Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola (b. 1979) clearly showed his talent in 2007 with his first film, co-written with Stig Frode Henriksen, Kill Buljo, a spoof of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003), earning ten times its $106,000 cost. In 2009, Wirkola and his co-writer made the horror comedy Dead Snow. It seems to have been a habit for the Norwegian filmmaker transferring black comic genre movies to mainstream Hollywood movies. In 2011, he moved from Alta in Norway to Los Angeles.
Tommy Wirkola was educated from Bond University in Australia. His first film Kill Buljo was a low-budget parody of the Kill Bill films shot in his home county of Finnmark in Norway. It was populated with characters such as Unni Formen (a policewoman) and Mr. Handjagi (an Asian martial artist). “The fact that we succeeded with Kill Buljo was simply because there was a market there,” says Wirkola.
With Stig Frode Henriksen (Wirkola’s regular co-screenwriter and co-star), Wirkola’s second feature was the cult hit Dead Snow (2009), about an attack by Nazi zombies in Norway, receiving its U.S. premiere at the Sundance film festival and released by IFC Films.
The film was not primarily distinguished by its originality. “Someone has finally constructed a horror film completely out of clichés,” wrote the American reviewer Roger Elbert when it was staged as the only Norwegian film that year. Elbert added mitigatingly: “They even know they’re doing it”.
In 2010, the filmmakers collaborated on the film Kurt Josef Wagle and the Legend of the Fjord Witch and In 2012, he directed and produced a television series, seven 30-minute episodes, called Hellfjord.
His first English-language film, co-written by Dante Harper, was also his first large-budget film, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, released in 2013. This was a twisted retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, and Peter Stormare, earning over $226 million worldwide.
Wirkola and Henriksen cashed in on the success of Dead Snow with the sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014), receiving its world premiere at the Sundance film festival and going on to gross a modest $1.2 million worldwide.
A sequel to Dead Snow, named Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, was released in 2014. A science fiction film starring Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe, and The Trip, also starring Rapace, were released in 2017 and 2021 respectively. His most recent film, Violent Night, was released in December 2022. It is a twisted take on Santa Claus coming to town written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, starring David Harbour, with John Leguizamo, Cam Gigandet, and Beverly D’Angelo.
In 2022, Wirkola also served as producer on the Alex Herron-directed Norwegian horror movie, Leave, starring Ellen Dorrit Petersen.
In January 2023, Tommy Wirkola confirmed in an interview with The Wrap, that he has started developing the sequel to the David Harbour-led holiday action comedy. He also revealed that Violent Night 2 will once again be written by original scribes Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who previously worked together in the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movies.
In the film, “a team of elite mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage. But the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (Harbour) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint.”
“I would argue that no matter how unique and original a story you make, it is impossible – just because of the number of films that are made – to come up with anything one hundred percent innovative. I don’t know when it last happened. It might have been the Danish dogma films,” Wirkola stated in an interview before moving to Hollywood.
Norwegian Filmmaker Transferring Black Comic Genre Movies to Mainstream Hollywood Movies, written by Tor Kjolberg.