Snowman: Starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson

MICHAEL FASSBENDER leads an all-star cast that includes REBECCA FERGUSON (Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation), CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG. CHLOË SEVIGNY, VAL KILMER and Oscar winner J.K. SIMMONS (Whiplash) in The Snowman, a thriller from director TOMAS ALFREDSON (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), based on JO NESBØ’s global bestseller.

The frigid landscape as his hunting ground, a sociopath who calls himself “The Snowman Killer” has targeted the one person for whom he wants to show off his methodical, unthinkable skills: the lead investigator of an elite crime squad.  With cunningly simplistic baits such as “Mr. Policeman, I gave you all the clues…” he begs to have a worthy opponent to play his sick game.

For Detective Harry Hole (Fassbender), the murder of a young woman on the first snow of the winter feels like anything but a routine homicide case in his district.  From the start of the investigation, The Snowman has personally targeted him with taunts—ones that continue to accompany each new vicious murder.

Fearing an elusive serial killer long-thought dead may be active again, the detective enlists brilliant recruit Katrine Bratt (Ferguson), to help him connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new ones.  Succeed, and they will lure out the psychopath that’s been watching them from the shadows for who knows how long.  Fail, and an unthinkable evil will strike once again during the very next snowfall.

The Snowman is produced by Working Title’s TIM BEVAN and ERIC FELLNER (The Theory of Everything, Les Misérables), as well as PIODOR GUSTAFSSON (The Wife, Border) and ROBYN SLOVO (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Two Faces of January).

Alfredson is supported by a brilliant behind-the-scenes team of craftspeople, led by Academy Award®-winning director of photography DION BEEBE (Memoirs of a Geisha, Movie); production designer MARIA DJURKOVIC (The Imitation Game, Mamma Mia!); three-time Academy Award®-winning editor THELMA SCHOONMAKER (The Departed, The Aviator, Raging Bull) and Oscar®-winning editor CLAIRE SIMPSON (Platoon, The Constant Gardener); and composer MARCO BELTRAMI (The Hurt Locker, 3:10 to Yuma).  The film’s screenplay is by PETER STRAUGHAN (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Debt) and HOSSEIN AMINI (The Wings of the Dove, Drive) and SØREN SVEISTRUP (Forbrydelsen, TV’s The Killing).

A Working Title production—in association with Another Park Film—the thriller is executive produced by Academy Award® winner MARTIN SCORSESE (The Departed, Gangs of New York, Raging Bull), Alfredson, AMELIA GRANGER (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Debt), LIZA CHASIN (Love Actually, Baby Driver) and EMMA TILLINGER KOSKOFF (The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street).

The Snowman was shot entirely on location in Norway in the cities of Oslo and Bergen and the area of Rjukan.




The First Snow:

The Snowman Begins


“The Snowman,” the seventh book in Jo Nesbø’s best-selling Harry Hole series, has enthralled global audiences since it was first published in 2007.  The novel took the beleaguered detective and his creator to an entirely new level and readership, and it topped The New York Times Best-Seller list in U.S.—as well as marked Nesbø’s first No.1 in the U.K. charts and firmly establishing his place as one of the elite international crime writers.  Of course, Norwegians had known this for some time…it just took the rest of the world a few years to catch up.

“In some countries it was a breakthrough novel for me,” explains Nesbø, who has sold a staggering 34 million-plus books worldwide.  “With my third novel, ‘The Redbreast,’ I got a following of a high-brow crime audience, but then with ‘The Snowman,’ I had mainstream success.”

For the majority of U.K. and U.S. readers, this was their first introduction to the cop, and they believed Nesbø to be an overnight success.  “The truth is that I had been in those countries and published for around 10 years,” he laughs.  “It was a bit like when Tom Waits had success with ‘Swordfish Trombone,’ a journalist asked him, ‘What did you do to finally find success?’  He said, ‘I didn’t do anything differently.  I’ve been here for 15 years.  It’s not me coming to you, it’s you coming to me.’”

Indeed, the world of Det. Hole is wholly iconic in Scandinavia, and his creator cultural royalty.  Today, fans from across the globe visit Norway to re-create the fictional path Hole has trodden on the icy streets of Oslo, paying homage to his favorite haunts—such as the iconic Schroder’s Café—as they try to get inside the mind of this most elusive of investigators.

Hole is to Oslo what Sherlock Holmes is to London, and likewise has spawned a mini industry; one can even book a Harry Hole tour.  “Harry’s become an institution in this world,” observes producer Robyn Slovo.  “He is undeniably an iconic character who is a laconic, difficult and introverted non-team player, but an intrepid and gifted policeman.  Still, he is reluctant to be pulled into this particular investigation instigated by somebody else,”

With “The Snowman’s” book-to-screen adaptation comes the exciting proposition that Europe could have its own cinematic detective series.  In fact, not since Holmes has the continent owned this genre.  In comparison to the States, detectives hunting serial killers is not a well-trodden narrative for European cinema; TV perhaps, but not the big screen.

What is it about the investigator that enthrals readers all across the world?  Like so many of his literary associates, he is a wholly flawed man who struggles with a personal life littered with ragged cracks and dark crevices.  An alcoholic who is unreliable and disorganized, he has an innate inability to commit.  Still, for all his personal failings, he is the consummate detective: scrupulous, determined and creative—a man who will stop at nothing until justice has been served.  He is the genuine antihero, an impossible character, but impossible not to like.

“This is a man of many contradictions,” reveals Nesbø.  “He believes in the legal system, he believes in the Scandinavian democratic model; yet, he’s an outsider who doesn’t feel at home in Scandinavian society.  He cares for those who are close to him, but he doesn’t want anyone to be close to him.  He’s struggling between being a man who loves women—and one woman in particular—but who is trying to find a way to live his life alone.  He doesn’t want to be a member of the herd, and yet he has this deep social reflex that many of us have; we feel this urge to contribute to this herd.”

Harry Hole is brilliant-yet-flawed, rebellious-yet-loyal and anti-establishment, yet highly regarded by his fictional associates and real-world fans.  In turn, this created significant obstacles for anyone embarking on a big-screen adaptation.

“The challenge in adapting Harry to screen, aside from preserving those characteristics that make him so unique, was to avoid falling into a clichéd representation of a flawed policeman solving a crime,” explains Slovo.  “We’ve tried to make Harry unpredictable, original in his thinking, not terribly socialized, not exactly charismatic.  He’s definitely what might be described as difficult, and that is what’s been challenging in bringing him to life.  He’s not 100-percent action hero.  He’s a thinking man’s detective who is put in very dangerous and difficult situations.”

A story about a serial killer is not what would be considered usual fare for four producers whose accomplished work runs the gamut from Catch a Fire and Les Misérables to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Love Actually, but their allure to the material lay very much in the proposition of director Tomas Alfredson.

Alfredson discusses that his approach to filmmaking is to guide the audience through his work, but never decide what each individual should experience.  He explains: “My films are each a piece of entertainment, but they cannot just be that.  I need them to be something else, too—to tell something about people or society, or a part of the world you haven’t seen before.  My goal is for people to react physically—to get scared, laugh or to sweat.  The more different the reactions, the better.  It’s lovely to meet with people from an audience and hear very different things. That’s when you’ve succeeded.”

This commitment to his craft leads the filmmaker to be quite selective in the stories he chooses to tell.  Alfredson admits he found Nesbø’s protagonist to be riveting.  “When I read a story, I try to find an animal for each character.  Is he or she a rabbit, wolf, dog or a cat?  Not visually, but the soul of a certain animal.  To me, Harry is an owl; he is someone people don’t see, but who sees everyone else.  He’s very smart and silent; he knows when to speak and when to interact. But he also feels alienated with the rest of the world.  His private life has fallen into pieces, and the only thing that works is his intuitive talent as an investigator.”

Slovo commends: “Tomas offers a particular interpretation on things, which means we could take a best-selling genre thriller and turn it into something unexpected.  Because it’s set in Scandinavia and Tomas is Scandinavian, the excitement was involved in his original take, not going the Scandi-Noir route.  We’d rather a route with a director who has proven himself to be good at noir, tension and at surprise.  He has also proven to himself to be particularly good at horror.  All those elements made it feel like a good fit.”

The Snowman does have that other element that previous books don’t have, and that is the horror element,” adds Nesbø.  “The title ‘The Snowman’ conveys a certain image, as does the idea of an innocent thing that is taken out of context and put in a new context; the more cozy and familiar it is, the scarier it becomes.”

Discussing handing over the reins of a cherished property to another creative team, the author reflects: “They chose a director who is a storyteller in his own right and who isn’t there just to give a version of the book, but who wanted to use the book as input for his story.  As a storyteller myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Tomas’ understanding and my trusting him made it easy for me to say ‘Take these pages that are written and use them as a helpful input for a story that you want to tell.”

Alongside Slovo and Working Title’s Bevan and Fellner, The Snowman team was joined by producer Piodor Gustafsson, who has worked with Alfredson for the past six years.  What Gustafsson so appreciated about the character of Harry was his deep sensitivity.  The producer explains: “Being very vulnerable makes Harry much more interesting than a hard-boiled detective.  As empathetic people, we see ourselves in him.  After solving a case, he’s been so infected by it that he can’t protect himself from the evil he’s had to approach.  He’s such a reluctant detective and doesn’t want to continue the work.  But he’s the best, and until someone who’s better than him comes along, he must continue.”


Casting the Antihero:

Fassbender Comes Aboard


Selecting the protagonist for The Snowman was always going to be complex process.  When news first got out that Det. Harry Hole would be adapted for screen, the rumor machine went into overdrive—with speculation rife as to who was going to manifest this literary sensation.  Everyone, it seemed, had a strong opinion.  “There were many people we had to take into consideration,” explains Slovo.  “Absolutely you have to please readers and the prospective cinema audience.”

It would be disingenuous to say the investigator was written for Fassbender from the outset, but consider Nesbø’s description of Harry in which he describes a tall, athletic, lean man, “blonde hair, machine-cropped”, and you’re not a million miles away from the German-born performer.

“When I heard that Michael was going to be Harry, I thought it was a brilliant choice,” says Nesbø.  “Shame was one of the great movies of that year and Michael was the best actor I saw that year, so I was thrilled.  The perfect Harry doesn’t exist, but an actor with Michael’s ability is as close to the perfect Harry as I can imagine.”

“We had great material to work with—the source material from Jo and a finely worked script.  That, combined with a great director, was helpful in attracting great actors,” gives Slovo.  “When Michael’s name first came up as a potential, there were no arguments or debates as to whether he could play Harry.  He seemed like a perfect fit…provided of course he wanted to do it.”

Alfredson notes that he appreciated the lack of vanity in Fassbender’s approach.  “He’s very aware of the camera,” reflects the director.  “Not just from his point of view, but what the camera does and how you block the scene.  Michael is an open-minded and proper film actor who is naked with what he does.  He trusts his intuition but is open to direction; he’s perfect in this role.”

For Fassbender, there was never any question about wanting to portray Harry.  He had long hoped to shoot with Alfredson, but the opportunity had not arisen.  The challenge was timing.  Since 2009, he has been filming back to back, and The Snowman had to be squeezed into two other major productions—Assassin’s Creed and Alien: Covenant—with no room for scheduling error.

Fassbender was determined to make it work for the opportunity to work.  “The first thing that enticed me about the project was Tomas,” says the performer.  “Then I read the script and thought it was interesting.  I liked the character and this genre.”

The role presented Fassbender with his first detective.  “At the time of the script arriving at my door I didn’t know anything about him,” admits Fassbender.  “It was a totally new world for me.  Then I started to expose myself to the books and the world that Harry occupies, and I’ve become very fond of the character.”

That said, ahead of playing Harry, Fassbender was wary of reading the books.  “The script is independent of the book, and I didn’t want to get attached to things that were in the book but not in the script.  I did, however, read the beginning, to get an idea of where this character started, what Jo’s version of him was.  I just wanted to see where those raw characteristic traits were—the description of him and his physicality.

“It’s difficult to improve on someone’s experience of reading the book when you are making the film,” Fassbender continues.  “As a reader you are filling in a lot of the blanks.  The descriptions of the murders can be a lot more horrific and haunting because our imaginations are much more vivid, scary and twisted than what you see in cinema.”

Both leading man and director were also keen to stay away from the clichés that one could fall into with on-screen cops.  “There are a lot of pitfalls with detectives we’ve seen on screen in the past,” says the actor.  “We’ve stayed away from that and come up with something iconic, but original.”

Fassbender appreciated Harry’s quirkiness, which comes down to the character’s social ineptitude.  “He’s cool but doesn’t try to be cool; he’s very much his own individual.  Harry does what he does because he has his own compass; it doesn’t bother him what other people make of him.  While sensitive he’s not necessarily interested in being socially accepted, even in his workplace.  He’s a bit of a loner and forces people to put in more hours than they might like to.”

His commitment to the job aside, there are many complex layers to Harry’s personality that makes for interesting interpretations, not least of which is his alcoholism.  “He has an addictive personality, and where that comes from is hard to say,” says Fassbender.  “Was he born with it, or did come from his occupation?  There’s the argument that people resent the thing they’re most good at.  He is a sensitive character who drinks to close himself off to the sensitivity of the things he’s seen.  There’s a lot there that’s interesting and complex to play with.”

We know from previous novels that, when drunk driving, Harry was responsible for the death of another police office in a car accident.  “The department did a cover-up job and pretended that the other officer was behind the wheel, and that Harry was just a passenger.  He’s carrying that shame around with him,” Fassbender reflects.  “He didn’t get the opportunity to fess up.  That’s foreshadow to his character; he’s carrying something like that around, which feeds into that drinking and self-destruction.”