Inspired one day to write a story featuring his native trolls, Øvredal was struck by the narrative possibilities inherent in structuring the film around a disgruntled troll hunter. Having drawn on a range of influences, the result is a masterclass in faux documentary filmmaking; a return to form for the found-footage format that – unusually for the genre – isn’t scared to actually say something new. Not that we’re here to retread our review, which (incidentally) you can find here.
“Of course, what feeds into it is films like Man Bites Dog and Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and all those things, but Norwegian fairy-tales too – about the trolls which I grew up with as a kid. And then one day I decided to make a movie that was amazing, but contained as well so that I could actually do it. Then I thought of the troll hunter, the guy whose job it was to actually hunt these trolls and I decided to spin the tale around him.”
An inspired choice, as it turns out. Otto Jespersen is quite simply superb as the film’s forlorn protagonist, bowing to the whims of a group of amateur filmmakers looking to accompany him on his rounds as a supposed bear poacher. Famous for his own controversial brand of comedy – he set the American flag on fire in opposition of the war in Iraq – Jespersen might well seem a rather unorthodox choice for the film’s titular troll hunter.
“I think the casting of him was just perfect. To me he just had this droll, dry sense of humour and he can just play that everyguy. It’s his first movie role, he’s only done stand-up and some caricatures that are a lot of fun but aren’t these serious drama characters. We talked about how much of his sense of humour we wanted in the film, I wanted lots of it but not in quite the same way he usually does it, which is with lots of – he’s a very very talkative comedian. The troll hunter to me was a much more quiet person. So I had to find a way for him to portray the troll hunter with fewer words than he normally would use.”
Øvredal is very aware of his films ludicrousness, rightly believing that much of the film’s humour is mined through Jespersen’s matter-of-fact perception of his own work. Exploiting this further with the candid nature of a supposed documentary, Øvredal quickly realised that his brazenly unabashed approach would help conceal his film’s subject from the unsuspecting media’s prying lens.
“Initially we did this kind of secretive marketing, but we were putting the title out. It’s just that people weren’t getting just how blatantly obvious the title actually was. People – both the media and the public – were reading all kinds of other meanings into it. I don’t think they’re used to a Norwegian film being that blunt.”
Likening the shoot to being back at film school, Øvredal enjoyed the creative freedom he had been previously denied while directing advertisements. If there is one thing that sets Troll Hunter apart from the work of an admittedly gifted student, however, it is the jaw-dropping special effects.
“Oh it was very based in fairytales, I didn’t want to alienate the Norwegian audience with how I depict trolls onscreen; I wanted it to feel very close to that because we were messing around with so much other stuff, with creating a mythology around them and putting it in real time – you know now as opposed to hundreds of years ago or whenever it would be natural to tell a troll story. Also I was taking away their ability to speak, taking away their clothes and making them more like animals. They had to look basically recognisable.”
With Troll Hunter finally let loose on the public, Øvredal can finally embark on something new. While the film is being retooled for the requisite American remake, the director has plans to make a short science fiction film for which he has recently received funding. Just as intriguing is the news that he is involved in a number of Hollywood productions, though any revelations ended there. As for the director’s own take on the reboot:
“It’s not in production yet. I think they’ve just started working on the script and as far as I know they’re planning to shoot it next year, and hopefully in Norway – at least that’s what I’m hoping anyway. I offered my insights and obviously they can call me any time but I’d be really curious to see the film myself and the American perspective on it.”
Troll Hunter is in cinemas now. What are you waiting for?