'What Happened To Monday' Director Tommy Wirkola On Transforming Noomi Rapace Into Septuplets [Interview]

Netflix has another original movie premiere this weekend. What Happened to Monday stars Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace and Noomi Rapace as septuplets in a dystopian future with a single child limit. As a young girl (Clara Read), her father (Willem Dafoe) came up with a plan to make all seven siblings live one life. Named after each day of the week, they take turns living one life.

Tommy Wirkola directed What Happened to Monday and spoke to /Film by phone this week about the film. The director of Dead Snow and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters talked us through turning the siblings from men to women, learning visual effects tricks from Orphan Black and what exactly his future looks like.Do Saturday and Sunday get the better deal? Monday through Friday only get to go to work!

No, for sure. I think Sunday actually feels kind of bored. There's not much for her to do. I don't think she likes going to church too much but yeah, for sure. Saturday's having the most fun. I always thought about how that came to be and how convenient that was, especially for Saturday.

Did you try casting septuplets for the young versions?

Not septuplets but we tried quadruplets. We read a few triplets, twins, to try to save us time and make us as efficient as possible. In the end, Clara did by far the best audition so we went with one just to make it more complicated.

How did you approach giving each twin a unique look and personality?

A lot of that was in the script already when I came on board of course. Even though it was written for a man when I came on board, we changed it from brothers to sisters. A lot of the big strokes were in there. We got a new writer on board and we got Noomi of course attached really early on. So the three of us really tried to sit down together and make them unique and memorable. Of course time is limited. You have a film that's two hours and you've got a lot of story to tell, so we tried to see how can we make this as interesting as possible but at the same time try to make it real and not superficial? I think the key to that was Noomi. She's just an amazing actress of course and also she had a lot of ideas on how to portray these siblings in the time we have in the film. Of course, it was a huge part of the process in trying to make something we worked on until the day of shooting to define these siblings and give them small little quirks and personalities and hopefully make it memorable.

There's a great history in science fiction of turning a male character into a woman. That was Sigourney Weaver's idea for Ripley in Alien. Did you think about the legacy of that?

In hindsight of course. After, you do think about it. Of course I'm a huge fan of the Alien films and her. At the time I read it, for a few of the siblings it was hard when they were men to keep it separate and to make them unique. I just felt they were too much like seven bros hanging out in an apartment. By making them sisters, it somehow in my head made it more interesting and made the dynamic between them more interesting as well. To me it was a lot from a character standpoint. Of course, we know we're in the shadows of a lot of legends when it comes to that .

Had What Happened to Monday been released by a studio, do you think there would have been pressure to make it PG-13?

Yeah, for sure. That was a very liberating thing to know that this film was financed through Europe and European money. The script was always R-rated and when I came on board, we pushed the action further. I think you're right. If this were a studio film, I think there would've been more pressure to try to get it to a PG-13 as it very often is.

Netflix doesn't have to worry about that. They have plenty of subscribers who watch R-rated sci-fi movies.

Exactly and also Netflix only has UK and US and Latin America. In Europe, in Germany, France, Scandinavia where I'm from and a few companies in Asia as well, it's getting a cinematic release. I do feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds with Netflix and the cinematic release. Luckily they've all been supportive of the R-rating.

The violence is graphic, but are you also using it to tell story? Like the finger sets up how they share the single identity, but it comes back later.

Exactly. It was just a great way of paying it off and using it in the story as you say. I've done films before where no doubt the violence has been a fun tool. Especially in the Dead Snow series where that is a part of that genre and a part of those films. Here, we always try to make it a part of the story and the sisters' journey to this insane thing that's happening around them. I always want the violence to feel real, but also in your face and unforgiving.

Dead Snow and Hansel & Gretel were very outrageous movies. Were you looking for a chance to show you could also build a world you take seriously and show the gravitas?

I did want to try to do something a little different than I'd done before. I've always been a big fan of sci-fi movies and these types of films. At the same time, I always had a big love for Paul Verhoeven. I've seen his films way too much growing up. It's just in my DNA. I always loved how he managed to mix a high concept in a real sci-fi world, but also bring in humor and discuss violence and make it a part of a full package. That was very inspiring to me as well going into it.

There've been movies where actors played multiple roles from Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy to Multiplicity was already 21 years ago. Has the technology improved greatly to allow Noomi to play seven roles?

In the film we tried to use every single technique ever invented, from the very old techniques of just split screen with a mounted camera, to the new stuff with face replacement and all the stuff in the middle. For sure, we used all the tools in the box and the idea was hopefully by using all these different techniques, when it's all cut together and all one thing it would feel seamless. We also had another rule of never doing it just to be sexy. It's very tempting to do fancy stuff when you show that you're using the same actress for all these roles. The goal we always had was we shoot these scenes like we would have shot any other scene if it was seven different actors playing the roles. Never try to be fancy just to be fancy. Of course, I've seen all those movies you mentioned. I also talked to some of the people on the crew of Orphan Black just to get tips on what not to do and how to be efficient with time. We did a lot of research on that area.

I was wondering if Orphan Black paved the way. What were the tips their crew gave you?

It was mostly about techniques, which cameras not to use and what rigs took a long time to reset. I think it was them who tipped us off to a smaller motion control rig, not the big one that takes for ever to set up and shoot with. They just had a lot of small things they learned. Of course in TV, they move fast so we got a few tips to help us along the way.

Did Noomi have six stand-ins to play against?

There were actually seven, especially in the rehearsal. These were actors we got from London. Sometimes we used them to shoot over the shoulder with wigs so Noomi didn't have to do everything all the time. If we could cheat with them, we would. When we rehearsed, Noomi being all these seven siblings has to be involved in that process and also direct them a bit. "Oh no, I wouldn't do that. I would do this." In the end, when we saw all the siblings in the scene and blocked it, we could actually pull Noomi out completely and just have her watch the scene as well to get an overview of it. It was a very complicated process and these actors were very important.

Did you also extrapolate the future of all the screens we use? Right now we're all on phones now. In the future the screens will probably be more immersive and complicated like you depict.

We went for a mix. The screens themselves were in the computer and the pads are not that advanced compared to what we have now. The stuff we took a leap on was the palm thing, the bracelet that they control almost like a hologram mixed with a screen. But we also want the future not just to be super fancy and high tech, but to have a retro feel to it, to give everything a sense of yes, we've gone forward a little bit but it's also not necessarily a comfortable place to live in. We deliberately tried to stay away from making it too fancy and too shiny.

What's next? Is there more Hansel & Gretel or Dead Snow in the works, or something else?

We are developing Hansel & Gretel into a TV show along with Paramount and MGM. We're actually writing the pilot right now and then hopefully we can take it out to networks. In addition, I'm also writing a superhero movie for Adam McKay that he's going to direct called Irredeemable. It's based on a super R-rated crazy comic book from Boom! Comics. For the last six, seven months I've just been writing so I'm not sure what's going to be my next directing gig. As for Dead Snow 3, for sure that's going to happen at one point. I'm not sure yet but we've got to finish the trilogy.


What Happened to Monday is available on Netflix this Friday.