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In Depth

People In Film | Tomas Alfredson

Tomas Alfredson | Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy...Director

Director Tomas Alfredson on set

What initially drew Tomas Alfredson -- the soft-spoken, erudite Swedish director -- to TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY was the considerable challenge of bringing John Le Carré's intricate Cold War spy novel to the big screen. “It was the complexity of the source material that was intriguing to me,” he explained to The Telegraph. “It was like a huge crossword, and some crosswords want to be solved.” The book had previously been turned into a highly successful BBC TV mini-series starring Alec Guinness, however, the task of condensing it into a two-hour movie was almost unthinkably difficult. Recalling his early talks with producers on the project, the self-effacing Alfredson remembers to The Guardian, “We agreed that this was probably a totally impossible book to turn into a film. That it was almost blasphemous to introduce anyone other than Alec Guinness as George Smiley, and that it might as well be a confused Swedish non-horror director who would go out and explore this strange idea.” By all accounts, the gamble was a huge success. As Philip Kemp raves in Sight & Sound, “Alfredson’s direction, bringing to it something of the cool control and refusal to sensationalize that made his breakthrough movie LET THE RIGHT ONE IN so exceptional.”

Tomas Alfredson | From a Filmmaking Family

The Alfredsons: Daniel, Hans “Hasse” and Tomas

Though non-Scandinavian audiences likely only know self-professed “non-horror director” Tomas Alfredson from his previous film, the 2008 brilliantly unconventional vampire movie LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, the filmmaker is pretty much showbiz royalty back in his native country. The son of comedic actor-writer-director Hans “Hasse” Alfredson, an iconic figure in Sweden, Alfredson grew up in the entertainment industry, and appeared in his father's films almost as soon as he could talk. Alfredson admitted in Twitch.com that “I grew up on different movie sets since I was a baby. Watching him [Hans “Hasse” Alfredson] and his colleagues work was my university.” The movie-making spirit first hit his brother Daniel Alfredson, who also became a movie director, helming the 2009 Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson's novels The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. But while film was in his blood, it was not his first ambition. He told Bright Lights, “I was a drummer for ten years and I was so-so. Dreaming of being a rock star is tough when nobody wants to listen.”

Tomas Alfredson | TV, Film, & Stage

Karl Linnertorp, Robert Gustafsson, and Maria Kulle in FOUR SHADES OF BROWN

Tomas Alfredson began his directing career on the small screen in the early 1990s, and parlayed his work on the Swedish hit teen show Bert into a gig directing a movie spin-off, BERT: THE LAST VIRGIN (for which he received a Best Director nomination from the Swedish Film Institute). He later fell in with the absurdist comedic troupe Killinggänget (whose work, like Hasse Alfredson's, mixes the farcical with the tragic), directing a slew of their TV movies, beginning with SCREWED IN TALLIN in 1999. And it was with Killinggänget that he had his first major success as a director: the group's surprisingly serious and profound multi-strand narrative about the dark side of Swedish life, the three-hour FOUR SHADES OF BROWN, became a significant critical hit, winning in four major categories at the Swedish Film Institute Guldbagge Awards in 2004, including Best Director for Alfredson. In addition, Alfredson continues to direct stage plays. Soon after the success of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, Alfredson mounted the musical My Fair Lady, explaining to Bright Lights, “I wanted to do that play because Sweden has been for so long a socially equal country, and now it's going back to being a class-based society.”

Tomas Alfredson | The Right Breakthrough

While FOUR SHADES OF BROWN established Tomas Alfredson as a major name within the contemporary Swedish film scene, his 2008 LET THE RIGHT ONE IN made the rest of the world take notice. His surprising and sensitive take on the vampire movie became a huge international success, as audiences connected with the poignant tale of awkward teen Oskar and his friendship with Eli, the shy girl next door who hides a dark secret. But as Roger Ebert, echoing fans and fellow critics, noted, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN “is a "vampire movie, but not even remotely what we mean by that term.” Kim Newman at Empire agrees that “LET THE RIGHT ONE IN actually is all about the relationships, but it’s as dark a horror tale as was ever” made by Hollywood. Indeed the story, which Alfredson read as a best-selling novel, hit him at a very personal level. As he told FirstShowing.com, “It was the love story that is so unsentimental, this story about the bullied boy. I guess I had some periods when I grew up, when I was bullied, and I think that was the thing that struck me the hardest or hit me the hardest.” In adapting the book with novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist, Alfredson never really thought of it as a genre piece. As he told IFC, “I'm totally ignorant about horror films in the world. I just went into this work 100 percent, and tried to do it as sincerely as possible. ...I try to [look at] art or listen to music to inspire myself, but I didn't look at other horror films for this work.”

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