The story picks up 15 years after siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) hatched their escape from a child-snatching witch, who changed their lives forever . . . and gave them a taste for blood. Now they have come of age as fierce, formidably skilled bounty hunters 100% dedicated to tracking and terminating witches in every dark forest -- hell-bent on retribution. But as the notorious Blood Moon approaches and a familiar wooded town faces a nightmare for its innocent children, Hansel & Gretel encounter an evil beyond any witch they’ve ever hunted – an evil that could hold the secret to their frightening past.
The Mayor of Augsburg, Germany recruits them to rid the town and nearby forests of an evil sorceress Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is planning to sacrifice many local children at the witches' gathering during the upcoming 'Blood Moon' night in two days time. To make things worse, the duo also has to deal with the brutal Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) who has taken power in Augsburg and conducts a very indiscriminate witch-hunt of his own.
Children around the world have long had their bones chilled by the classic fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel, the brother and sister lost in the woods, then ensnared by an icy-hearted witch who cooks and eats children. At the story’s end, the duo foil the witch’s cannibalistic clutches . . . but what happened to them next? That’s what writer/director Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters dares to imagine, tackling the question in all its scary, funny and suspenseful potential. Joining their story as the adult siblings emerge as the most lethal witch hunters ever to stalk the woods, the film turns an ancient fable into a no-holds-barred epic of modern action and adventure.
Immediately, Wirkola saw the makings of a visually ferocious, humor-laced and action-packed experience for 21st Century audiences raised on the tale. As he began writing, he determined he would stay true to the spirit of the original German folk legend -- first published back in 1812 by the famed unearthly tale-collectors, The Brothers Grimm -- but put no limits on his imagination from there.
“I wanted the vibe of the original fairy tale but I also wanted to spice it with all the things I love most in movies – comedy, horror and graphic action.” he summarizes. “A gruesome aura was always there in the original tale, but I brought it to the forefront, while injecting humor. And the story is still about this really strong bond between brother and sister – the way Hansel & Gretel are driven to stick together, no matter what it takes, as they confront evil.”
To take Hansel & Gretel out of the annals of legend and into visceral, contemporary action, Tommy Wirkola knew he would need to find two strong personalities who could morph these characters from legend to real life. The search for a contemporary ideal of how Hansel & Gretel might have turned out – after being raised on dreams of vengeance against the foul wickedness of witches – led to the pairing of Jeremy Renner, Oscar®-nominated for his searing action role as an Iraq War bomb expert in The Hurt Locker and rising British actress Gemma Arterton, whose allure came to the fore when she joined the iconic circle of Bond Girls in Quantum of Solace.
He also found himself wrapped up in what becomes Hansel’s guiding philosophy. “He and Gretel have gone through an amazing tragedy,” Renner observes. “They don’t have parents, witches have tried to eat them and what Hansel has taken away is that you’ve got to take your personal anger and pain and do something good with it.”
That philosophy has left Hansel with a dry wit and a devastating way with the weapons needed to go after hard-to-kill witches. For Renner, that meant preparing for some of the most intensive action he’s done yet, and he especially enjoyed Wirkola’s take on how hard-fought and harrowing each of Hansel & Gretel’s battle is against such magically empowered enemies.
“There’s a lot of really arduous action in the film,” Renner notes. “One of the big difference in this movie is that while usually heroes win all their battles, Hansel & Gretel get their butts kicked numerous times. So in a way we had to face getting beat up every day! But we also had a great time. Tommy brought an incredible tone to the whole thing, a mix of serious and funny that I think gives the film the quality of a real adventure.”
Arterton, too, was drawn to the twists of the story. “I love the original fairy tale and this starts there, then makes a real departure,” she says. “The film joins up with Hansel & Gretel in the midst of their fame as witch hunters. But it’s also a time when they’re starting to wonder who they are and why these terrible things happened to them – which leads them into a very tense situation.”
Amid all the snowballing tension, Arterton loved the brother-sister dynamic that always stays at the heart of the action, no matter how extreme things get. “The sibling relationship is such a great one to explore,” ayes Arterton. “Hansel & Gretel have this unstoppable bond but they’re also so different from each other. She’s the brains of the operation. He’s the brawn. He’s the joker and the show-off. She’s more the watcher, the researcher, the one who tries to really understand witchcraft. They have to each play to their strengths.”
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, is a Paramount Pictures and Metro Goldwyn Mayer presentation by Gary Sanchez production starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The film is distributed by United International Pictures thru Solar Entertainment Corporation. Showing on January 23 at your favorite theaters and cinemas..