Big Game director Jalmari Helander and producer Petri Jokiranta are perhaps best known for their dark yet comic take on the Santa Claus myth in the 2010 surprise hit, Rare Exports.
Their latest joint project, Big Game, also combines the improbable with the comical with a plot that sees the US presidential jet Air Force One go down in Finland. Naturally – or improbably – a plucky Finnish lad helps the leader of the free world escape a band of terrorists.
Shot on set and on location in Bavaria and Munich in Germany, the film's lead role of the US president is taken on by Samuel L. Jackson, no stranger to the action genre. The gutsy Finnish youth is played by Onni Tommila, who charmed audiences worldwide as the wide-eyed and round-mouthed Pietari in Rare Exports. Helander said he believes that audience will also be taken in by the premise of Big Game.
A simple, tantalising premise
“The basic idea is that one phrase can get anyone interested in the project. That is, 'Hey, we want to know what would happen if Air Force One would crash in Finland and a little boy would help the president'. That’s the first and most important thing,” Helander said.
The filmmakers were offered many soundtrack deals, but decided to work with a recording company owned by the storied French director Luc Besson. The director of the late '90s sci-fi classic The Fifth Element and most recently Lucy had been following Helander’s short films with interest for the past 10 years.
“This has been a long-term project. Since we did Rare Exports, Jalmari and I have been working towards the point where we are now. We have a film that has the possibility for wide distribution across North America. These projects are also risky for the distributors. So it’s important that the director is also interesting and Jalmari has had a history leading up to Rare Exports. If we think about it, there are similarities between Jalmari and Luc Besson,” Jokiranta expanded.
Finnish premiere still ahead
Although the film’s global premiere exceeded expectations, there are still major challenges ahead, Helander noted.
“I am absolutely looking forward to the Finnish premier most. There are many subtleties in the film that people in the rest of the world don’t get. It was grand though to see the movie while sitting with a large audience and to notice that others also liked the things I thought were important and that I hoped they’d appreciate,” Helander added.
Big Game is Finland’s most expensive film to date, with a price tag of 8.5 million euros. The majority of that budget was spent on production development, including hiring A-list actors, shooting in the Alps and other visuals. A lot of money was also spent on freezers, Helander pointed out, referring to a scene in which Jackson and young Tommila hurtle down a mountainside in a freezer.
“We bought stainless steel freezers, and actually we got 20 of them for various purposes,” Helander recalls with a laugh.