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Interview: Big Game Director Jalmari Helander and star Onni Tommila

big-gameThe Finnish film Big Game is based on an outrageous idea that started as a joke between filmmakers. The US president’s plane crashes in the Finnish woods enroute to a conference. He is alone and finds himself in the midst of a far reaching conspiracy with only a young boy to help. Samuel L. Jackson is the president; Victor Garber is his Vice President, Felicity Huffman the CIA Director and Jim Broadbent a mysterious figure in the Pentagon. We spoke via Helsinki with Big Game director, Finland’s Jalmari Helander and Onni Tommila who plays the heroic boy in this remarkable story.

What an amazing concept to suddenly have a boy charged with protecting the leader of the free world who is stranded in a remote Finnish forest. Jalmari, what sparked the story for you?
The producer and I were wondering what we would do next after Rare Exports and when we tossed around the idea. It was like a joke. And we said it should be really big like Air Force One crash landing into a huge forest in Finland in winter. Then we both stopped and said “That’s a really good idea!” After that we had the idea the president would be alone in the forest. It took a long time to figure out who he would meet there and what would happen. When we finally invented the rite of passage ritual this young boy doing we knew it was a really, really good idea and it was quite easy.

The tension is terrific. Money is the root of all evil, they say, money, sex and God and they all figure here.
Every story is really mystery to write it’s very hard, any kind of story. I’m a really slow writer but the most complex thing was trying to write that kind of thing that happens in the pentagon because I don’t know anything about the pentagon. It’s a hell of a lot easier to write stuff in the Finnish woods.
It would be the ultimate fantasy to have a president see your film.
Definitely that would be something.
Onni, you stood your ground acting opposite Samuel L. Jackson. Did you enjoy working with him?
In front of the camera was really fun. I was really nervous at first but when we got to acting it was good when I’m bossing Samuel L. Jackson in the forest.
How did he like being in the wild?
He did quite well in the forest. He was just chilling out there like he was in his own house.
You and Jalmari have worked together before. No wonder the result seems effortless.
Onni he’s my uncle. That helps!

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Do you know how to use a bow and arrow and have some survival skills?
I think so because I have been hiking with my dad in Lapland in northern Finland. I could survive by myself one day or two, that’s it though.
It looks like you worked under pretty tough conditions.

Shooting the film it was cold but when you have the trailers and all that you can just jump right in and warm up. And the costume ladies were really nice and they helped me a lot. It wasn’t too tough.
The mountains are stunningly beautiful. It’s nice to see other places. Why did you shoot in Germany and not Lapland and Finland?
The Lapps said my first choice should be Canada. I’ve been shooting commercials in Vancouver and those are my ideal shooting places, the big forests and mountains and stuff. But it’s so far away from me it’s really hard so it was easier being here. We shot in Bavaria because in Finland we don’t have any mountains, but we called in Finland because it was important story wise. big-game-3

I’m never crazy about CGI because it can look so odd, but it’s amazingly realistic in Big Game.
It would be nice to say I made it, it was really important to me to have what I thought was the best guys to do it, so I chose the producers ScanLine who did White Hawk, Iron Man 3 and had the experience of shooting down Air Force One.
What’s next?
I’m staying in Helsinki to renovate my yard!
Onni?
My family’s excited about the film. They said that they are proud of me.

Award-winning writer and reporter Anne Brodie has covered film and filmmakers on television, print and online for more than 30 years. 20 year member of... read more

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