“Trolls” have been getting a lot of publicity recently, thanks to the public ruminations of Mr. Charlie Sheen. But Norwegian writer-director André Øvredal’s film Troll Hunter features a decidedly less metaphorical type of beastie. This documentary-style horror film would have us believe that enormous, real-life trolls wander around the wilds of Norway, at least until they make the mistake of wandering into inhabited areas at which point they are dispatched by the film’s titular hunter (who is played by comedian Otto Jesperson). The existence of the trolls is kept a secret by the government, but when a trio of film students discover how Jesperson’s character spends his days — or, more, accurately, nights — the world-weary troll hunter encourages them to document his activities.
“When I was a kid, my grandparents and my parents used to read me these stories from a book of fairy tales which was put out in the 18th century,” says director Øvredal, explaining the genesis of his film, which is currently available on VOD and hits selected cinemas on June 10. “I always loved the images in this book of the trolls, which are really frightening and kind of ominous. Very different than what the general public around the world think of when they hear the world ‘troll.’ Norwegian troll mythology is much darker. And the trolls are much bigger!”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The trolls in your film are definitely on the large side. There’s one spectacular sequence towards the end when one beast almost crushes a car with his foot.
ANDRE ØVREDAL: I am so happy that we were able to put this stuff onscreen. In Norway, a little country like ours, when you think of an idea like that — we want to drive between the legs of a troll — you don’t necessarily expect that anybody will be able to do it. But the effects companies were amazing.
What was the hardest part of making the movie?
For me, to sit down and write the script was very hard. I think I wrote four completely different scripts based on the same character and the world, trying to figure out what the film is supposed to be about. I didn’t want it to be too much about the plot. I wanted it to be about being with the troll hunter and discovering his world. That was a long, hard process for me. But also the shoot was crazy. We only had six weeks but somehow the producers and the line producer were able to put together a production schedule that made sense and my [director of photography] made sure we were able to shoot everything that fast.
But I loved shooting it. It was so much fun. We were like ten cars driving around in a caravan, from the west side of the country to the east side. We were shooting more or less in sequences and sometimes just stopping when we saw some amazing locations. There was so much unplanned stuff. My idea was that the way to make the film was to make a documentary, to live and breathe the documentary style. We planned as little as possible.
How difficult was it to then put special effects into that kind of footage?
Of course, when you’re doing the special effects shots you need to control things a little bit more, plan it a little bit more. We never storyboarded or did anything like that. But we went through the stuff with the effects supervisor. Basically, you set up some ground rules of things you cannot do. You know, you cannot put lots of branches in front of where you want the trolls, because we’re never going to be able to rotoscope them out. We had five, six, simple rules like that. As long as we stuck to those we can do pretty much whatever we wanted.
A lot of the finance for the movie came from the Norwegian government which, in the film, is not portrayed all that sympathetically.
They didn’t mind?
I don’t think that was in the first script. The government part [of the story] wasn’t there when they funded it. But I don’t think that would have mattered, actually. We had the cultural minister there for the premiere. So…
Is it true there are plans for a U.S. remake?
Yes. As far as I know the deal is already signed. I’m quite excited to see an American version.
I believe you’re collaborating with Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) on a project?
Yes, that is absolutely in the works. And I’m also working on another couple of projects. I’m doing a short film that I finally got funding for in Norway, a science fiction film. There are some feature film projects. But it’s always a long process. Definitely I want to do something in Hollywo0d next — hopefully this project with Chris Columbus. But we’re still very early in a long process.
What about Troll Hunter 2?
Originally we were thinking of jumping straight to it. But there was so much interest in the remake we kind of stopped working on it. We’re going to wait until the remake has come out and then see what the situation is. But when you develop an idea like this there are of course tons of ideas that are left on the floor.
Are you familiar with a gentleman called Charlie Sheen?
[Laughs] Well, yes.
Because he uses the word “troll” a lot as an insult. Maybe he’d be a good person to star in the Troll Hunter remake.
Hey, that’s a good idea. [Laughs] I’ll definitely suggest that. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that. I mean, he’s yelling “troll” all day long!
Check out the trailer for Troll Hunter below.