movies.
Do you want to do another movie in this type of genre, or do you want to do something completely different?
ØVREDAL: I want to do something similar, but it doesn’t need to be a monster movie. I am working on a project that has some fantastical elements to it. Actually, I’m working on a couple that I’m thinking about. I guess I will stick to the genre for now.
Trollhunter will be available on Magnolia On-Demand this Friday and in theaters starting June 10.