Interview: Tommy Wirkola: Dead Snow

In 2008, director Tommy Wirkola announced that he was in the process of making a film about Nazi zombies. Immediately, both Tommy and the film received a wave of online buzz as fans speculated as to what all would be included in the high anticipated feature.

This past February, the film, Dead Snow, made its United States debut at Sundance to sold out crowds. I got to see the film there, where actors from the film wowed the audience by dressing up in their on-screen outfits. Immediately, IFC bought the rights to distribute, and it is now playing in select theaters across the country.

Fortunately for us, Tommy took a few moments out of his hectic schedule to sit down and discuss the film, its unique edge and just what his next project, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is all about.

CollegeMovieReview: First off, where did the idea for the film come from, and how long did it take to get from conception to screen?

Tommy Wirkola: Three year ago, or something like that, we made a really low budget comedy in Norway. It cost like 90,000, but [generated] a cult following and allowed me to to do a much bigger film. So we wanted to do something that was non-Norwegian. War is really important up where we are located; especially World War II. So we started playing with that idea and decided on the story.

CMR: There is a very small cast, in terms of principle leads and speaking parts. How difficult was it to configure the right personalities to keep things fresh from day to day?

TW: The script has specific types of people. Those types were important to the story. There were some guys and girls that didn't get the part even though they were impressive actors. The chemistry just wasn't there. You have to look like a gang of friends on screen, but when you are stuck out in a 'school' in the middle of nowhere shooting for two months, you need to be a gang of friends off screen as well.

CMR: The zombie genre is sometimes seen as very generic; however, you added in the Nazi Zombies, helping to give the film a unique and cult feel. Did you expect that simple aspect of the film to be so critical in its overall success?

TW: I never thought in my wildest imagination that we would get this much attention. Just the premise has given us a lot. I would like to say that it was all part of a big scheme, but it really wasn't. But as soon as we published the news that we were doing a film with Nazi zombies, the web blew up. We never could have asked for better coverage.

CMR: You did the whole Sundance thing, and the US rights were quickly picked up by IFC. What was it like to see and experience that kind of reception from one of the most prestigious and hard-nosed crowds when it comes to film?

TW: First we didn't have any expectation in the world we would get [into] Sundance When we did [get chosen] for the Midnight Screenings, we thought this could be a lot of fun and [something we could really enjoy]. None of us could have ever imagined that the rights to over thirty countries would be bought. We just thought that it could be a hit in Norway and at festivals; so the whole thing was just an unexpected [experience].

CMR: What horror film did you draw from, in terms of a director, for Dead Snow?

TW: There is no doubt, especially in relation to Dead Snow, that I was most influenced by Sam Rami and [his] Evil Dead [series]; especially Evil Dead 2. I actually just saw his new film, Drag Me to Hell, and he still has it. He's still got the goods.

CMR: What projects are you currently working on?

TW: At Sundance I got an agent in LA and we made [were able to make a deal and I am writing a project for them now called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. It basically is the Hansel and Gretel story, but picks up 15 years later and they are both gruesome hunters. A lot of blood and stuff like that. In addition to that, I am also doing a TV series in Norway.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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