Interview with Magnus Martens – the Norwegian film director of Jo Nesbø’s Jackpot
Good afternoon, Magnus. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, we want to congratulate you on Jackpot – we loved it!
Ah! Thank you!
So, how did you come across Jo Nesbø’s story?
Umm, well basically the film isn’t based on anything that he [Jo Nesbø] has released before; he hasn’t released it as a book. But everybody, all the producers in Norway, were trying to get the film rights to this book – my producer included – and they were nagging Jo over and over again. Eventually Jo gave me this story, which, at that point, was called Twelve. He said: “if you want to make this film, please go ahead!”
Were you able to make the film your own, or did you work closely with Jo in developing the characters?
There was so much there already. I mean, the concept of the story is so clear, and basically I was just left to do whatever I wanted to do. But at the same time, Jo was very, very helpful, and he helped me a lot.
Your chosen actors are unknown to the British audience; how did you source them?
They are unknown, but I pretty much knew who I wanted to have in the film, to cast in the film, before I even had the final version of the script. Most of those guys had never done comedy before but I knew that they were able to do sort of dead-pan/low key/poetic kind of comedy – so it was very deliberate that I didn’t pick sort of comedians to play the comedy. I want serious actors to do comedy. Comedy is so much about timings, and those guys have very different timings.
So, in terms of influences, there seems to be parallels to work by directors such as the Coen brothers, Guy Ritchie or Tarantino. Did they influence you at all, or were there any other directors who influenced you for Jackpot?
The Coens have been such a big influence in everything that I do, but I think on my part I have used my take on what I regard as funny, what I regard as well-done comical characters, so obviously it reflects my taste. But I think from Guy Ritchie and Tarantino there are, not necessarily deliberate, but just because they also offer great comedy-crime characters. Obviously I have watched their films, so yeah.
Were you worried about the film being lost in translation, and whether the jokes would be understood by an English-speaking audience?
Ideally no; but yes. It is just impossible to subtitle everything, but at the same time I pretty much knew that the humour and the comedy was very universal, and when it comes to the UK audience, I think our humour is very similar.
Were there any mishaps during the filming?
[Laughing] Because of a tight schedule – this is really boring – but because of a tight schedule, we needed to be so focused. We didn’t have time to muck around or anything. But one thing that happened, the house that Oscar lived in – the apartment – it was really a house, and, errr, it fell down! It was just after we finished filming, but it actually fell down!
What was it like filming the shootouts in a sex shop, surrounded by porn paraphernalia? Could the actors and film crew keep a straight face?
After one day, they all had a straight face! It took a day, more or less a whole day, before everybody was ready to focus on the film. I think it was fascination!
Did the sex shop already exist, or was it created for Jackpot?
Umm, that was an abandoned petrol station. So, we got a big truckload of stuff from a sex shop that had gone bankrupt – because, you know, everyone is watching porn on the Internet, so they aren’t going to buy the porn DVD’s I guess, so we got them really cheap.
Finally, would you work on a story by Jo Nesbø again, or would you like to try something a bit different next?
I would like to work with Jo again. Another direction, umm, not necessarily – but what would be interesting would be to take that combination that we have in Jackpot to the next level, so to speak. That combination of crime, comedy, even gore and violence, and see of we can do it better. I think that would be really interesting, because things can always get better!
Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Magnus!
Jackpot is released in UK cinemas on 10th August 2012