Cannes: Behold the Cheesy Glory of '80s Homage 'Kung Fury'

Swedish helmer David Sandberg’s 30-minute tribute to Reagan-era schlock brings Nazis, Norse gods, dinosaurs — and Hasselhoff — to Cannes.

With a trailer boasting time-traveling renegade cops, Uzi-toting Nordic warrior women, a kung fu-ing Hitler and a T. Rex, not to mention a theme song performed by David Hasselhoff, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ken Loach was back on the Croisette. But with the English auteur absent this year, it’s left to Swedish filmmaker David Sandberg to provide 2015’s thrills and spills.

Kung Fury, a 30-minute short lurking in the Directors’ Fortnight, could actually be Cannes’ most eagerly awaited title. If YouTube hits are anything to go by, its 10 million trailer views — plus another 10 million for Hasselhoff’s song “True Survivor” — make it more hotly anticipated than even Mad Max: Fury Road (OK, maybe not).

Born from a love of ’80s music and begun as a simple Internet promo, Kung Fury enjoyed a Kickstarter campaign that raised $640,000 — a touch more than the $200,000 goal — which set the ball rolling on a ridiculous ride of over-the-top cheesy lunacy. And with a full-length feature adaptation now selling at the Cannes Film Market with Beetlejuice 2 producers KatzSmith, global domination for Sandberg and his growing Kung Fury empire could be just around the corner.

“I’m still shocked with everything that is going on,” admits the 29-year-old, who also stars as the film’s Nazi-kicking, bandanna-wearing titular character, talking to The Hollywood Reporter on the phone from Sweden. “The first week, I couldn’t sleep because I was so pumped up on adrenaline.”

After posting a trailer online in 2013 that displayed his special effects/greenscreen skills as well as his unquestionable adoration of ’80s cop/martial arts/action TV classics, Sandberg — who previously had been making commercials and music videos — saw his fundraising campaign hit the $200,000 goal in less than 24 hours. With backers having pledged as much as $10,000 to actually appear in the film, he then welcomed fans from all over the world to his hometown of Umea, in northern Sweden (he put them up in his grandmother’s garage). “It was so surreal,” laughs Sandberg. “One guy — Chris from San Diego — stayed for three months. He got stuck there because he loved it so much.”

Having secured a Cannes slot, a Hollywood agent and producers in the shape of emerging names David Katzenberg (son of Jeffrey) and Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) for the feature, Kung Fury unleashed its secret weapon last month.

“Once we had enough material, I thought it would be cool to do a music video — it’s so classic for '80s films to have a music video in which you show footage from the movie,” he says. “So then we started thinking about who could be the ultimate person to have in it.”

Hasselhoff said yes 10 seconds into watching the trailer, and flew over to Stockholm for the two-day shoot. The '80s love-in doesn’t stop at Cannes. “True Survivor” — already available on iTunes — is going to be released on vinyl and, of course, on cassette. There even have been talks regarding a TV show, and Sandberg says plans are in place for a Kung Fury computer game: “It’s going to be for the Commodore 64.”

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