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COLD PURSUIT

About The Production
BLOOD IN THE SNOW

Director Hans Petter Moland and Liam Neeson team up for a dramatic thriller that mixes icy revenge and dark humor "It's a whirlwind of vengeance, violence and dark humour." - Liam Neeson

"A whole can of worms." That's how Liam Neeson describes what his character discovers in Hans Petter Moland's blisteringly violent - and bitingly hilarious - COLD PURSUIT.

"My character goes out on a path of vengeance, but doesn't realise what he's getting himself into," says Neeson. "He thinks he's going after one guy who killed his son. Then it escalates into a whirlwind of vengeance and violence. And it all has this grain of dark humor running through it."

This twisted revenge story swirls around Neeson's Nels Coxman, a snowplow driver in the Colorado ski resort of Kehoe. Just named Citizen of the Year for his services in keeping the roads open to the remote town, Coxman's life swiftly spirals into amateur retribution and an escalating pile of corpses when his son (played by Micheal Richardson) is mistakenly killed by local gangsters over a stash of missing drugs. All Nels knows about killing people is what he's read in crime novels, but to find out what happened to his son, Coxman sets off with a sawn off hunting rifle - and unwittingly sets off a chain of events that will include a snowbound turf war, kidnapping, two rival crime lords, and violent run ins with an array of colorful hoodlums.

Comparisons to classic Coen brothers movies - Fargo, in particular - greeted Hans Petter Moland's original Norwegian film, In Order Of Disappearance, starring Stellan Skarsgard, when it opened to rave reviews and massive global box office in 2014. Other fans drew parallels to the depth and wit of dialogue of early Quentin Tarantino films. But while Moland is "obviously delighted" to have his work placed in those two ballparks, for him, he has his own unique style with his inspiration going back further to the films of another filmmaker known for walking the edge of darkness. "I grew up loving the films of Billy Wilder," says Moland of the beloved and Oscar winning director of Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole, Some Like it Hot, and The Apartment. "I loved their darkness and their gallows humor, that great balance between the two. So when I was offered the chance to remake In Order Of Disappearance, this time in English, I took it."

The idea to have Moland remake his own film came from producer Michael Shamberg, whose credits include Pulp Fiction, Out Of Sight and Get Shorty, among many others, and knows a fresh crime movie when he sees one. "The best part of my career has been working with singularly talented people," says Shamberg. "When I saw In Order Of Disappearance, it had everything. And COLD PURSUIT has the same punch. Audiences will be emotionally invested in the characters, satisfied with it as an action film, and also be surprised by how funny it is. It's a film where that balance has to be just right, and that's why Hans Petter had to be the one to do it. And in the center of it all is the wonderful Liam Neeson, who brings his classic 'man-of-action' persona to the film - and then delightfully goes in a new direction with it."

It's also a story about multiple other twistedly complex characters, including two other fathers that Nels slams into. The first is Trevor Calcote, AKA "Viking," a psychotic local drug lord played by Tom Bateman (costar of Murder on the Orient Express and Snatched). The second is White Bull, played by legendary Canadian actor and folk singer Tom Jackson, who brings a soulful gravitas to the role of a rival boss who runs a cabal of tough Native American gangsters - guys as deadpan as they are deadly - with a dignity and coolness. "These are all bad guys. There are no good guys in this movie. So you have to start there, and then decipher, 'Well, how bad is that guy?'" says Jackson of a conflict that ends with lots of blood spilled across white snow and which he says recalls films like The Wild Bunch.

For COLD PURSUIT, Moland brought along much of his key crew from the Norwegian original while enlisting a new screenwriter, Frank Baldwin, and a supporting cast including Laura Dern as Coxman's wife, Grace; Emmy Rossum as smart small-town cop Kim; and Julia Jones as Aya, the tough and calculating wife of the unhinged cartel chief Viking. "The female characters are the ones who are smart enough to distance themselves from the actions and stupidity of the men," laughs Moland. "The men are domineering, self-important, and oblivious. They're either deadly serious ... or dead."

Baldwin's screenplay has particular fun with its richly drawn, bickering bad guys. "The stakes are high," says the screenwriter, "but the men act massively self-important, and that's where the humor comes from." Moland notes that his original inspiration was a serious one. "The original idea came from me thinking, 'If my son died in this way, would I just sit back and accept that happened? Or would I do something about it? And would it just lead to an endless escalation of violence?'" says Moland. "It's kind of a heavy theme, well-suited for a dark comedy. There was a desire to not be restrained by genre, to allow different genres to happily live next to each other, to be genuinely horrifying and tragic, but also worth laughing at - just like life is."

The result is something genuinely unique, a movie with incredible action shot through with an undercurrent of knowing humor and played out by a brilliant supporting cast.

"That's why this remake had to have Hans Petter directing it," says Shamberg. "That tone is such a fine balance that I think only he could do it. This isn't your typical revenge movie. It's a movie about the futility of vengeance. It's a violent film that's anti-violence. Which is a bit of an oxymoron, but you get to have your cake, and eat it too!"

HIGH STANDARDS, LOW DEEDS - AND AN UNDYING LEGACY

In a story filled with complexity, the inclusion of Native American characters was essential- even as COLD PURSUIT puts absolutely everybody in the crosshairs

"I liked the idea that those who some view as 'strangers' are, in fact, on their own land." - Hans Petter Moland

Vengence knows no boundaries: In COLD PURSUIT, that notion extends from the quiet man, Nels Coxman, who thought he had escaped his family's blood legacy to the descendants of indigenous people butchered and betrayed.

Yet even among this tapestry, the character of White Bull - played with steely soulfulness by Tom Jackson, the esteemed Canadian actor, artist, and educator whose mother was Cree and who grew up on the One Arrow Reserve in Saskatchewan - stands apart. White Bull's protection of his family and his territory is in direct relation to his values and his history. He is a man who was offered a chance when he was younger to stand close to the same playing field as those who long looked down on tribal people. Now, at age 70, White Bull is a criminal force to be reckoned with - though in keeping with the business he runs, he has attained his stature by unethical, and illegal, means.

"Film history is full of Westerns where Native Americans are merely used for plot purposes, or used as adversaries based on preconceived notions - they've been seen either as savages, ruthless warriors, victims, or just something else that serves the white point of view," says director Hans Petter Moland. "In my original film, the Serbians - or 'Albanians,' as they are often mis-called in that film by other criminals - were the classic strangers in a strange land, who then discover hidden aspects of Norway as the film progresses. For COLD PURSUIT, I wanted to explore the idea that those who some view as 'strangers' are, in fact, on their own land."

Says screenwriter Frank Baldwin, "When we did the table read in Vancouver before principal shooting began, I spoke with Tom Jackson and a number of the other First Nation actors that Hans Petter had cast in the film, and they said it was so much fun to have actual dialogue in a movie. Because they were used to having one line and then their character would get shot."

Moland says a number of factors went into his desire to have one corner of the criminal triangle in COLD PURSUIT be a Native American syndicate.

"I had a great interest prior to this in American history in general and the plight of American indigenous people, and how they were pushed off of their own land and had to suffer as a nation," Moland says. "I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert in the issues and history of indigenous people. That would be wrong, and Frank did research prior to the writing stage. But what I did do was during rehearsals, I learned a lot from the actors. They carry with them a lot of their history, or knowledge about their own history, and that was invaluable because it informed me and the film about what possibly their characters might spring out of."

Unlike in the original Norwegian film, having this crime gang be Native Americans on land their ancestors lived on creates another kind of tension with Viking, who audiences see develop another level of awfulness and villainy as he denigrates White Bull's people's history on the land.

"Viking thinks this piece of Colorado around Denver and Kehoe is all his territory because his father, Bullet, was here before him," explains Baldwin. "It's another level of his myopia of course, since Viking has no understanding of anything larger than that. Yet Viking's ex-wife, Aya, is Native American too, so there's that complication. Plus, from a screenwriting standpoint, it also felt like this was the type of gang that hasn't been very often in movies, if at all. As compared to the original, in which Albanians, or Serbians, had been done a lot. They show up as villainous gangs in a lot of movies. And for this film, it was interesting and fun to show White Bull's team of gangsters having quirky conversations, and expand their personalities and show they had their own peccadilloes, just as Viking's men have, if not more so."

There is also, of course, more than a grain of truth in terms of the issues facing the Native American population that - while fictionalized and sensationalized for the purpose of a thriller - have echoes in

COLD PURSUIT.

But of course, another major factor in COLD PURSUIT is its irreverence, and the way it props all of its characters, no matter who they are, up for a bit of puncturing and humor. And though White Bull is always a man of dignity, there are moments when Viking or other characters show their ignorance by using stereotypes - or even when some of White Bull's own gang get the upper hand in a situation or two by exploiting the sensitivity around them.

Overall, there is a universal sort of eyebrow-raising at the ridiculousness and folly that is a human existence, whether it's lived as a criminal or as a "citizen of the year."

Says Moland, "This is a film that takes an irreverent jab at everyone. That's the satirical element of it."

Adds Baldwin, "Part of that is Viking - he is who he is, and he disparages everybody and uses derogratory labelling, which is very telling in regards to figuring him out. He gets his licks in no matter who he's dealing with, or who his adversary is at the moment."

The notion of Viking taking aim at a group that is so "other" is illuminating, the director says. "It's this idea that it's convenient to have an enemy - somebody Viking can degrade by putting a label on them and perhaps call by a derogatory name. That mechanism is certainly part of the less-favorable aspects of being human. Here, Viking feels entitled and superior to everyone, whether they're black or gay or Native American or whatever, and being able to belittle somebody by putting a derogatory name onto them is part of that mechanism for him."

What none of that does is take away the enjoyment White Bull and his gang have in their day-to-day life, the warmth they feel or the quirkiness with which they view their jobs.

"White Bull is the leader of a criminal gang and is ruthless and has the potential for violence, but there seems to be a lot more fun to White Bull's gang, which says something about his capacities for leadership. He's not threatened by people being individuals. His guys are not afraid of enjoying their lives - even when they're on a boring stakeout, their individuality shows. You know, they're smoking pot, poking fun at each other by throwing snowballs."

And, in a pair of memorable scenes that involve hang-gliding, there are subtle meanings - and a memorable send-off for one character in the film.

"To me, that hang-gliding scene is the Native American gang simply enjoying the greatness of the landscape they are in," says Moland. "White Bull is enjoying the playful grace of the young skiers, and for his men I think it's simply the joy of seeing one of their own soar like an eagle. There's something elementary about wanting to fly. Seeing it done so successfully by someone they know, who's clearly not a pro, but who just reaches for the experience out of childish desire, brings joy to their hearts....And yet even the one man that momentarily defied gravity eventually comes crashing down."

"Although tongue-in cheek, this film can also be viewed as a cautionary tale about revenge. Pursuing it catches up with you eventually, no matter how nice you are."

WELCOME TO KEHOE

The modern American West provides a chillingly perfect setting: a snowed-in ski resort town with a dwindling population "Because this location is so remote, the story seems to take place out of time, in a way." - Frank Baldwin

"Mother Nature never ceases to amaze, does it?" marvels Liam Neeson of the show-stopping location of COLD PURSUIT. "There were a few times when we were filming up in the mountains that I thought, 'The audience aren't even going to be looking at me on screen, they're going to be looking at these mountains behind me!'"

He exaggerates, of course, but it's easy to understand what Neeson means. The production spent the first four weeks of shooting up in the The Fortress mountains in Alberta, Canada, battling extremely hazardous conditions at 9,000 feet above sea level to deliver something truly spectacular on screen.

"There were some days," laughs Moland, "where you would ask yourself, 'What am I doing dragging everyone all the way up here?' But then you'd watch the dailies back and realize that it was 100 percent worth it."

Onscreen, the result is a startling juxtaposition. On the surface, Kehoe is a tranquil destination, designed for fun and sporty relaxation. But, under its smooth, white powdery surface runs a blood-red river of murder and mayhem.

On the set and at that altitude, shoot days would start off relatively calm, "then suddenly you'd get these blizzards and heavy snowfalls," says Neeson. "It was very dramatic and beautiful, and cold, which was necessary for our film."

For Moland, aside from the extreme weather fluctuations, the constant changing of the light made continuity a struggle, and for the rest of the cast, multiple layers of clothing were a daily necessity. But for Neeson, who used to drive forklifts and trucks for Guinness back in the day, the snowbound locale also brought with it some nice added bonuses.

"For this movie, I had to drive three different snowplows," Neeson says with a smile. "We had a wonderful guy who showed us how to drive them. They're extraordinary machines! When you're in them, you're just aware of this metallic power you have underneath you. These things can gobble up snow and shoot it 50 metres away! And I had the privilege of driving them for short periods of time. It gave me a newfound respect for these guys that clear these roads. Those locations may look pretty, but there's a real harshness at play here too."

"One of the strongest impressions I had from watching Hans Petter's original is that, because this location is so remote, this story seems to take place out of time, in a way," says Baldwin. "I wanted to preserve that sense that this place isn't really governed by all the normal rules because it's so far out. It makes it easier to go with what's happening in the sense that these people are getting away with this stuff because it's so remote and so snowy and there's so many long stretches with no people around. The remoteness is really important to this story, both in the feel it gives you and in the sense of, 'You've got to make your own rules out here.' And that's kind of a classic American theme of the West."

CITIZEN CRIMINAL

Liam Neeson is no stranger to reinvention. But even by his standards, COLD PURSUIT is a shift into wicked new territory

There aren't many actors whose resume includes everything from a turn in one of cinema's most important achievements (Schindler's List) to playing a Jedi Master, a Batman villain, a pioneering sex researcher, a shady cop made out of LEGO bricks, and a wise martyred lion. But then, Liam Neeson isn't like many other actors.

With an astonishing 126 credits to his name, the actor from Ballymena, Northern Ireland, was memorably reinvented as an action star in 2008 with his starring role as Bryan Mills in the global smash Taken. But while that movie's plot - a father out for revenge against the men who have put his child in danger - may sound like it shares some DNA with that of COLD PURSUIT, this new film sees him deliver a performance unlike any in his already storied career.

"On the one level, COLD PURSUIT is a great, classic revenge thriller," says Neeson. "But what was really appealing to me was the dark undercurrent of humor that runs through it." Or, as director Hans Petter Moland puts it: "Basically, this is Liam Neeson like you've never seen him before. It's a very special, unique performance."

Between its mash-up of genre, and the fact that it's an English-language remake from the original Norwegian director, COLD PURSUIT is unique. How did you first come into its orbit?

"I was sent a script, and... No, I tell a lie. I say that all the time! It was Michael Shamberg. I'd worked with him before, and he's a wonderful producer. He asked me to see a screening of a Norwegian film called In Order Of Disappearance. And I thought it was very good. And he said they were going to adapt it for the American market, set it in Colorado, and would I be interested? I said yes. It's a character-driven revenge thriller with very interesting bad guys and a dark undercurrent, with an element of humor that runs through it that's really appealing."

Tell us about Nels Coxman, your character.

"He's just a regular guy, happily married to Grace, with one child - a son, Kyle, who's 21. He lives on the side of a mountain outside a little ski resort town called Kehoe. And his job during the winter months is to keep a section of the road open, because they get incredible amounts of snow. He has his own little industry, a workshop where he keeps a snow-blower, snowplow, various machines to keep the roads open. As he says in the script, he keeps a strip of civilization open through the wilderness for people. That's his life, that's what he enjoys. And as a consequence of that, he gets voted Kehoe's Citizen of the Year. It's an annual award, and this year he's the proud recipient."

Nels has chosen a very different path from his family, hasn't he?

"Yes. His father was heavily involved in underground crime in his younger days. And Nels' elder brother, beautifully played by Bill Forsythe, is also ... in his father's trade, let's put it that way! But Nels has chosen to keep to the straight and narrow and not being involved in crime, until something happens that sends everything spiraling. Before that, Nels is happily married to Grace, played by the magnificent Laura Dern, who I'm so thrilled that we got for this film. To all intents and purposes, they're very happily, contentedly married."

Did you know Laura before filming this movie?

"I didn't. I had dinner with her and an ex-boyfriend of hers years and years ago. Her, her boyfriend, me and my wife, Natasha [Richardson]. Laura and Natasha had been in a film together, Fat Man and Little Boy, a Roland Joffe film that Paul Newman starred in, back in 1986 or '87, I think. So they were friends, but I didn't know Laura well. But I've been a huge fan of hers for many years."

The tipping point for Nels in this movie is the death of his son. What was their relationship like? "I guess it's like a classic father and son dynamic. They were close, and there's a bond between them that's unspoken. Kyle's job is to handle baggage at the little Kehoe airport. And everything is normal, until Kyle meets a horrible death at the hands of local drug dealers, and it completely makes Nels' relationship with Grace disintegrate. She can't handle it, and eventually leaves. So Nels suffers a kind of a double-death - the death of his son, and the death of his relationship with his son. And it prompts him to contemplate his own life, and also contemplate a path of vengeance and justice."

Yours and Kyle's father/son dynamic isn't the only one in the movie.

"That's right, there are three sons, and three fathers. There's Nels and Kyle. There's [cartel chief] White Bull and his son, who works for his father so is a criminal as well. And then there's Viking and his young son, who's this very sweet, intellectual kid of about 12 years of age who's really not a chip off his father's block. He's very bright, very astute. Likes listening to classical music, and likes playing FIFA. And so Nels kind of befriends him, and sort of takes him captive. The film does touch on the relationships between fathers and sons, and how complicated they can be."

You've starred in revenge thrillers before, but is it fair to describe this as unlike any of them? "Definitely, yes. Nels isn't prepared for any of this; it doesn't come naturally to him at all. When Nels goes on his path of vengeance, he doesn't realize that he's opening a whole can of worms. He thinks he's going after one guy that killed his son, and in actual fact this guy works for these other guys, who then work for this other incredibly vicious criminal called Viking. He runs one drug cartel and White Bull runs another drug cartel, and Nels gets caught in between it all. So this whole vengeance thing escalates into a kind of a whirlwind of vengeance and violence. It's a classic revenge movie, but with a deep thread of dark humor running through it, with some very interesting, well-drawn, three-dimensional bad guys giving the film its ballast."

How did you find working with Hans Petter Moland, remaking his own original movie?

"He's terrific. He's got a European sensibility, of course. And there's something very laid-back, very calm about him. He is also very prepared. He's an ex-actor himself, and he's directed in the theatre, so he just knows the actor's process, as well as how to tell a story on film. He mines the script for the little subtleties that we as actors can bring out to enhance the story, to enhance the humor and pathos. He makes extremely interesting choices. I'd work with him again in a second."

DOUBLING-DOWN ON ACTION AND ATTITUDE

Why Hans Petter Moland, AKA "the Ridley Scott of Norway," remade his own gangster noir

With COLD PURSUIT, Hans Petter Moland joins a short but superb list of directors: A group who have deliberately flown in the face of accepted movie wisdom. "They always say you should never remake your own film," Moland notes wryly. "But when I thought about it, I thought, 'Why not?'"

Like Michael Haneke with Funny Games, Takashi Shimizu with The Grudge and George Sluizer with The Vanishing before him, Moland's COLD PURSUIT - his brilliantly bloody and darkly hilarious roaring rampage of revenge - sees him remake his acclaimed Norwegian original, 2014's In Order Of Disappearance, and this time in English. "It's not that I wasn't happy with the original," says Moland. "But I looked at it as the chance to make a new production for a new audience and with a cast of amazing new actors. It was such an opportunity, I couldn't say no."

Here, the director British film historian Peter Cowie once described as "the Ridley Scott of Norway" - partly for his array of award-winning commercials and impeccable eye - talks about escaping the past and the nuances of Norwegian versus American humor.

You once described the process of making movies as "one long journey through a valley of compromises." Given that, why go back and remake a film that you've already survived once?

"Yes, I guess I did say that! [Laughs] That being said, I also think that allowing yourself to be challenged by things you previously haven't mastered is another part of that equation. When producer Michael Shamberg got the rights to this remake, he said he wanted me to do it. And that forced me to reexamine the accepted wisdom that you should always get someone else to remake your film. I tried to look at it the same way as if you had made a successful theatre production - in Oslo, say. And then somebody asked if you wanted to make a new production of the same play on Broadway, for a new audience. And that's an interesting proposition: to speak to a different audience, to make it with different actors, amazing actors. When I thought about it like that, I couldn't not do it."

The list of people who have remade their own "foreign-language" movies in English is very short. Did you look at any of those movies, to see what those directors did?

"I deliberately didn't look at them, because I think most directors who remake their own movies aren't necessarily happy with the outcome, or the process. I focused more on two things: finding a process that could work for me and, retaining that tone from the original. And that meant being allowed to make the film in the way I know how. If you're hamstrung by the process, you're not at your best game. And with this, I was very much encouraged and allowed to make the film the best way I knew how to. And because I lived in the United States for many years, I feel comfortable and at home in American culture. So it was a landscape that I wasn't foreign to."

Having lived in the United States for 11 years and being from Norway, what would you say are the differences are between American and Norwegian humor?

"There are cultural differences, obviously, and yet there are great similarities, too. But when people talk about my films being typically 'Scandinavian' in humor, I don't neccesarily agree. More than anything, my humor is also influenced a great deal by American filmmakers - Billy Wilder, for instance. And living in New York in the 1970s and '80s, that deadpan, grotesque, dark humor was always very prevalent for me. So whatever is typically 'Scandinavian' about me is also very heavily influenced by that. I'm a huge fan of Wilder's, and his ability to blend darkness and light. It's no great mystery that none of us live in a vacuum, that we absorb things and we respond to them in our lives and work. My upbringing certainly had a lot of gallows humor to it, so I really connected with Wilder's movies when I was in the States."

The irreverence towards everyone, every character, in COLD PURSUIT was crucial, wasn't it? "Yes. Without the humor, this would just be bloody mess. So that was always a part of this story. I think it's through the humor or that we can watch something like this without being turned off."

The casting of Liam Neeson is a masterstroke, because on paper you might think that you've seen him do revenge movies before, but this is very, very different, isn't it?

"I relished the enormous expectation that Liam carries with him - because he's such a fabulous actor. The humor in COLD PURSUIT was something he really responded to and said he would like to do. I'm delighted I got to work with him. Basically, this is Liam Neeson unlike you've ever seen him before. It's a really special, unique performance. Not only has he always broken the norm with the films he's made before, but he's a remarkably curious and hard-working actor. There's nothing jaded about his approach to acting, even after having done more than 100 films. "

It's also a movie about fathers and sons, isn't it, and the futility of revenge?

"Yes, it is. All three fathers lose their son, one way or another. Revenge is not a very viable strategy for a fruitful life, for the men and for their families. It's just not a very good idea, even though it's fun to see people do it."

You've talked about having your cake and eating it, about making a violent film that is ultimately antiviolence. Were you conscious of that dichotomy?

"I was very conscious of that dichotomy, because if you're doing anything satirical then the dichotomy is a very big portion of the satire -that incongruity of motive and action is crucial. This is a movie inhabited by a lot of people who are short on insight. One way to look at it is that all the people in this film are either dead serious, or dead. They are oblivious to the humor that surrounds them and the result of their actions."

The exception to that being the female characters, of course.

"Yes, those three characters [played by Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, and Julia Jones] are the only ones who are really smart. It was deliberate that it's the women who aren't domineering in the film but they dominate in the way that they distance themselves from the actions of the male characters. They are too smart to hand around, so they just want to get the hell out of Dodge.

A lot of the actors have said that when they first read the script there came a point where they started to ask themselves, 'Am I supposed to be laughing here?' Do you enjoy that, playing with the preconceived notions of the audience?

"Obviously, losing a child is a very serious and tragic event, but this is also a humorous film. The film has a very serious departure point and then it unfolds and expands into these new arenas. The absurdity has to spring out of that source instead of splatting it all up on the wall, saying, 'It's a comedy!' You have to allow people to discover it for themselves and laugh when they want.."

In the movie, Nels has long ago chosen a different path from his father and brother. He's a good man who nonetheless gets sucked into a trail of violence. What are you saying with that? That you can't escape your past?

"No, I don't think the film is trying to say that. That detail is there to at least give Nels the possibility to access some tools that a complete outsider wouldn't have access to. And also it offers an insight into his character and into his choices in life. Unlike his father and brother he's chosen an honest life, as snowplow driver. The real irony is that he's named Citizen of the Year, and then the first thing he does is go out and kill people! I think Nels considers himself a more upstanding or more civilized man than he really is, which I think actually goes for most of us. It's easy to have high thoughts of yourself until you're really put to the test."

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