Being able to embark on one admirable and brave journey that reinforces international security is often only a dream that many people only wish to achieve. But then there are the rare heroes that not only accomplish one courageous feat, but two daring triumphs that protect the world. That’s certainly the case for the seemingly everyman, but ultimately bold, protagonist in the new sci-fi movie, ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot.’ RLJE Films released the adventure drama, which marks the feature film writing and directorial debuts of producer Robert D. Krzykowski, today in theaters, as well as On Digital and On Demand.
‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot’ follows the epic adventures of an American legend that no one has ever heard of before. Since World War II, Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott in the present day, and Aidan Turner in flashbacks from the war) has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler.
Now, decades later, in 1987, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and is carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again.
Krzykowski generously took the time recently to talk about writing and directing ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that while Calvin is capable and strong of defeating the drama’s title antagonists on his own, in order to save and protect mankind, he also has some frailties, including fear, loss and regret, that make him relatable to audiences. The writer-director also praised Elliott and Turner’s natural ability to capture their character’s accomplishments and imperfections in the same engaging ways at different points in his life.
ShockYa (SY): You wrote the script for the new adventure drama, ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot.’ What was your inspiration in penning the screenplay for the movie? Why were you drawn to mixing historical fiction with science-fiction in one story?
Robert D. Krzykowski (RDK): Well, the script started off as an adventure, but as I was writing it, I experienced some loss in my life, and that very much changed the type of story I was writing. I started thinking of it as a character study, and looking for answers through this character of Calvin Barr, who’s totally capable and strong.
But he also has some frailties that the rest of us have. So although there are two monsters who are named in the title of the film, the secret enemy of the film is Calvin’s fear, loss and regret. I think all of those things play us, if we let them. Then there’s also a theme of plagues in the movie, as well. Hitler’s spreading a plague of ideas, and The Bigfoot is spreading a literal plague.
SY: In addition to scribing the script, you also made your feature film directorial debut on the drama. What was your overall experience helming the movie as a first-time director? How did writing the screenplay influence your helming duties on the set?
RDK: It took 12 years to develop this movie, and ultimately get it made. So I had a lot of time to think about it, while I also produced and worked on other projects. Along the way, I learned how to collaborate, communicate and trust people, and also how to protect something that you care about, and want to tell in a very specific way.
While it took a long time to make, for every 20 people that we brought this project to, we had one really amazing person who would say yes. Eventually, there was a group of really incredible people who gathered around this movie, and helped make it what it is now. That means a lot to me, and I can’t thank those people enough.
SY: ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot’ stars Sam Elliott as the older version of Calvin and Aidan Turner as the younger version of the protagonist. What was the casting process like for the movie?
RDK: Well, once we cast Sam Elliott, it became about finding someone who would be spiritually connected to him. I knew that Aidan Turner was an incredibly intelligent actor, and that he would bring a depth to the younger version of the character. I knew that his role (as the title character) on (the BBC One/PBS history drama television series) ‘Poldark’ was heroic, but also very sad. There were flashes of what I imagined what Sam would bring in Aidan’s past performances, especially in ‘Poldark.’
Once Sam was on board, it became very important to find somebody who could match that energy. The only person out of the hundreds of actors who we looked at who even came close was Aidan. If he had said no to this movie, I don’t know if the entire recipe could have worked. So it was very meaningful that the script said something to Aidan.
We Skyped one day when I was sitting on my porch, and he was in Ireland. We just talked about the project, and we realized that we wanted to work with each other. It was a similar situation with Sam; once we started talking, the character reminded him of his father. He felt the character had a sense of decency that people could really look up to
SY: How does killing both Hitler and Bigfoot, on behalf of the American government, influence the man that Calvin has become, including his views on society and his personal relationships?
RDK: I think all of us have experienced a level of loss, and some people have more than others. I know that Sam has (experienced loss), and that’s something that he brought to the character, and is very real for him. There were moments on set in which he had to walk away and compose himself, and then come back.
Every emotion that you see Sam put on screen in this movie is something real, and I experienced that on set with him. That was a powerful thing to see. You worry that it’s having too great of a toll on a person. This is a role that he said took a long time for him to shake. It took many months after making this movie until he could actually let this character go.
I think that’s part of the reason why it took so long to make this movie, and why so many of us stuck with it. There was something worth sticking with there, and trying to live up to in the making.
SY: Once the actors were cast, what was the process of collaborating with them to build their characters’ arcs? How closely did you work with Sam and Aidan in particular on developing both versions of the main character?
RDK: Sam came on board about seven months before we shot the film. So he and I had a lot of time to talk about the character through texts and phone calls. We also discussed the mysteries in the script that he wanted to know the answers to, so that he could have those memories in his head while performing as the character. He also asked deeper questions about things that weren’t even in the script, because he just wanted to know the answers.
Aidan was cast much later in the process, and we were able to email each other, and speak on the phone. But ultimately, we planned the shooting schedule so that Sam and Aidan could meet for a weekend and spend time together and discuss the character. At that point, Sam had finished filming his scenes, and then it was time for Aidan to shoot his scenes. So over that weekend, they got to talk quite a bit.
Then Sam stayed for a few extra days, so that he could sit near the monitor and watch Aidan work. I don’t think Sam had any concerns, and felt that his performance was being honored. Aidan is a very capable actor, and brought something really special to the role. He was always trying to be in support of the performance that Sam gave, and I thought there was something very generous in Aidan taking that approach.
SY: How did setting the story in the two different time periods influence the technical aspects of the shoot, including the cinematography, costumes and the locations where you filmed?
RDK: The two timelines have a slightly different look. The scenes in the 1940s have a slight Technicolor aspect to them, but only at the edge of perception. Then the 1987 timeline has a heavier film grain, in the way that such ’80s movies as ‘Repo Man’ or ‘The Accidental Tourist’ may have looked. But we wanted that to feel natural, like if you were watching this (movie) in 1987, you would really feel like it really came from that time period.
So there was a lot of time and work that went into the look of the film. The DP (Director of Photography), Alex Vendler, and I spent a few years discussing it, and then really got into the color science in post (production) with Aidan Stanford (a Senior Digital Colorist) at Point.360. We spent some time making an elegant look for each timeline.
Then my editor, Zach Passero, and I spent a lot of time in the edit, making sure that the transitions in the screenplay were working for the audience on the screen. That way, when you’re jumping in and out of these timelines, you feel like you’re elegantly gliding in and out of each one. Then you’ll feel like you want to spend time in each one, rather than feeling like you just want to spend time in just one. I feel like the past is always informing the present.
SY: The drama had its World Premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. What was your experience of premiering the movie at an iconic genre festival like Fantasia?
RDK: It was incredible at every festival we went to; there was a lot of cheering. There was also often a lot of tears at the end of the movie. It took so long to make the movie that I didn’t think about what would happen when we were done. I don’t think it would have the reaction it had, or even the festival life that it had. We traveled around the world with it, and met so many good people. This movie means something different to each person I meet. But there has been a common thread amongst everyone, which is that it’s saying something about goodness and how we treat one another, and that’s very rewarding to me.
SY: RLJE Films is releasing ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot’ in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD (today). Why do you think having the dual theatrical and digital distribution is beneficial for an independent movie like this one?
RDK: Well, RLJE, the distributor, had just released (Nicolas Cage’s horror action fantasy film,) ‘Mandy’ last year when we started talking to them. The way that they had rolled that movie out was beneficial-the theatrical release feed the VOD distribution, and vice versa. They have a great tactic and plan with how they release these types of films.
All of us filmmakers on this project, including (executive producers) John Sayles and Douglas Trumbull, as well as (producer) Lucky McKee, Sam and myself, felt that this movie was made for a theatrical release. We made it as a very cinematic film, and we’d love it for people to experience it in a movie theater. But if people are only able to see it at home, as that’s what’s convenient for them, we hope that they have the opportunity to engage with this movie.
But no matter how people see the film, we hope people discuss what a film like this is trying to say. We also hope that they say that it’s okay for a movie with a completely bizarre title like this, and a concept that seems outlandish, to respect the audience. We just want everyone to feel like they’re a participant in the filmmaking process of this movie.