The film sees him mix thriller elements with comedy while the likes of Kyrre Hellum and Henrik Mestad are on the cast list.
We caught up with the filmmaker to talk about the movie, working with Jo Nesbo and what lies ahead.
- Jackpot will be hitting the big screen here in the UK this week so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
It’s a crime comedy about four guys who win far too much money. Being the criminals that they are they always need money for themselves and so they don’t want to split the money. So they start killing off each other basically (laughs).
- You are in the director’s chair as well as penning the screenplay but the story was an idea by Jo Nesbo so where did this project start for you?
Jo had written this story and intended it to be a film but it was never released in any form before it came my way. My producer was trying to get the film rights to one of Jo’s books but he gave him this story instead.
I had been working on a crime movie myself before Jo’s story came my way and I just thought that it was better than mine (laughs). So we went for that story.
Jo was very supportive throughout the whole process and he allowed me to do the story the way that I wanted to do it but at the same time was very helpful with tips and ideas and everything. He was there all the way making sure that the story felt very Jo Nesboish.
- Well you have touched on my next question really I wondered how much of a collaborative process the script writing was and how much Jo actually had in it?
He just gave me total freedom - he said at one point ‘I am an author so you just do your thing’. But as I said he was there in shadows all of the way and I had some great sessions with him - every time I had a new draft I sat down with him and he read everything.
He came with very good ideas and suggestions. He has a very wicked sense of comedy so a lot of the jokes come from him and obviously a lot of the twist and turns are very Jo Nesbo.
He was very helpful in that regard and he is a very smart man and so I was quite happy to have him in the boat.
- Action, comedy, crime are just some of the genres in this film but how would you define this film and how did you find balancing all these elements when you were penning the script?
I have seen it called a crime comedy but I don’t think that there are too many action elements in it I would say that it is more thriller elements.
I think that pacing of it and the twists and turns are why people often regard it as an action kind of film.
Balancing all of these elements is very tricky and it is very hard to do but there needed to be a balance otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. Because of all the violence in the film there needed to be a place for the comedy and a place for the crime and violence.
That balance is found while we were editing the film and it was basically a matter of throwing away jokes and comedy instead of putting in more.
So this could be a movie that has no gags and no comedy but it could also be a film that is only comedy. So it was important and I worked really hard to find that balance.
- While there was a script I was reading that quite a lot of the dialogue was ad lib so how much do you enjoy working with that spontaneity? And how did the cast react to that?
Since I have done so much comedy I think that the ad-lib and improv is such an important tool. There is only so much you can do with comedy when you are sitting alone writing the script as so much comes from the actors and there is so much comedy that comes in the moment; things that you would never imagine when you are sitting alone writing.
I knew who I wanted in the main roles for the movie and I took them in very early, before I had even done with the script, into sessions where we were just playing around with characters and dialogue and the dynamics between the characters.
I filmed all of that and then watched it back afterwards and I used whatever I felt was good and fitted into the story and I put that in the final draft of the script.
There was some improv on set of course but we knew where everything was beginning and where it was ending so I wasn’t that wild and crazy but I was a bit more controlled. You have to allow for some improv when you are doing comedy.
- Kyree Hellum, Henrik Mestad and Mads Ousdal are just some of the names on the cast list so can you tell me about the casting process?
I pretty much knew who I wanted. I had worked with Henrik before so I knew that he was able to do that quirky kind of comedy and I knew he was good at it.
He is a very serious actor normally (laughs) and he doesn’t do very much comedy but I have only used him in comedic roles.
Many of the guys are not known in Norway for doing comedy but I knew that I could get some comedy out of them.
They are very serious actors who are very good at forging characters and they can do comedy in a very low key way - I would rather have serious actors who can do comedy than comedians who have to down play the comedy. So it was a very deliberate choice.
- How have you found the early response to the movie here in the UK and the rest of Europe?
The film came out in Norway last December and it was very well received by critics and everything. We had the world premiere in Tribeca in New York and I was kind of nervous to see if people got the comedy or if they didn’t understand anything at all.
I think generally it has been even better received overseas than it was back home. But the film tends to shock people more I think, in Norway it is not regarded as a violent film at all.
I think comedy wise the comedy is so universal that it does kind of work everywhere, especially Britain that is so fond of dark comedy.
I was more afraid about the States than the UK. But also I think that it is very clearly a drama film with something else mixed in and so I felt kind of comfortable that it would work. None the less it is very pleasing that people who are seeing the film are enjoying the film.
- And Scandinavian cinema has well and truly been on the up over the last couple of years so what has it been like to be part of all that?
Very exciting. I think that we were just very lucky with the timing and it never crossed our minds when we were shooting the film that there was something like… we didn’t realise that there was a big focus on Scandinavian cinema at that point.
With Stieg Larsson and those kinds of films we knew that there was some kind of focus but we didn’t realise that we fitted in that category at all (laughs). It was sheer luck for us and it was very lucky timing.
There is a big focus on Scandinavian film but I am pleased that it is not only Scandinavian crime films that are doing well.
I am happy the focus is on other films as well but there probably wouldn’t have been the focus if it wasn’t for the crime the film and the crime books.
- You have worked in commercials, TV and now film so how does working between television and film compare?
I have always had one foot in TV and commercials and then I made my first feature film in 2003 so I have always tried to do a bit of everything.
It is very hard to get finance feature films in Norway and I have always regarded working in television and working in comedy television as a prolonged film school in a way. I have just used all of the work in television to be more confident in directing and making comedy.
Commercials are a way to experiment and do things differently more than anything. There is not much money in television and definitely not much money in features so a director in Norway makes their money in commercials.
- Finally what's coming up for you?
I am working on a television series coming out which I did just after Jackpot and that will be release din Norway in September.
Other than that I am writing and developing a couple of other comedy scripts and I am trying to take that to the next level.
Also I am going to see what I can do in the States as the film did do quite well there and so hopefully I will do something there quite soon.
Jackpot is released 10th August.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw