Troll Hunter - André Øvredal interview
Director of the Norwegian moc doc taking film festivals by storm
This article is from 2011.
Something that’s pretty thin on the ground at Edinburgh this year are genuine ‘festival finds’; films from unknown filmmakers that seem to come out of nowhere and really impress audiences. Trollhunter is perhaps the closest thing to that in this year’s programme, a fantastical mock-documentary in which three student filmmakers join a search for the titular mythical cave-dwellers in a remote forest in Norway. It’s an odd mix of Blair Witch-style tension, bizarre Pythonesque humour and massive CG trolls, and while I personally thought it didn’t really work I clearly seem to be in the minority. Audiences here have loved it, so much so that it’s had a third screening added on Sunday. It’s certainly unique, so when I had the opportunity to meet TrollHunter’s writer/director André Øvredal, I asked him where the idea came from. ‘It just came from blending all the things that I enjoy myself. It’s the fairytales of Norway with the trolls, mixed with very American movie [influences] and a Norwegian sensibility about people. I grew up in a working class family and I understand that world, so I wanted to implement that into a film about monsters. I had to figure out how to tell it, but it was unique enough to spur interest and possibly get made.’ He’s not wrong; the film has been a huge hit in his homeland and is receiving near-universal acclaim at festivals around the world, including this week in Edinburgh. Did Øvredal ever anticipate audiences being so receptive? ‘As a very grounded Norwegian person I wouldn’t think about this kind of stuff! I was hoping it would have a life outside of Norway, but to this degree? I would never have thought of it.’
For the unassuming Øvredal, who honed his craft as a commercials director for 10 years, the film’s success has brought Hollywood calling: it was announced last week that Harry Potter director Chris Columbus has already bought the remake rights. While the film’s fans will no doubt groan and roll their eyes at more evidence of the US’s aversion to anything with subtitles, Øvredal seems genuinely enthused at this development: ‘It’s exciting!’ he grins, ‘I’ve admired Chris Columbus since Gremlins and Goonies, and his first film Adventures in Babysitting was a wonderful movie. For him, the director of Harry Potter, to want to buy the rights, it’s just nuts.’ Interestingly, Øvredal was offered the chance to direct the US remake, but declined, ‘because I felt I’d be competing with myself, doing the same thing over again. It would be exciting to do an American monster movie. It’s just too bad it was this particular one!’ From his tone I assume that he is still waiting for a different offer, but it turns out that I couldn’t be more wrong: ‘Oh no, I have tons [of offers] now’, he says casually, ‘I keep getting scripts every day. I’m working on one big, big project. It’s a bit too early to talk about, but it’s in the same vein, it’s a monster comedy working with another set of mythological ideas. There are other projects [in development], but that is the one I’m hoping will be my next film.’
Despite my lack of love for his movie, even I can see that Ovredal is definitely a director to watch, if for no other reason than his film has also inspired Trollhunter Strikes Back, one of the most impressive online Star Wars homages I’ve seen. It was created by one of Øvredal’s own crew, visual effects artist Rune Spaans, and Øvredal chuckles as I begin to mention it: ‘I saw that, it was really lots of fun. I only got to know about it a day before he put it up!’