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