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Troll Hunter – Andre Ovredal interview

Anders Ovredal

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANDRE Ovredal talks about directing Troll Hunter and being inspired by his passion for fairytales as a child and movies like Jurassic Park and Man Bites Dog.

He also reflects on subverting some genre expectations, what he thinks of the forthcoming Hollywood remake and why a sequel is very much on the cards for Norwegian audiences.

Q. Where did the idea of Troll Hunter first come from?
Andre Ovredal: It came from my love of movies like Jurassic Park. I also really love this film called Man Bites Dog, which is a mockumentary, so it’s a mix of those two plus adding a little bit of Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters into it. I think that’s where it came from. But of course the base inspiration comes from our own fairytales, which I used to know from when I was a kid. They stuck with me and for years I had the drawings from those books on my walls because I really enjoyed them. They inspired me throughout my whole life.

Q. Was it an easy film to get made?
Andre Ovredal: In a way, yes. Even though it took a while in the end it was quite easy. I just went to the biggest producer in Norway and pitched him the idea orally and as soon as I had more concept of the story he made a phone call to the distributor and said: “I have this idea and it’s trolls!” Getting Otto Jespersen to play the troll hunter was also a big selling point in Norway. So, they funded half the money based on that phone call and we then applied for a grant from the Norwegian government and they analysed it based on its market potential and gave us the money because they assumed it would be a big hit.

Q. How much fun did you have researching the trolls and subverting some of the expectations surrounding them from what audiences already knew about trolls?
Andre Ovredal: I think the big surprise is the fact that they’re animals more than just fairytale creatures, which talk and wear clothes and have their own culture. But they had to look like the audience expected, so that could not be a surprise. And I didn’t want it to be a surprise anyway because so many times we complain when we see trolls depicted in other movies, even big movies… we’d say: “That’s not a troll!” You know, I’ve heard that one a lot, so this time I had to get it right for the Norwegian audience and how they see them.

But yes, we played around with all the fairytale bits and pieces – but only the things that I knew was already in the general knowledge of the audience. I didn’t really go into the fairytales when I was researching it because then you start finding so many details that the general audience has no relationship to, so when you crack a joke around it, they won’t have any reference to it and you’re lost. So, it’s only those things like the fact they can smell Christian blood and they turn to stone – but obviously, it’s also a documentary, so I can’t have something turn to stone because everybody knows that doesn’t happen but there are processes within nature of changing things… such as creating calcium in your body, so basically they turn to calcium. So, that kind of stuff.

Q. How technically difficult was it to create the trolls? And was it done using performance capture, or was it the more conventional tennis ball on a stick with some models to help with eye-lines, etc?
Andre Ovredal: All of that stuff [laughs]! All of the above! Of course, motion capture is something you do in post-production, so it doesn’t really affect the shoot but what we did was we had a poll with a tennis ball, so we had the eye-lines. Sometimes you didn’t have anything – it varied from shot to shot. But what was important to me was getting the cast to perform in a real way. It doesn’t really matter what the troll looked like when you’re on the set. That was for me to deal with later. They needed to know the basics of what it was doing – when it’s chasing you, what it’s looking at, when it’s stopping and what they were thinking and doing.

Troll Hunter

Q. How was working with Otto Jespersen? I gather he can be quite controversial and you’re never sure what he’ll be doing from one moment to the next?
Andre Ovredal: Yeah, he cracks a lot of jokes and he has a lot of fun stuff to say. He and Glenn Erland Tosterud would be improvising all the time and really playing with some fun stuff. But Otto is a very calm, gentle man, really. But he has a very sharp wit and a very sharp tongue, so we had to figure out the balance between Otto’s character and the troll hunter himself.

Q. Have you been surprised by how globally successful Troll Hunter has become?
Andre Ovredal: Oh yeah, yeah. I was hoping it would be released in Germany maybe because I’d heard that they like trolls in Germany at the time we were making it. I never dreamt that it would be picked up by Momentum here and released in the US with Universal also distributing it all over Europe, outside of the UK. It’s been amazing.

Q. What have been some of your favourite responses then?
Andre Ovredal: I think the screening at Sundance was one of my favourites because they were just loved it so much. There is always a joy to see the film in the theatre because, fortunately, people respond so well to it. They’re laughing, they’re jumping and you can really feel that they’re alive and responding to it in the right way. And that’s very gratifying for a filmmaker. But also getting Facebook messages from 10-year-old kids… I’ve had a countless number of contacts from little kids who just love the film to death. It’s become a phenomenon that I’ve never seen in Norway before in my lifetime. You know, they’ve seen it 10 times and it’s their favourite movie of all-time, so for that to be a Norwegian film and not Harry Potter is amazing [laughs].

Q. What did you think when you heard the rights had been bought for an American remake? And will you be involved at all?
Andre Ovredal: Oh, great fun. I’ve been part of that conversation for a long time, so it was great. They also asked me if I’d like to be involved and wanted to direct it because, obviously, nobody knows the story as well as I do. But I didn’t want to compete with myself and also spend the next three years of my life doing exactly the same thing. So, I wanted to expand into something new because I love directing. I love Troll Hunter but that’s not everything I love!

Q. Do you have something you’re working on currently?
Andre Ovredal: Oh yes. It’s a movie in the same vein, which is going to be horrific and with a lot of humour. But it’s an American film with an American producer. If I get it made it’ll be with Hollywood stars.

Q. Will there be a Troll Hunter 2?
Andre Ovredal: I hope so, yeah. Not now, while they’re doing the remake, but as soon as they’re done, for sure, we’ll give it a go. I mean, everyone in Norway loves it so much. Again, I constantly get people on our Facebook pages saying we’ve got to do a sequel.

Read our review of Troll Hunter