Exclusive: André Øvredal Talks Troll Hunter

Magnet Releasing is quickly becoming this writer’s favorite distribution house. In the last year, they’ve put out some of the most compelling genre films including Monsters, Black Death, I Saw the Devil, Rubber, and Hobo with a Shotgun. Their latest release, Troll Hunter, is just as remarkable a film as the company it’s keeping. The film is set to premiere today on VOD and in honor of its debut, Dread Central recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with writer/director André Øvredal to find out more about the world of the Troll Hunter, his influences while making the film, and what’s next for him.

For Øvredal, when he was coming up with the concept for this film, he looked no further than the stories he heard as a youngster for his source material. “The classic fairy tales about trolls are essentially children’s stories but I always found them scary to hear growing up. I found a lot of drawings of trolls in this book called 'The Fairy Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe' when doing my research for this film that made the trolls seem like very terrifying creatures as well. I did realize early on when coming up with the story that trolls were almost like a golden ticket of sorts because no one has really done a movie about them before, at least in a serious context. “

“This is the kind of story I would want to tell about trolls because that’s how I see them. They’re big, scary creatures. That’s the only way I understand them- when I see other versions of trolls, the tiny cute ones, I really don’t understand what kind of creatures they’re supposed to be really. To me, those are like leprechauns or something,” Øvredal added.

Even though Øvredal used children’s stories about when putting together Troll Hunter (review here), there were a few things he did change when he was creating the trolls audiences will experience in his film.

“In the fairy tales, trolls actually talk to humans and a lot of their interactions with us in those stories were almost like games the trolls were kind of playing with humans,” explained Øvredal. “In the way Norwegians see trolls, they’re like dumb Norwegians. But I decided early on that I didn’t really want my trolls to talk or wear clothes or anything like that- I wanted them to be animalistic and completely unreasonable creatures.”

Øvredal went on to discuss how a certain monster movie that hit theaters in 1993 that single-handedly changed the landscape of epic creature films had a strong influence on the style and look of Troll Hunter.

“I love the movie Jurassic Park and the spectacle that it was when it originally came out,” said Øvredal. “The visuals in that movie are so clear and clean so when you see the monster, it’s all about the monster. I wanted to incorporate that into my movie as well. There are a few scenes in Troll Hunter where the Jurassic Park influence is definitely very heavy.”

“Our visual effects budget was around a million dollars which isn’t very much when you compare it other movies that have visual effects like we do. But I wanted to make sure we showed off a lot of texture to the trolls and had to look like they truly belonged in nature. I wanted to make sure they didn’t do too much physically because I think that’s what ruins a lot of visual effects with other monsters these days- they do too much because filmmakers have a tendency to over-animate creatures and which doesn’t look natural. I worked extensively with the animators to make sure all the trolls moved only when they needed to and I think that’s why the trolls seem to be so natural in the movie. There’s a natural physicality to them and I think that’s part of what makes the movie so special,” added Øvredal.

With Troll Hunter shot in cinéma vérité style, we asked Øvredal about the approach his cast took when handling the story of the film and he discussed how even though the film had a script, he encouraged all his performers to improv as much as possible.

“The film had a script like any other movie has a script but there was definitely a lot of improvising in the movie from all the actors,” explained Øvredal. “Because it’s a documentary style film, part of the movie’s success hinged on how natural everyone felt to those who will eventually get to see Troll Hunter.

We would discuss before each scene what we wanted to accomplish with each take and I would tell them to use their own words. If fact, I told everyone that they couldn’t use my words at all so that it would become their scene and not mine and it allowed to them to trust in themselves as performers and I think that approach really heightened the story of Troll Hunter.”

When it came to the film’s titular character, the mysterious troll hunter named Hans (played by Otto Jespersen), Øvredal knew he was going to need someone remarkable to bring this modern-day warrior to life.

“Hans was the kind of character that could have an ‘everyman’ reaction to his life when everyone else would see how extraordinary his circumstances were,” said Øvredal. “That’s something I can relate to personally. I almost have to pinch myself every day that I get to be a director and some days it’s hard to not take for granted the career and life I’ve been given. So there are days when I have to take a step back to see just how lucky I am to lead what I feel like is an extraordinary life because I know how lucky I really am. But that’s something Hans isn’t able to do and I needed someone who could pull of that kind of feeling.”

“Otto was a guy who would just come up with so much stuff on the fly because he’s also a comedian. This is actually the only time he’s ever played a serious role. He used a lot of his own sensibilities and comedic timing in the movie but I had to make sure it balanced out in a way that made sense for the character,” Øvredal added.

Now that Troll Hunter is making its VOD debut today, we asked Øvredal if he had considered making a follow-up to the film and what’s next for the Norwegian director.

“I definitely think that there’s still more stories in the world of Troll Hunter but I don’t want that to be my next film. I may be ready to come back to Troll Hunter in a few years. But right now, I am working on a project here in Hollywood right now but that’s all I can say for now. I’m just very grateful for the wonderful responses this movie has gotten and I’m excited to see what comes my way in the future from it,” said Øvredal.

Exclusive: André Øvredal Talks Troll Hunter (click for larger image)

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