The snow­man

The SnoW­Man | Michael Fass­ben­der and To­mas Al­fred­son team up for the Nordic noir adap that could be this year’s Dragon Tat­too…

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Michael Fass­ben­der feels the Nordic noir chill.

When I men­tioned this a cou­ple of years ago when I came on the project, English peo­ple par­tic­u­larly said, ‘Oh, that’s great. It’s so cute,’” laughs di­rec­tor To­mas Al­fred­son. “And I was won­der­ing what’s so cute about this? You could say many things, but ‘cute’ might not be the right word.” Make no mis­take, this isn’t The Snow­man you re­mem­ber from your child­hood. For­get the hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion and Aled Jones war­bling ‘Walk­ing In The Air’. This is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent beast. “Maybe we will have a very un­ex­pected young au­di­ence for this,” grins Al­fred­son.

Let’s hope not. This Snow­man is an adap­ta­tion of Nor­we­gian author Jo Nesbø’s 2007 novel, which is the sev­enth in an 11-book se­ries cen­tred on mav­er­ick de­tec­tive Harry Hole. Swede Al­fred­son – whose pre­vi­ous films in­clude Let The Right One In and

Tin­ker Tailor Sol­dier Spy – hadn’t read the book be­fore the screen­play dropped on his desk, but he later de­voured it. “It was a real page-turner,” con­firms the di­rec­tor. Michael Fass­ben­der stars as Hole (pro­nounced with two syl­la­bles, in the Nor­we­gian way). To fa­mil­iarise him­self with the char­ac­ter he read all the books lead­ing up to The Snow­man, but skipped that one so that he could work purely from the script. “I felt it would be in­ter­est­ing for me to read who Harry Hole was be­fore The Snow­man,” Fass­ben­der tells Teasers.

Hole is an of­fi­cer with the Oslo Crime Squad, and – in keeping with the tra­di­tion of great fic­tional ’tecs – his meth­ods are some­what un­ortho­dox. “He’s got a good track record of hunt­ing down se­rial killers in Nor­way and abroad,” con­tin­ues Fass­ben­der. “That’s down to his train­ing with the FBI.” Hole also suf­fers with alcoholism,

and is strug­gling to cling on to the wagon. Al­fred­son wanted Fass­ben­der in the lead for his abil­ity to “cre­ate strong per­son­al­i­ties with­out ex­ag­ger­at­ing… with­out wigs or a false nose”. It was handy for the film that Hole doesn’t have an iconic look on the page. “The Harry Hole char­ac­ter is not su­per-spe­cific, other than he looks Scan­di­na­vian,” ex­plains Al­fred­son. “But it’s not that he’s very specif­i­cally de­scribed like Her­cule Poirot or any other fa­mous de­tec­tives, which is a nice thing for a film­maker.” Fass­ben­der might be Ger­man-Ir­ish, but ac­cord­ing to Al­fred­son, “It feels as if he un­der­stands the Scan­di­na­vian bluesy soul.” This par­tic­u­lar story sees Hole team­ing with Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Fer­gu­son) to in­ves­ti­gate a new flurry of killings that might be linked to a long-buried cold case. The mur­derer’s call­ing card? A snow­man left at the scene of each crime.

The Scan­di­na­vian land­scape and cli­mate are paramount to this adap­ta­tion, with film­ing tak­ing place in Nor­way (even going on lo­ca­tion at an Oslo restau­rant Hole fre­quents in the book). An ear­lier it­er­a­tion of this movie ver­sion al­most trans­posed the story to Detroit, an idea Al­fred­son scoffs at. “To cre­ate a uni­verse such as this one, it’s very de­pen­dent on so many things of the cul­ture,” he says. “If you live in a coun­try that’s dark six months a year, and liv­ing in th­ese low tem­per­a­tures… I would say that I don’t think I could have done some­thing as spe­cific if it wasn’t set here, be­cause this is my back­yard.” Fass­ben­der was un­trou­bled by the Nor­we­gian chill (“The weather didn’t bother me at all”), but it does present cer­tain pro­duc­tion prob­lems. “It’s a tricky thing to be work­ing in th­ese tem­per­a­tures, but it’s also a tricky thing to cap­ture it,” ex­plains Al­fred­son. “It’s very tricky, and I’m not that fond of us­ing fake snow… I es­ti­mate we have 95 per cent real snow in the film.”

Given the the­atri­cal na­ture of the killer’s vi­o­lence, be warned: there will be blood. “With a very bloody story like this, you have to be aware of how early and how much you see graphic vi­o­lence,” says Al­fred­son. “Be­cause it works like a strip­tease. You can’t start by pulling off your pants. You have to do it quite me­thod­i­cally.” De­spite the grim scenes that await au­di­ences, Fass­ben­der assures us that there will be some levity. De­scrib­ing the char­ac­ter as “hu­man” and “vul­ner­a­ble”, he also says there’s a lot of com­edy to him. “A lot of time he goes into a fight, he comes off worse for wear,” he laughs. “He gets an in­jury – a pretty nasty one – sus­tained in each book.” Al­fred­son is hes­i­tant to de­scribe the film as funny, but does ad­mit, “I tried to be as hu­mor­ous as the sit­u­a­tion al­lows when you’re do­ing some­thing as bru­tal and bloody as this.”

The com­par­isons with the Dragon Tat­too films are nu­mer­ous (chilly Scandi set­ting, lit­er­ary source ma­te­rial, a decades-old crime ex­humed by an un­con­ven­tional de­tec­tive), but Al­fred­son isn’t so con­vinced on the sim­i­lar­i­ties. “I’m not an ex­pert, but

I think the Stieg Lars­son books are much more fan­tas­tic and un­re­al­is­tic,” he says. “Lis­beth Sa­lan­der is much more a comic char­ac­ter than Harry Hole.” An­other sim­i­lar­ity lies in the fran­chise po­ten­tial. With 11 books to draw from, and the prospect of more, The Snow­man could end up launch­ing a se­ries. Al­fred­son, how­ever, only has his eyes on the fin­ish line (“I do one thing at a time… let’s see when this is fi­nalised,” he laughs). But Fass­ben­der sounds ready to dive straight back in. “I loved play­ing this part,” he beams. “I would just en­joy ev­ery day be­ing Harry Hole. If there’s an ap­petite for it, ab­so­lutely I would be in­ter­ested.” MM

ETA | 13 OC­TO­BER / THE SNOW­MAN OPENS NEXT MONTH.

‘a lot of the time He goes into a fight, He Comes off worse For wear ’ Michael Fass­ben­der

ace in the hole michael Fass­ben­der as nor­we­gian cop Harry Hole, in the Jo nesbø adap.

støp tHe press J.K. sim­mons (right) plays cal­cu­lat­ing me­dia man arve støp, one of the chief sus­pects.

snow go Di­rec­tor to­mas al­fred­son with Fass­ben­der (top).

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