FandomWire’s Oliver Swift had the opportunity to speak to Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark director, André Øvredal, about his new film, Mortal. Read on to see André and Oliver discuss the beauty of location, Norwegian Americans and the portrayal of Thor in popular culture.
OS: Hello and welcome to the FandomWire show, I’m Oliver Swift and I’m here with screenwriter and film director, André Øvredal, who is here to talk about his new film, Mortal. How are you doing, André? It’s good to speak to you today.
AØ: How are you? It’s very good to speak to you.
OS: I’m good, thank you. Just to start with, can you give us a brief overview of the film?
AØ: It’s the story of a Norwegian American, Eric, who has travelled back to Norway to basically find his roots and we meet him three years after he’s actually arrived, alone and as a hermit up in the mountains on the west coast of Norway. And it’s really a mystery of how he’s ended up there and what he’s doing is he’s hiding from society, after a terrifying, supernatural event that has caused havoc. He is eventually taken by the police after he ends up, by accident, killing a young man. Then, we slowly unravel a huge, mythological mystery, as he’s being chased around the countryside for the murder of this kid.
OS: You mentioned there the film is set in Norway and a lot of the cast are Norwegian, so what was the inspiration and choice behind casting an American, Nat Wolff, as the lead?
AØ: I wanted to create a story about a person who is digging into his past and is discovering himself, basically, who he really is. I found that there is a lot of Americans with Norwegian heritage and they come to Norway, when they can, to rediscover their roots. I know many people like this and I wanted to tell a story about a person like that, who discovers something just unbelievable. I like the idea that, when you come from the outside into a world, you can lead the audience on a huge discovery. I think it was very exciting telling it that particular way.
OS: You also make great use of the landscapes in Norway. At the beginning, you have all these sweeping shots of the hills and the forests, and there’s that beautiful sequence on the bridge later on in the film – what do you think the importance of location in this film and in film, generally?
AØ: Generally, I think that shooting in real places gives an authenticity. I like films that are grounded even though they are huge in topic, or they have supernatural sides to them, but I love keeping it grounded and setting it in a real environment, as opposed to a studio environment, really adds a layer of reality. And with a film that still has a really low budget compared to huge international movies, trying to achieve scale and beauty, in a way, what we have in Norway is amazing nature. To be able to keep that constantly as a backdrop for our scenes gives it a unique flavour and a certain sense of scale that the movie really has.
OS: Do you find that Norway is underrepresented in films? Just in terms of the country itself?
AØ: Yes, compared to Peter Jackson, for example. He drew amazing productions to New Zealand almost single handedly, with The Lord of the Rings obviously being the prime movie series. I think Norway has the potential to do the same. We have such beautiful, amazing nature and a variance in shooting environments. It’s taken a while to get tax incentives to Norway. We are now getting Mission Impossible shooting back to back movies here, Black Widow was shooting here, the last James Bond movie, Tenet. So, it’s really growing.
OS: Great, that’s good to hear. So, the film focuses a lot on adapting Norse mythology with the lead character Eric, finding out he has similar powers to the god, Thor. For me, British mythology is stories like Saint George and the Dragon, which is a story I grew up with. In Norway, are all children familiar with Thor and Odin and that kind of mythology?
AØ: I don’t think we’re being taught it as much as you’d expect actually, considering it’s such a deep, profound part of our culture. It filters into everything, from the name ‘Thors-day’ or ‘Thursday’. I don’t even recall having real classes about the mythology in school. It’s almost like a given that you should know about it. I think because it’s so present in the culture, every day, you’re always aware of it.
OS: The character of Thor, in particular, has made a surge in popular culture due to being a superhero in the Marvel films. Did that version of the character have any influence on how you wanted to tell this story?
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AØ: Obviously, Marvel created their own version both in the comics and the movies, but it’s based very much in the classic image of who Thor is. If you look at drawings, in Norwegian books or international books, the big, blonde superhero character is very much present. So, I basically wanted to do the opposite of that. I wanted somebody who was totally surprising and somebody who’s just a person. He’s not, in image, a god. And our character is not actually Thor, anyway. I like the idea of descendants and how, in a way, it dilutes purity and how it becomes reality. I just enjoyed the idea of creating a very different Thor mythology, still based in all the stories, but visually different to what you’d expect. And I don’t think Marvel is necessarily the guide, I think it’s the way that Thor has always been depicted that’s the guide, in a way.
OS: Are you a fan of the Marvel films, at all?
AØ: Oh, of course. The first one was great fun and I think the last one was hilarious and quite wonderful.
OS: I don’t want to go into specific details, because of spoilers, but I’m curious as to when exactly you thought up the end of the film?
AØ: Very early in the process. I wanted to end the film with, without saying too much, I wanted it to end with that twist. And I wanted it to end with, what happens to one character at the end, that was always part of the journey of the characters, basically from the original conception of the story. It’s a really tricky ending because you’re twisting and turning everything. You’re going out with a bang and a surprise that could even cause the audience to react negatively to it, because it ends really abruptly. But, to me, it always was my ending. The ending that I wanted for the movie.
A synopsis reads:
Based on ancient Norse Mythology, a young boy must discover the origins of his extraordinary powers before he is captured by authorities hell-bent on condemning him for an accidental murder. A breath-taking and thrilling origins adventure story about one boy’s journey to uncover who, or what, he really is.
Mortal is available to on Digital HD August 3rd and DVD August 24th, in the UK. It stars Nat Wolff, Iben Akerlie and Priyanka Bose.