André Øvredal (INTERVIEW)
First of all, André, thank you for taking the time to speak to myself at BloodGuts UK Horror. Firstly, congratulations on a great film.
Talking today around THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. Firstly, do you want to just give us a brief description of the film and what it's about?
Yeah. It's about two coroners, they're father and son, and they work out of the father's home, which has been a generational business of performing autopsies for three generations. They get a corpse of a young woman that has had no kind of anything wrong with her. It's kind of a weird mystery. The police ask them to stay overnight to figure it our as soon as possible. Then, weird stuff starts happening as soon as they start digging into her. That's as much as I want to publicise about the movie.
Yeah. Absolutely. No spoilers there. Certainly, it definitely is a terrifying film to watch. Great job there. I suppose, to start off with, you've got a strong cast with Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch. How did the casting process come about?
It was a long process, in a way, because you're trying to get these amazing actors to read the script. Fortunately, these characters were very interesting with the unresolved commotion or issues between father and son. The fact that they're doing such an intriguing job, for a normal person, that's just so unique.
Of course, the script was on the, so called, blacklist in Hollywood. It was a very well received, very well regarded script in the Hollywood circles. we knew about it, so we were able to put it on the table of people like Emile and Brian. Eventually, they loved it and said yes to becoming part of it. Then, you wait for their schedule to open up, and then you shoot. It's just such a time consuming waiting game. Beyond that, it was very ... It was, obviously, an amazing cast to get together because they were so good together. They totally feel like father and son. We knew it immediately after we started filming with them that this works.
That sounds great. You said there, it came from one of the Hollywood blacklists. Was it an easy transition, going from, obviously, your homeland of Finland, working on TROLLHUNTER, to then moving into the big screens of Hollywood? Was that an easy transition to make?
Yeah. People are just people wanting to do the best job they can. [inaudible 00:04:23] people. Of course, we were shooting here, in London, so we had an amazing crew of people who speak perfect English. The communication was great all around. It was such a ... Culturally speaking, I've lived in the States for years, so I have a lot of contacts in the Hollywood industry, so I know and understand the way how films are being made over there. For me, at least, it felt like a fairly simple transition.
From that point, you obviously read the script and loved the script, but was it easy to film a horror film of a supernatural nature? How hard is it to keep it fresh when you've got a market or a genre that's so full of clichés?
It comes down to the script. It comes down to the fact that it cleverly written to just, in a way, stand out from that crowd of films that are sometimes copying each other. You have a successful film, and everybody else wants to get on that bandwagon. Then, you have like 20 movies that are in the same vein or the same landscape.
This movie, it was called THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, and that is exactly what it's about. It just has its own little world that nobody else, in a way, belongs to. It dared be there and stand alone. That was already in the script. Being a fan of very classical filmmaking, anything from Hitchcock to The Shining - well, The Shining isn't that classical, but in a way controlled - to all the wonderful horror movies that I grew up with.
It's all about taking through the simplicity of everything. Daring to just let things be simple, both in cinema language and ... Just be honest, in a way. I feel like it's a very honest movie. It doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is.
Is it easy to balance, a really scary film with something that's got a gripping thriller storyline? Is it easy to manage what elements you want as the story telling and what elements you want to actually bring a scare across the audience?
Yeah. We based everything in reality, first, you know, "What are the elements that have to be completely real?" Usually, that is always the acting, it's the description of a character. As long as they're real and their reactions are real, you can kind of do whatever you want, I think. You can put superheroes in weird costumes, you can do ... As long as the characters you're following are believable to a regular human being on the street. That balance kind of has to be ... Then, you put a layer of thriller on it. Then, you add in a supernatural element, and how do they react to that.
It's also sometimes how do they not react to it? How do they not overreact to things? You have to constantly keep in mind that people rationalise things. Whatever happens, people try to put in context with how they have experienced the world up to that point. There will always be a rationalisation process, even in the case of the obviously supernatural, in a way, for a movie audience. I think as long as you stick to that, you can do almost anything. It's all about human psychology, that's kind of what it comes down to, that human psychology [inaudible 00:09:15] in a believable way.
It's certainly an interesting way of looking at it. I've read that you've got great praise from horror writer Stephen King, who said the film is to rival ALIEN and early Cronenberg. How do you feel about that, getting such high praise from such a famed horror writer?
I feel good about that. That's the most insane thing ever said out in the public. Of course, Stephen King, I grew up with reading all of Stephen King's books. His way of balancing just these kinds of things, realistic characters up against the supernatural. His tempo of writing and how he focuses on storytelling has been an influence on me my entire life. To have him turn around and say, "Hey, you did a good movie," it's a little bit like God speaking to you.
Certainly high praise. Speaking of famous fans, I have also read that Chris Columbus has picked up the rights to TROLLHUNTER and was potentially looking to remake that in Hollywood. Is that something that you're aware of or have any updates on?
Remaking TROLLHUNTER, Chris Columbus?
That's what I've read.
Yeah. That was years ago, actually. In 2011, they bought the rights for it. I was actually developing another movie with Chris called CARPE DEMON for a couple of years, and I wanted to direct it, he wrote, which was so much fun. It was the greatest thing you could possibly imagine, but it didn't go.
That's a shame.
Really a shame. I'm still bummed about that. They bought the rights for it, but them somehow it didn't come together, unfortunately. I didn't want to direct it, so they had a couple of other directors on it. Among them, Neil Marshall, he was supposed to direct it for a year. I believe he got too busy with GAME OF THRONES and now we basically have the rights back.
Oh, okay. That's interesting. Certainly, it seems the film you were collaborating on with Chris Columbus sounded like a lot of fun, however, I suppose the lack of a remake for TROLLHUNTER makes the original film, probably, more unique that there won't be a remake. It seems something Hollywood likes to do a lot of when the original source material is usually pretty good in the first place.
If it worked, it would be good to have an English language version that had a broader audience, but I just never understood that movie, because it's so culturally specific to Norway. Every joke, every little detail, every nuance, it's just knowingly for a Norwegian audience. The fact that it branched out and became popular in other places, it's just a lucky, unique kind of thing that just happened. I honestly never really understood how that movie could work, because trolls are not American or speaking English in Norway, it's a movie I couldn't imagine.
It would've been a weird one, but it certainly doesn't take anything away from, obviously, the original film. I suppose, on that note, is there anything you're working on at the moment that we should look forward to?
MORTAL, which I'm shooting in two and a half months, which is an American-British-Norwegian co-production. That's my next project, basically.