Talking EXODUS And GAME OF THRONES With Kristofer Hivju

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
While you may not immediately recognize Kristofer Hivju's name just yet the smart money says you will very, very soon. The Norwegian actor is the latest in the current wave of Nordic talent to make a splash abroad. He first crossed the desk here at Twitch thanks to his role in Patrik Syversen's Manhunt (Rovdyr) but it was a major role in the remake of The Thing that most will recognize him from. And up next? On the big screen he plays opposite Will Smith in M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth. And on the small screen? Oh, just a little show called Game Of Thrones, on which he'll be playing wildling chieftain Tormund Giantsbane.

But none of this is why we're actually talking to him.

Hivju is also part of the cast of in-the-works Danish scifi multimedia project Exodus, an expansive project with eyes cast toward television, film, video games and other platforms produced by Richard Georg Engström. Director Tommy Ipsen is creating the world of Exodus entirely in a digital environment, with the actors working entirely in front of green screen and the work of concept artist Thomas Pringle painted in to create environments. Joining Hivju in a proof of concept pilot reel is a prominent cast including Thomas Chaanhing, Cyron Melville (A Royal Affair, The Killing), Brigitte Nielsen (yes, the former Mrs Stallone), and Matias Varela (Snabba Cash / Easy Money). We had the chance recently to ask Hivju a few questions about the world of Exodus and - of course - a bit about his other endeavors.

Twitch has covered a lot of work that you've appeared in, going back as far as Rovdyr, at least. And looking at your filmography you've been on a really remarkable climb into bigger projects in the past few years. Can you tell us about your experiences moving from smaller Nordic productions into big Hollywood affairs like The Thing and After Earth? Have there been difficulties in the transition? Things you found surprising?

Acting is acting. And when you have a camera pointing at you it really doesn't matter if there are one hundred people around or ten.

It took some time to get used to the enormous machinery that a big Hollywood set often is, and It's easy to lose your concentration if you take everything in and start thinking about how many people are going to watch what you're making. But it's also a kick knowing that all these people, all this money and effort is now only focused on making that one shot as perfect as it can be - and I am in the middle of it!

But making films is the same, when the rec button is blinking I do not care if there is one man behind it or many. Acting is still the same.
 
You are also about to appear as a major character in one of the most popular television series in America, with an intensely loyal fan base, in Game Of Thrones. How does working in American TV compare to European TV? Is it imposing to walk into a character that has such a large, pre-existing fan base?
 
It's a funny thing when the fans know your character by heart and have a clear picture of who he is! I actually based a lot of my research on reading the impressions fans all over the world have of Tormund. It was very inspiring. But I also trust the casting, and found my own picture and love for the Tormund that R.R Martin has so beautifully written.

The Game Of Thrones production is huge, and the interior scenes are shot in the Titanic Studios where they actually built the Titanic. You really get the feeling that they're still building something huge in there!

In American productions they drive you around in nice cars and you sleep at nice hotels, but from the moment you step out of the car it is hard work and long days, and that's the same wherever you have an ambitious project.
 
HvisuExodus.jpgI think there's an interesting comparison to make between Game Of Thrones and Exodus in that they are both in the scifi / fantasy world and both employ a large amount of special effects. But there are obviously enormous differences as well. How would you compare the two?

What I love about both of these projects is that they have created new worlds, with different set of rules from ours. You can let your imagination go wild and it's fantastic to exist in a world without limits. And the audience has the pleasure of getting lost in a would that exists on its own terms.

Game Of Thrones is set in a pre-historic landscape, Exodus in the future. They both use fantastic elements as a part of telling their story, but when it all comes down to the core we are trying to say something about how it is to be a human being facing different challenges.

I am guessing from what I know of your previous work that you hadn't really done much special effects work prior to The Thing, what are the specific challenges to that? How do you keep your character grounded when you're working in front of a green screen?

I have done a lot of theater and in live theater you always have to pretend! You are standing in the middle of completely fake surroundings with a bunch of people watching you. So, for me, playing in front of a green screen or pretending to be running from an alien is the same thing. You have to believe in it as long as the camera is rolling. That's what matters. And most of the time you are acting according to your partner and when you have a set of eyes to look in to you really don't need anything more!

Here in North America people are making a big deal about what appears to us to be a sudden wave of Nordic films and talent hitting our shores. And the cast of Exodus has a number of people who have been a part of that, particularly you and Matias (who we know from Snabba Cash) and Cyron (who we know from The Killing). Is this something that you're aware of and talk about as performers? What is it like being on the other end of such sudden attention from overseas?

The Scandinavians are the new wine! Because we can now send an audition in over the web, the casting world has opened up for actors all over. And of course it is nice that Scandinavian film gets more attention, it helps show the Scandinavian talent out there. In Exodus I mostly play with the great actor Cyron Melville known from the Oscar nominated Danish film A Royal Affair and The Borgias. He plays the other lead, and of course we both enjoy the focus Scandinavian productions get from abroad because it gives us new opportunities.
 
Tommy Ipsen is trying to create a world a very large scale with Exodus, what is it about the world and the story that most appeals to you?

First of all, it's a strong and compelling story about two brothers.  It would be possible to tell this story in other kinds circumstances because it's about something universal. But when Tommy create this amazing world around it it just makes it edgier. And it gives the audience a lot more for the money! Its spectacular and fantastic, you get a strong drama set in an amazing world. You just have to let youself join the ride! Now we just have to get the funding in order and then it all starts!
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