Thursday, 18 August 2011

TrollHunter interview with director André Øvredal & actor Glenn Tosterud

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Left to Right: Troll Hunter Director Andre Ovredal, Glenn Tosterud stars in Troll Hunter.
Images courtesy of Alliance Films.

Toronto is in for a treat this week with the release of the Norwegian monster movie TrollHunter / Trolljegeren hitting The Royal theatre on August 19, 2011. Earlier this week I had a chance to chat with director André Øvredal and actor Glenn Tosterud about their fantastic monster movie, from the challenges along the way to sticking to the vision and letting things flow, and of course… the general love of trolls.

Shannon: I have to first ask about the inspiration to do a film on troll and a troll hunter? Where did that come from?

André Øvredal: I guess it comes from, as a writer and director it comes from my love of the trolls, our mythology, our old stories from the 18th century fairy tale stories, basically, and wanted to do an American monster movie with a Norwegian twist and blending all these things together it would have to be very droll, very dry but it has to be with a sense of humour as well.

Shannon: I'm curious - people believe in the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot, are their Troll believers?

Glenn Tosterud: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, there are people in Norway that think there are trolls, but I don't think there are too many.

Shannon: The film had really great response in North America at Sundance and Fantasia, how has the response been in Norway?

Glenn Tosterud: It's been amazing. It's been seen by a lot of people, more than Inception, isn't it?

André Øvredal: Yeah, more than Inception, more than Iron Man, more than any of these Hollywood movies.

Glenn Tosterud: The biggest newspaper in Norway said that it was,.. what was the quote?

André Øvredal: Yeah, the biggest newspaper in Norway called it the cultural Event of 2010 in the country so it's quite an important film, somehow. So of course were extremely happy about all this.

Glenn Tosterud: Yes.

Shannon: That's fantastic. It's so nice to see the blend of culture and comedy and for it accepted home grown as well as international is an amazing feat, so congratulations.

Glenn Tosterud: Thanks

André Øvredal: Thanks

Shannon: How did it come together, how did you two come together on the project?

Glenn Tosterud: For me as an actor, I auditioned. I met André at the audition, got the part and started working on it.

André Øvredal: For me, when we were going all the auditions Glenn was also a part of choosing a lot of the other actors. We would work very closely together on the rest of the auditions, he was basically the first guy cast of the team and he would call to play against all kinds of other actors going up for the parts. That was extremely helpful, as he could use his own human sensibility in who he liked to act together with and I think that was a big part of who this group grew together.

Glenn Tosterud: And that was very important as we found the rest of the people and we knew that we had the chemistry, and that was extremely important.

Shannon: Your character in particular has such a naturalistic quality where he's curious and he's doing something and you don’t think he should do it but he does it anyway and as an audience member that's a great to place to go. Was it always going to be a naturalistic feel for the characters, a documentary style?

André Øvredal: It was always going to be as natural as possible, the camera, the trolls, but most importantly the acting feel real and never rehearsed. I was very insistent on them using their own words so it would feel, so it would never feel read or that they were using someone else's words. That was an extremely important part of why the film eventually works.

Shannon: Was the dialogue improv?

André Øvredal: Yes, a lot of it was. Most of it was.

Shannon: Was the vision of the film in it's entirely planned out?

André Øvredal: Yeah. The storyline was set. Even the concept of the scenes, we set those but we went about it by let them play with how the scene worked. They'd walk where they wanted to and they camera would change places from take to take, and they could say whatever they felt like as long it was according to the way that we agreed on.

Shannon: Was it challenging to have the combination of natural tone and a set story?

André Øvredal: Yeah, it was. That was definitely one of the biggest challenges of the film to get this kind of documentary feeling up against something that is so effects heavy sometimes.

Shannon: It really comes across; it really feels very seamless when you watch it.

André Øvredal: Wonderful

Shannon: The film has a lovely blend of scares and emotions, did you always want the combination?

André Øvredal: Yeah, I think that as long as they say it's real you can flow from one to the other very easily. Basically we all have funny parts of our lives and scary & emotional parts. So as long as the audience is in on the ride of reality, they don't consider it a comedy. We don't consider it a comedy or an anything, as long as you consider it a documentary than everything falls into place. You play the comedy deadpan, it's real. You'd never play up the comedy, they have horrific experiences and the audience is in on that.

Glenn Tosterud: The genre mix of being both funny and scary all at the same time, I think that's the André's vision. A lot of people were kind of asking to categorize it somehow, to kind of put it in one box but I think the thing that is really great is that André kept his vision. He knew that this was how this was going to be, even if you can't really tell if it's just funny or just scary it was his vision and you can't really calculate it - you can just feel it. And I think that really came across in a great way.

Shannon: Was there a challenge keeping it to your vision?

André Øvredal: It was always a challenge, every day was basically a challenge to stick to that. You have different scenes, different actors you have different ideas constantly flowing and you have the fact that you are shooting a relatively low budget film and you are in a hurry, you need to make decisions quickly and it's very easy to make the wrong decision because you don't have time to consider it so you have to go with your guy feeling throughout the project. You have to start really trusting your own instincts on what good and what's bad; what's wrong and what's right. When you are on a shoot, it's like a train that moves and if you stand in the way you get run down by it, even if you are the director.

Shannon: It has its own energy.

André Øvredal: Yeah, it does because there are so many people and so many things and so much money pushing that everything to get done, or else your screwed. So you need to make decisions that you have no time to think about and that is the constant challenge to stick to your vision.

Shannon: Can you talk about some of the locations that you filmed on?

André Øvredal: We filmed on the shorts of the Western side of the country, we drove for 3 weeks following the route the line producer had made with the help of the DOP and myself. We drove 10 vehicles or so with the equipment we needed, and stayed in hotels along the way and we were shooting in valleys and places that were amazing. Places that I never thought I would really see.

Shannon: It's gorgeous, it's such a treat to see as a viewer. Did you shoot in sequence?

André Øvredal: A lot, yeah. For the first few weeks we shot very close to sequence for the nature to not get all changed. We were shooting in September/October and there are a lot of changes in the nature during that time, so if we didn't shoot in sequence we could have gotten quite screwed in how the film would feel, that you would see continuity errors in the surroundings.

Shannon: When you were out there did anything scary or strange happen?

Glenn Tosterud: Well, we met a lot of trolls...that's pretty scary. Other than that...

(laughter)

André Øvredal: I remember one thing that was pretty scary that had nothing to do with trolls, we were driving after we were done shooting and it was late at night. All the cars had to drive over this mountain down into this area where our hotel was, and by the way this hotel was like The Shining hotel, it was not open for the public at the time. But the drive itself was really frightening, it was so icy and snowing, and a really mean winter and I remember our 1st AD who was driving the land rover, which is featured in the movie, and he was sitting with the door open so he could jump out if he started to slide, for the whole drive. It was deep mountain roads and it was scary.

Glenn Tosterud: That was scary.

André Øvredal: It was genuinely scary.

Shannon: So it was an adventure in it of itself to film?

André Øvredal: Oh, absolutely.

Glenn Tosterud: It was. It was a lot like the film.

André Øvredal: It was complete chaos, our in nature in the dark woods and shooting inside a military area, where their might have be explosives around so they were like "Don't step on those".

Shannon: Life imitating art imitating life. What do you think draws people to these kinds of films, to documentaries or to monster films?

André Øvredal: I think that's two very different things but with horror films I think it's our need to experience this emotion of fear in a safe environment. Because the emotion of fear is so intense, so real, and we can never get to experience it hopefully outside a safe environment like a movie theatre.

Glenn Tosterud: Yeah, I think that is true.

Shannon: Do you guys have favourite monster or horror movies?

André Øvredal: I have tons.

Glenn Tosterud: Yeah. The Swedish Let the Right One In, I don't know if that's a horror movie.

André Øvredal: Yes.

Shannon: Yes.

Glenn Tosterud: I think that's my favourite, besides TrollHunter of course.

Shannon: I would describe both of those with the term 'festival sweetheart' films, because they are the ones that fans really, really love so I would put the in the same category.

André Øvredal: One of my favourite horror movies for sure is The Omen, it’s just amazing horrific film. I've always been a big fan of Stephen King generally so The Shining and Carrie and all these classics. Rosemary's Baby.

Glenn Tosterud: Yeah!

Shannon: Creepy kids.

Shannon: Is there anything you've learned along the way that you'd like to share with new filmmakers?

André Øvredal: What I've learned a lot about was that you can plan on getting great stuff, but sometimes you can also bet on luck. It sounds like it's leading things up to something else but if you do it enough you will have it. You will get a lot of lucky moments if you just bet on it enough for a long time. I think getting the right moment for the actors just feels like luck sometimes, where if you were thinking about another moment was going to be great because you shot it the way you planned it and it wasn't so great in the end.

Shannon: For Glenn, is there anything you'd like to share about being in a film that's this tone or feel?

Glenn Tosterud: For me it's a bit the same as André, like embracing the coincidences I have a lot of belief in that. Basically the same as André, we had a great agreement on how to make this movie.

André Øvredal: That's why he wanted to be part of it, because he loved the idea of jumping in and shooting for real like a documentary. So we really sold the film in the same way all the time.

Glenn Tosterud: That's true.

Shannon: That's great, and it’s nice to see. I think it's really reads when people see the film and I think it's really great that's it's getting a release here in Toronto and people will get to see it with a live audience because that's the way to go with this kind of movie.

Glenn Tosterud: When is it releasing in Toronto?

Shannon: Friday August 19, 2011 at the Royal

Glenn Tosterud: I was just in Toronto for the Worldwide Short Film Festival, it's a great city.

Shannon: I missed that! I was in Portland. Did you have a film here?

Glenn Tosterud: Yeah, I had a short film called Scene from a Relationship.

Shannon: Are either of you planning on coming to Toronto soon?

André Øvredal: I'd love to but not in the very new future as I'm having a baby in a month or so I'll be stuck at home.

Shannon: Congratulations!

André Øvredal: Thank you.

Glenn Tosterud: I'd love to come again if there is the opportunity to come up. I love the city.

André Øvredal: Yeah, just to come and see it. It's on the schedule when it starts to reactivate itself.

Shannon: And what is up next for you guys?

André Øvredal: Hopefully I'll be doing a film in Hollywood, that is what I am aiming for. I'm working with a fantastic producer on one project that I'm expecting to make in the next year.

Glenn Tosterud: I'm a director as well, and I'm currently working on my first feature.

Shannon: Excellent. Thank you so much.

TrollHunter / Trolljegeren opens at the Royal on August 19, 2011 and will be released on DVD on August 23, 2011. I highly recommend checking it out, especially with a live audience.

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