This weekend, the Norwegian action monster troll documentary The Troll Hunter premieres on Video on Demand. (And yes, all of those words belong in that sentence.) Director Andre Ovredal's new film is an eagerly anticipated new genre-bender about a beleaguered troll hunter who lets a young documentary film crew tag along as he investigates a strange rash of troll attacks, fighting monsters as big as mountains. You can find our enthusiastic review here. We sat down with Ovredal to discuss the genesis of his strange film project, the lack of decent troll movies in Hollywood (and the preponderance of bad movies like the infamous Troll 2), along with the plans for an American remake!
Crave Online: I wanted to get the hardest part of any interview out of the way. This is the part where I tell you what I thought of your film.
Andre Ovredal: Okay…?
Crave Online: It’s really good.
Andre Ovredal: Okay, great!
Crave Online: I actually really enjoyed The Troll Hunter, and one of the things… It was refreshing to see a different movie monster. Obviously trolls are ancient creatures, but vampires are so hot right now…
Andre Ovredal: Yeah, and zombies.
Crave Online: What was it about trolls?
Andre Ovredal: It’s part of my mythology, my country’s mythology. I wanted to make a Norwegian blend of American filmmaking sensibilities and Norwegian mythology and Norwegian characters. So it would appeal to Norwegian audiences – which was my primary target audience – but have the movement and the humor of an American film… The trolls are such a big part of Norwegian culture but they haven’t been used very well.
Crave Online: I can’t think of many troll movies. There’s Troll, Ernest Scared Stupid, but all those are kind of jokey. Has there ever been another troll movie that you thought was pretty good?
Andre Ovredal: In my opinion there’s never been a troll movie [before]…
Crave Online: A proper troll movie…
Andre Ovredal: Yeah. I haven’t seen these Troll films, which are… I guess not so good.
Crave Online: They’re really bad. Everyone says Troll 2 is bad, like ‘the worst movie ever made,’ but Troll 1 is almost as bad.
Andre Ovredal: (Laughs) – But those are completely different creatures to me. They’re like leprechauns…
Crave Online: Or goblins. That’s literally what they were in Troll 2. In Troll Hunter you feature many different breeds of troll. Are those based on myth or did you make any of them up?
Andre Ovredal: Our knowledge of trolls in Norway is based on a book of fairy tales that was written in the 18th century. It’s a collection of like 200 short stories…
Crave Online: All about trolls?
Andre Ovredal: I think maybe a third of them are about trolls. And there are some amazing drawings that are really scary; trolls that are as huge as mountains. This is what inspired [the] trolls in Troll Hunter. This is the way I see trolls. When I see any other kind of troll, I’m almost, you know, “What is that thing?”
Crave Online: There are a lot of different elements in Troll Hunter. There’s sort of an action movie element, a documentary element, straight up horror… What was the first thing that started you on the project? “Let’s make a troll movie?” “Let’s make a faux documentary?”
Andre Ovredal: No, it was the character.
Crave Online: The character of the troll hunter?
Andre Ovredal: Yeah. I wanted to make a movie about an action-type hero but in a different way. So I was trying to think of some character, and the troll hunter came up pretty quickly actually: the idea of a guy who does something amazing for a living [and] doesn’t really know it. He doesn’t acknowledge that fact.
Crave Online: It’s sort of mundane to him. It’s his day job.
Andre Ovredal: Yeah, it’s his day job. To us it’s an amazing job. You know, a lot of people do that… I even find myself [in that situation]. I direct commercials for a living, to me that was actually an amazing job, but…
Crave Online: Every once in a while you catch yourself saying, “Oh my god, I have to go to work today…”
Andre Ovredal: Yeah. I have to go to South Africa or Argentina…
Crave Online: You bastard.
Andre Ovredal: (Laughs) – Yeah, basically. And I’m complaining because I have these long flights, and that’s ridiculous. So I wanted to put that understanding of life into the film. And then of course the trolls came second, and then the documentary style came third. They all came pretty quickly after each other. We couldn’t do a Jurassic Park style movie in Norway, even now. I’m sure there are people who’d want to do that now, after Troll Hunter…
Crave Online: It’s interesting that you mention Jurassic Park, because I was actually reminded of Jurassic Park specifically while watching Troll Hunter. Your movie gets a sense of scale out of its monsters that even giant monster movies don’t always get these days. I don’t know if you saw the remake of Godzilla we did in America, but there are very few big shots of the monster, lots of cross-cutting, but in Troll Hunter the monsters are enormous, we see things move as they walk, there’s loud booming noises… It’s so otherwordly to me.
Andre Ovredal: The sense of scale was extremely important to me, obviously. Sometimes it’s very simple: putting people in the foreground and a troll in the background, but other times you have to construct that feeling. And also of course the sound is so important, because if you don’t have the sound… The troll is 200 yards tall. You’d have a collision between the image and the sound.
Crave Online: The Troll Hunter is obviously a Norwegian film, the trolls are obviously Norwegian monsters, and watching it as an American I had little context. But it struck me that there’s a sort of undercurrent of political criticism. Is that your take on an American convention, or is that your take on something [going on in Norway]…
Andre Ovredal: It’s not really a big commentary. You want to come up with ideas that add fire to the story.
Crave Online: Well, in America there’s a general theme in a lot of our action movies: a general distrust of the government. Is there any parallel to that in Norway, that would help audiences understand the context of Troll Hunter better?
Andre Ovredal: I think, well, there is the same thing with the government. You never know what the hell they’re up to. (Laughs.)
Crave Online: I’m not asking you to take a stand!
Andre Ovredal: No, but also I think what is funny, what I think is kind of fun, is that we have these kind of issues in Norway with large, dangerous animals. Like wolves and bears and that kind of stuff, so there’s always conflict with the people living in Norway. These animals, should we eradicate them, should we keep them? That feeds a little into Troll Hunter; how you treat the large animals in your country. And the government has put [trolls] into reserves and kept them a secret, because otherwise there would be panic… So I wouldn’t say there’s a criticism in the film, but I would say it’s utilized, those ideas.
Crave Online: Has there been any talk of doing a sequel? Because we don’t even see half of the trolls mentioned…
Andre Ovredal: Of course, yeah. Actually, now the focus is going to be hopefully on the American remake.
Crave Online: How involved would you be with that? Would you direct it…?
Andre Ovredal: I don’t know…
Crave Online: Still early?
Andre Ovredal: Still early. I’d like to be involved with it…
Crave Online: I’d hope so…!
Andre Ovredal: But I really want to also do something that is completely different.
Crave Online: I heard that Troll Hunter you kept very much a secret while you were shooting it. You didn’t even tell people the title. Is the news cycle different in Norway? Because in America the entertainment industry is very scrutinized from early on in production. If you even think about making a movie people are talking about it.
Andre Ovredal: I think it’s more difficult in Norway, because the country’s so much smaller, and everybody knows everybody. Some of the actors I knew. Even a film critic from the largest newspaper in Norway came to audition for a role in the film. It’s like, “How do you keep this a secret?” Also, it’s governmentally supported so they have to publicize what the film is about. We actually talked them into, at the last minute, keeping it a secret, saying it was a documentary… Actually, strangely enough no newspaper picked up on the fact that it was a documentary with a budget of 3 1/2 million dollars… That doesn’t make much sense.
Crave Online: “That’s one hell of a documentary! What are you doing?!”
Andre Ovredal: So I was actually surprised when nobody mentioned that more at the time when it was announced.
The Troll Hunter is available on Video on Demand this Friday, May 6th. It opens in theaters on June 10th.