Troll Hunter Interview: André Øvredal

Troll Hunter rampages onto screens this Friday and with that I spoke to writer and director André Øvredal about Norwegian fairytales, Jurassic Park and making the leap from pizzas to 200ft trolls.

Where did the idea for Troll Hunter come about?

I think it’s a blend of my fascination with Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and of course our own heritage. We grew up with the troll and the fairytales and these drawings that were made in the 18th Century depicting the trolls with the stories. Those are really frightening images of big creatures in nature and I’ve found them very fascinating my whole life.

So the depictions of the trolls are based on drawings that you were familiar with?

That’s how we see troll, so we had to stick very close to that when we designed the trolls because if we went away from that people would say, “oh that’s not a troll”. Everybody loves Harry Potter but I remember the troll that’s in the cave there and saying “That’s not a troll”. It’s the same thing with Lord Of The Rings – that’s not a troll – that’s not realistic!

There’s lots of different types of trolls in Troll Hunter. Are there lots of different types of trolls in the Norwegian mythology as well?

You know, they’re all drawn differently but there are no races like there are in Troll Hunter. I made up these separate mythologies.

You’re more well known for your commercial direction. How did you make the leap to a feature film?

I was fortunate enough to have made some very famous commercials in Norway that were part of popular culture more than any commercial I could think of in Norway.

What was it for?

They’re both for this pizza brand. It’s called Grandiosa. They were made in 2004, 5, 6 I guess. One of them came out just when I was pitching this idea and the producer loved that commercial. So he trusted me.

Pizza to feature films?!

Yeah it’s an obvious leap isn’t?! (Laughs). Both of them has to do with popular culture and both them are about how you communicate with an audience.

What inspired the use of the found-footage style of film making? Was that a budgetary decision?

For sure that’s part of it because to shoot a slick Hollywood movie with monsters in Norway is not going to happen. You can do it but you’re going to lose something in the process. So we’re hiding the troll and every now and then being able to cut away to them. But also, the sense of humour come across in a more interesting way when you have this documentary form which insists that everything is real; everybody’s talking and being interview and it has this form that people know as truth and that becomes crazy somehow.

So, if you did have a larger budget, what would you have done differently?

I don’t know. I would have made the thing more spectacular because it would allow for it but I think the story wouldn’t have changed – I still think the story is the most interesting thing about it.

The Troll Hunter is a rather idiosyncratic character. Is he based on anyone you know?

He’s not based on one single person but it’s based on growing up with family who had government jobs. I myself can relate to not seeing how spectacular your job is; you’re too preoccupied with your everyday handling of your job that you don’t realise “Shit, I shooting in Beunos Aires today” – a huge commercial.

A lot of Scandinavian films are getting remakes (Let The Right One In, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and there’re plans for an American remake of Troll Hunter. Is it something that you’re involved in at all?

No, I said no thank you to direct that. They wanted me to write and direct that but I felt like I was going to end up competing with myself and following in my own footsteps.

So you’re going to take a complete step back?

Yeah, it’s got to be either one or the other because otherwise I’m going to frustrate everybody including myself.

Do you plan to stay in Norway and keep making films there or is this a springboard to make bigger budget American films?

Wherever the story takes me but I would hopefully like to be doing something bigger. There’s been a lot of interest and a lot of scripts that have come off the back of Troll Hunter.

You mentioned Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park as influences but they’re not the films that I initially thought of when I saw the film. Most people would say that the film owes a lot to other found-footage films like Blair Witch or Cloverfield.

From Jurassic Park, I love the size of things and the way they’re depicting them. They’re not hiding them. Ok, it’s hidden a bit at the beginning to create the suspense but in the end, it’s a quarter into the movie and you see them and they’re presented in their awesomeness. We were proudly presenting our monsters in other words and I like that about Jurassic Park.

The giant troll in Troll Hunter really is spectacular.

When we saw it on the big screen at the O2, it was amazing – the sound was amazing, really incredible.

So what’s the link to Indiana Jones?

The hat. . There is a Norwegian fairytale character who is always fighting the trolls and he has this little bag with all of his tricks in there. Troll Hunter has his bag, more realistic, more today but Indiana Jones… he has this grumpiness, this world-weariness. He’s tired of his job if you will and I just took this much further.

What’s the next project for you?

I’m working with some Hollywood producers on similar projects…

“Similar projects” – can you give any more details about those?

No, not really because nothing might come of them or they fire me but it will hopefully be a film which deals with mythological monsters with a sense of humour.