Danish Director Thomas Daneskov talks about making the midlife-crisis dark comedy ‘Wild Men’ filmed in the Norwegian mountains

This May sees the release of Thomas Daneskov’s film Wild Men – one of our highlights of the year already! We got to speak to the director about how this violent comedy came to be and how the theme of men being terrible at dealing with bad or difficult situations in life was the starting point for the story:

Thomas Daneskov: I have always been fascinated about why men are so bad at coping when things get bad. Like, why do we suck at that?

So, that has been a theme in my films for some time and I did a lot of research with the producer on another project where the characters had the same names as Wild Men but instead of him heading out to the mountains he went to a summer camp, and he had drunk a lot, listened to a lot of records, and didn’t wear his pants.

We spent a year or so working on this idea, and I was screwing around with the computer algorithm by googling midlife crisis – to the extent that my computer decided I was having a midlife crisis! I got this commercial come up asking me to spend a summer vacation as a Viking, and I showed my girlfriend this commercial saying how we should do it – get to use bow and arrows, sleep under furs – but she was like absolutely not. I am leaving you.

I shared the commercial at work and then we decided to redo the script and we just couldn’t stop laughing at the new concept. The opening scene in the film came to us within 5 minutes.

Photo By Petra Kleis / http://www.petrakleis.com

And it is a truly great opening to the film, as we see our main protagonist Martin (played by the brilliant Rasmus Berg) up in the mountains dressed in Viking gear out hunting for food, but failing, which leads to him having to head to a local gas station where chaos ensues.

Thomas Daneskov: It was a long writing process, it was a lot of fun but took a long time to balance the comedy with the serious stuff, but I think we did okay.

They certainly did do okay. Don’t be fooled by its tag as a comedy, for sure there are plenty of laughs in this, but there are also some heart-warming moments mixed in with some incredible eruptions of violence which catch you completely off guard.

It is a great concoction of themes which Thomas relates to being inspired by the movies he has watched in the past:

TD: I never went to film school, I just watched films, so I am inspired from that and this – Fargo being one example. It was never like we had this picture of someone from Fargo or from somewhere else – it was just in my bones. You watch enough Quentin Tarantino, for example, you might laugh when people get hurt so it kind of became a part of what I liked to watch and what I like to do.

This film is a mix of all the things that make you laugh, what makes you happy, and what makes you want to go to the cinema – the screenplay was so difficult to write because every time we finished a scene we would say; ‘okay so now what do we want to see?’

So then we would come up with something else…a couple arguing in the car, for example. Why? We don’t know but we did it and then we could connect it with the story.

The film is incredibly organic from this approach where Thomas describes where they didn’t have the post-it notes stuck everywhere, but they tried to figure out what worked and what would make them sit there and enjoy their popcorn watching the movie. It is an approach that certainly worked well – we were hooked!

The film has some wonderful cameos including the likes of Rune Temte, Sofie Grabol, and Kathrine Thorborg Johansen too. There are stars involved such as the brilliant Bjorn Sundquist, who we last saw wrestling naked in Norwegian TV Series Monster. That wasn’t the only thing he did but that image hasn’t left us.

TD: He was wrestling naked? I could imagine that has probably left a mark! He is such an amazing actor, he is in his 70s and so playful with so much energy.

Bjorn plays the policeman trying to string together a sequence of events that involves Martin, the man dressed as a Viking who has run away from home to escape his mid-life crisis, and a mysterious car accident.

TD: We had a lot of fun with him and I just find it incredible how he still feels hungry for making films – he has made something like 100 films!

Bjorn Sundquit (left) and Rasmus Berg (right)

Then of course there is Rasmus Berg playing Martin in the movie and it feels like the role was made for him.

TD: I wanted to work with him since forever really – he is such a funny guy in Denmark but he has also done some really serious stuff too. I have been enjoying his comedy since I was teenager watching him on television.

It was surprisingly easy when we showed him the screenplay – he just said “Yep, lets do it” – he has four kids and said how it would be nice to escape to mountains sometimes.

So there was a story there which he could relate to a bit, and so we just met up and had a coffee, talked about the role, and that was that. It was the same with Zaki Youssef – their chemistry was just perfect.

Zaki Youssef plays Musa, a character who Martin connects with and they begin their journey across the stunning Norwegian fjords. Speaking of which, we wonder how easy it is to film in such beauty?

TD: It was actually a terrible place to shoot a film, do not do it! We were writing it in the spring time with a nice bit of hygge here in Denmark. Everything is flat here too, but in Norway we had blizzards and the team asking ‘Who is going to shoot in this?’ ‘You are!’

We really hated ourselves when we got there. I like to do long takes and improvisation – but those moments were a bit difficult when you are doing it in a blizzard and I am having to ask them to do it one more time because they had no idea what they said due to them being so cold!

That was part of the filming process Thomas was most sad about, he wanted to play more with these amazing actors he had but it soon became apparent how they just needed to get particular shots done just to survive.

TD: You can’t really tell how cold it is – everything looks lovely and green but it is minus twenty! There is one particularly scene with Martin and Musa that we shot which looked warm, but it was actually freezing!

The effects used in that particular scene, where Martin uses his sewing skills on a wound Musa has picked up, are pretty impressive (on top of the fact that it was also improvised in the freezing elements). There are some other moments where the gore is pretty impressive, especially when Marco IIso, who plays a part of Musa’s crew, gets a broken jaw and you genuinely believe it is was broken as it felt so real.

TD: Thomas Foldberg, he is just amazing, he has done a lot of Lars Von Trier stuff and he is just a beast. He was going round to Marco’s house all the time to collect clippings of his beard so he could design the prosthetic – he is so thorough.

It seems that Thomas has truly managed to surround himself with some incredibly talented people behind the camera as much as those in front. The fantastic score is by Ola Fløttum who has worked on a number of Joachim Trier’s films including The Worst Person in the World.

With the film’s release next week we ask Thomas what he would most like to see the audience get out of the movie:

TD: I think it circles back to what we discussed at the beginning – it is about how men are so bad at dealing with the bad and there is a reason why there is a funny story at the heart of the film.

It is because it is super banal, but it works if you open your mouth and talk about your problems. Maybe someone who sees it knows a guy who lives in a cabin with the same problems.

Over in the UK we don’t have as many cabins but I liken it those guys who just sit in the car parks of gyms or supermarkets finding any reason to not go home. Martin at least picked up an exciting excuse to try and fix his life in the mountains, he just didn’t tell anyone.

Wild Men is in cinemas 6 May from Blue Finch Film Releasing: www.wildmen.co.uk/

Interview by Alex Minnis

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