Director Harald Zwart, who last made a feature in the country eight years ago, has returned to Norway with “The 12th Man,”which has begun its local shoot for producer Aage Aaberge and Nordisk Film Production.
Co-produced by Norway’s Motion Blur (co-owned by Zwart), the $6.8 million tells the story of Norwegian war hero Jan Baalsrud, who was one of 12 Norwegian resistance fighters crossing the North Sea on a fishing boat, to blow up the Bardufoss Airport in March 1943, during the Nazi occupation. Their boat is discovered, and the saboteurs blow it up, trying to escape in a smaller boat. But 11 of them are captured, and killed by the enemy; only 25-year-old Baalsrud manages to escape, and after hiding in a snow cave on the fjell for two months, he is able to cross the border to neutral Sweden.
Zwart started shooting north of the Arctic Circle in April, starting with the ending. The lead character had to lose weight — at some point Baalsrud was down to 35 kilos (77 pounds); the producers needed presentation material for the final financing; and filming a scene with 1,000 reindeer “extras” could not be postponed, because they were about to leave for their summer residence.
At the Nowegian Intl. Film Festival in Haugesund, executive producer Espen Horn, of Motion Blur, talked about “The 12th Man,” which he insisted will not become a traditional war epic, but a thriller about the adventurous deed by this freedom fighter, who – by his friends – was described as a warm person with a good smile.
“Baalsrud managed to get away from the first German attack by swimming 100 metres through cold water to a small island, where waited until the Germans had left the area. He would not change his wet soldier’s clothes, because he would be mistaken as a civilian, who would have shot on first sight,” Horn said.
“Hunted by the Gestapo, his journey was certainly not easy — as all Norwegian school kids have learned, he became so frozen, that he could hardly walk, and when both his feet became gangrenous, he drank a bottle of whisky and himself cut off seven of his toes with a little knife. Having arrived at Sweden, he spent seven months in hospital,” Horn added.
Starring Thomas Gullestad as Baalsrud and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, most of the film will be shot in the Troms region in collaboration with Norwegian regional film center FilmCamp. It will be released in the Scandinavian countries on Nov. 10, 2017, by Nordisk Film Distribution. Denmark’s TrustNordisk handles international sales.
Based on Tore Haug and Astrid Karlsen Scott’s 2001 book, ‘The 12th Man” is scripted by Petter Skavlan, who also wrote the Oscar-nominated ”Kon-Tiki” (2012), which Aaberge produced. “Kon-Tiki” took 900,000 admissions in Norway and was sold to more than 120 countries.
Dutch-born Zwart made has made several films in the US, including such movies as “Karate Kid” (2010), which grossed more than $350 million worldwide. Most recently he signed “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (2013), and besides his Norwegian feature, he is in pre-production with the Keanu Reeves starrer ”Rally Car.”
Pictured above: Director Harald Zwart during the first stages of “The 12th Man” Norwegian shoot in April in Troms, north of the Arctic Circle