Udo Kier

The actor: Few performers have been as welcome in both arthouses and grindhouses as German actor Udo Kier—his most notable early films, the Andy Warhol productions Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula, even straddled that line. Since then, Kier has appeared in films by Fassbinder, Herzog, Van Sant, and von Trier, and by Argento, Zombie, Carpenter, and Boll. Forays into big-budget Hollywood found him playing Germans both comic and creepy in films such as Blade, Armageddon, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. More recently, Kier appeared in Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, and he’ll be cavorting with Isabella Rossellini and Jason Patric in Guy Maddin’s upcoming supernatural gangster fantasia Keyhole.

Road To St. Tropez (1966)—“Boy”

Udo Kier: I was in London to learn English. I was in school, St. Charles School, on Regent Street. I went out, and Robert Stigwood, he was the manager of the Bee Gees, came to me in a restaurant and said, “Can you sing?” I said, “No-o-o-o…” He said, “Okay, let’s make a record.” So I made a record called For Old Time’s Sake, and the musicians in the studio rolled their eyes when I started, because I had no knowledge at all. It was all based on my looks.

And then Mike Sarne… He was a famous singer in London, and he made a song called [sings] “Come outside, come outside…” And then he made a film called Road To St. Tropez, and I played my first part, I was cast in the south of France. Anyway, to make it short, the story—not to bore anybody, whoever is listening—then this film came out in Cinemascope, and it was very amazing, because I didn’t know anything about technology. The cameraman was very kind to me. All the close-ups were with a long lens, and very far away from me. I was looking for the camera, but I was in total—only my face in camera, and I was looking like, “How far is the camera away from me?” So when the film came out, they were writing about “the new face in cinema.” Of course, I was very proud. When you start in this business… It is a business, actually. Nothing to do with art. Picasso is art, and Giacometti, but film acting is no art. Just the luck of being discovered, maybe. And when the film came out and they wrote that I was the new face in cinema, I thought, “Okay, let’s try to do that.”


Mark Of The Devil
(1970)—“Count Christian Von Meruh” 

UK: Second film was the first color film for me, Mark Of The Devil, which is still available. Available. I like that word, available.

The A.V. Club: “Now available on home video cassette!”

UK: Yes! “Still available on home cassette!” So, we’re changing the tone of this interview now… Mark Of The Devil, it was a kind of horror film with important people, with Herbert Lom playing the master, and I was Christian von Meruh, his assistant, who falls in love with the girl with the big tits. It was a witch-hunting film. What can I tell you about the film?

AVC: Was it difficult to make, with all those torture scenes?

UK: No, of course not! I like torture. Torture is photogenic. If you make horror movies, you always have to think what’s photogenic and what’s not. If you stay home with the candlelight and you read a book, Rilke, or whatever, or Sigmund Freud, it’s boring. But if you watch Udo Kier in a horror film and people are hunting me and trying to kill me, and there’s my love interest with big breasts and beautiful hair, and I believe in her and they kill me at the end, that’s more interesting. We’re talking about films here. We’re not talking about writing stories. Like Rilke said, “When the leaves are blowing, you have to write letters.” So it’s not that. We’re talking about filmmaking, and filmmaking is a visual thing. It’s photographs that move.

AVC: This may be the first time someone has talked about Mark Of The Devil and Rilke in the same paragraph.

UK: Isn’t that true!


Flesh For Frankenstein
a.k.a. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973)—“Baron Frankenstein”
Blood For Dracula a.k.a. Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1974)—“Count Dracula”

UK: I was sitting in the airplane, flying from Rome to Munich, and of course I didn’t want to sit alone, so I was sitting next to a man with a beard, a very nice individual. We start talking after the first coffee, and he said, “What do you do?” And of course at that time when you say, “I’m an actor,” it’s one movement with your right hand [makes flamboyant declarative gesture] and your left hand went to your bag with your photographs. And your photographs were presented: “I’m an actor.”

So I gave him my number and he wrote it in his passport, on the last page in his passport. And I thought—naïve, but still thinking that if somebody writes your telephone number in his passport, you must be important. So he wrote it in his passport, we landed in Munich, and we met the next day to have coffee and some kind of cake—cheesecake!—with old ladies, and that was it.

AVC: And that man was…

UK: Paul Morrissey. And three weeks later I got a call, Paul Morrissey called from New York, and he said, “I’m making a movie for Carlo Ponti, Frankenstein, and I have a little role for you.” I said, “What do I play?” He said, “Frankenstein. I’m coming to Germany and I want to see you. I have a press conference for a film with Sylvia Miles, Heat, with Joe Dallesandro, and I’m coming to Munich.”

So I went there. Andy Warhol was the most intellectual at that moment, and he got away with Dallesandro having an erection on screen, tied with a little bow, because it was art. So everything was covered under the word, it’s art. And he was interviewed, and they said, “Mr. Morrissey. As we know you are doing your next film, for Andy Warhol of course, with Carlo Ponti in Rome. Who is going to play Frankenstein?” And he said, “Udo Kier.” And then it was like a star was born. All of a sudden, all the journalists said, “We have to get together! I want to write about you!” And of course I knew how the system worked then. I went to Rome to do Frankenstein. And Frankenstein, the monster of Frankenstein [Srdjan Zelenovic], actually had a contract to be Dracula. The blond. Because Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey wanted to break the image that Dracula has to have black hair, pale, killing some virgins or whatever. So we made the movie, and the guy who was my monster in Frankenstein turned out not to be so… I don’t know the right word. “Good” wouldn’t be the right word. No talent, maybe.

So we made Frankenstein, very disciplined. No alcohol, no sex, no rock ’n’ roll. We were living in a villa in Via Appia Antica, the oldest street in Rome. We were living in a villa that was hired by Polanski, because Polanski had developed a system of 3-D for his film. But he didn’t do it, so he gave all the technology to Paul Morrissey to do Frankenstein in 3-D. The contract was doing Frankenstein in 3-D in three weeks for $300,000. That’s a quarter of what this film with Guy Maddin costs. $300,000, 3-D, in Rome, for Carlo Ponti.

Paul Morrissey had a contract to do two films. Because he went to a party, and there was Carlo Ponti, and Paul Morrissey said, “I can make you a movie for $300,000!” So Carlo Ponti says, “Make me two for $600,000.” So that was the combination thing of Frankenstein and Dracula.

When we finished, I was very happy. I was Frankenstein. I knew I’d made history already with one film. Nobody could ever kill that, because Andy Warhol is Andy Warhol. And then at the end, the last day of the filming, I was in the cantina and I ordered a half a bottle of white wine. Because we were not allowed to have alcohol [during the filming]. And Paul Morrissey came in and he looked at the bottle and he said—and many people came to audition for Dracula, Johnny Hallyday, many people—and he said, “I guess we have a German Dracula.” I said “Who?” He said, “You, but you have to lose 20 pounds in one week, because you have too much energy, and Dracula should be in a wheelchair.” I said, “No problem.”

From that moment on I could only eat salad and drink water, and I became skinnier and weaker, and when we started Dracula I had to be in a wheelchair. I couldn’t walk. So I go up to the legendary Vittorio De Sica in my wheelchair and he says, “My home is your castle!” And I had to get up, and I could hardly get up, and I fell down right away, in front of the camera. It was acting for pleasure, I fell down, that was it.

Suspiria (1977)—“Dr. Frank Mandel”
Mother Of Tears (2008)—“Father Johannes”

UK: I was in Munich, and I heard that Dario Argento was shooting a film, Suspiria, and I said, “I want to meet him!” So I met him, and I went to the hotel, and I was sitting in the corridor, with four chairs. I’ll never forget, there were four chairs, one, two, three, four. I was sitting at the end. And I went in to meet him, and I said, “Four chairs? I’m leaving now!” And he said, “No, I want you to explain the whole film in my film.” And he said, “Would you advise me to go to Dachau?” And I said “No.” Because Argento means silver, and he’s Jewish, and he wanted to go to the concentration camp and I knew he would be depressed. The result was he was so depressed that he took the whole team back to Italy the next day. Now I realize—then I didn’t—that I had a monologue to explain the whole film. I had the most dialogue in the whole film. Like in the new film, Mother Of Tears, same thing. 

His daughter, Asia Argento, I think is one of the sexiest actresses there is, because she’s real. She’s not Sharon Stone, but she is real. She scratches herself if she feels there is a little mosquito hitting her. Sharon Stone would say, “Stop the film! There’s some horrible animal trying to bite me!” But I did Mother Of Tears two or three years ago, and it was okay. Dario, of course, I think he outdoes himself. 

AVC: Okay, we must skip ahead…

UK: Yes, please do. Let’s talk about Pamela Anderson please, now. I want to talk about Pamela Anderson!

AVC: I was going to ask about Berlin Alexanderplatz next.

UK: No, I want to talk about Pamela!


Barb Wire
(1996)—“Curly”

UK: So I got a call, and they said, “Would you be interested in making a movie with Pamela Anderson?” I said, “Of cou-u-urse! Any time!” So the first day of shooting I knocked at her trailer—which was enormous, as big as her breasts. So I knock and I hear from inside: “Hello? Come in!” So I stepped in the trailer and she was at least 25 feet away from me. So I went there and took both hands around her waist, which was like a transvestite, so small, and I said, “Wow! How amazing!” And I kissed her. When I touched her, all the producers, they fly to the wall because they thought she was going to hit me, and thinking, “How horrible! That foreign, German piece of shit is coming in my trailer!” And she loved it. I stepped out of the trailer, and the assistant was there and I said, “Send her 50 roses from me.” Then we became friends, and I went to the director and I said, “I don’t want too many directions on how to act with her. Can I just smell her in the film? Doesn’t matter how far from me, let me just go like [sniffs deeply].” I smell her from far or from close. That was for me the only direction I could think of, because I could never be stronger than the biggest sex symbol of America. So I had to think of something. 

We had a beautiful scene. When the director asked me to be in the film, I said, “Okay, I’m going to shave my hair!” He said, “Would you really do that?” I said “Yeah!” I had so much hair, it’s ridiculous. So I shaved my hair and the film started and I had a wig on, and she took two fingers and took my wig and said, “Curly, I don’t think so!” And she swung my wig away. And that was our opening, which was amazing!

There are certain people who I worked with, Pamela Anderson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, they are figures. And they know this. They don’t pretend to be good actors. They were made by the industry into figures. 

AVC: You’re listed on IMDb in Moscow On The Hudson as “Gay Man On Street (uncredited).” What was that all about?

UK: I cannot answer you, because it’s totally unknown to me what you just asked me, and also very boring.

[pagebreak]

Medea (1988)—“Jason”
The Last Trip To Harrisburg (1984)—“Man And Woman In Train”

UK: Okay, now you force me to tell the whole story of how I met Lars von Trier. Because Medea was the beginning of a friendship—and people never understand what a friendship is. I’ll tell you what a friendship is to me. Friendship to me is, if my friends need my little finger to live, I’m going to have it cut off. I’m going to the hospital, they cut off my finger, and maybe I have a gold finger instead, and I become famous. But I still give it to my friend.

AVC: That’s von Trier, to you?

UK: No, no, no. More than that. He is more than that. I was in Mannheim for the festival, and I made a short film called The Last Trip To Harrisburg. When the atomic thing was happening, I was scared. They had an accident in their nuclear facility. And I said to Fassbinder, “I want to make a film about this,” and I wanted to use the text of Jean Genet. And Fassbinder said, “Oh, you’re going to be in trouble. Why don’t you buy the Bible?” So I bought the Bible. The Bible is wonderful. It’s only one book, but you can put two grams of coke on top of the Bible, and you first take a line of coke and then you open the Bible. Because then you understand. And I wrote the text, saying I can record it, which I do in the movie.

So I played an American soldier and a blonde woman, beautiful woman. I play both. And Fassbinder saw it and said, “You have no money! I am going to be your voice for the man and the woman…” But he didn’t change, it was a monologue about going to eternity. It wasn’t [high voice], “I’m the woman, so I talk like that.” It was same voice. And it was amazing. Two grams of coke and the Bible.

So my film, which I did with Fassbinder’s voice, went in competition to Mannheim, and it was in competition with Lars von Trier’s Element Of Crime. So we went to see it—Lars didn’t arrive yet—and I talked to all the American directors, and I said, “We can go home.” [American accent] “Why, man?” “Because whoever made that film, he’s going to win. That is amazing!” And he did. So I went to the festival director and I said, “There’s one person I would like to talk to, the person who made that film, Element Of Crime.” “Oh yes, Udo, we can arrange that, no problem.” And I expected somebody like Kubrick or Fassbinder, all dressed in black and, like Fassbinder, touching their dick all the time, and greasy hair, and an intellectual image of “I give a fuck.” And then came a young boy in a sweater, and it was Lars von Trier.

So we had two beers, and I told him that I liked his work. And I said, “Do you have a distributor?” He said “No.” I called a company and I said, “You saw that film in Cannes?” “Yes.” “And you didn’t buy it?” “No.” I said, “Are you out of your fucking mind? It’s a masterpiece!” And they bought it. They forgot about that later on, because they produce all of Lars von Trier’s films, and they forgot about the first step, which I did. Who cares? It’s fucking business. Then I got a call from Lars, and he said, “I’m doing Medea! It’s for Danish television, and they want to give me an actor, Danish, lives in Paris, I don’t like him!” He said, “Don’t shave any more. Don’t wash your hair. Don’t take a shower, and present yourself in three weeks, come here. We’ll pay your ticket, come to Denmark.” So I didn’t wash myself anymore, I didn’t shave anymore, so I was in Medea. I arrived and I got the role.

It was wonderful, because that was also the beginning of Lars von Trier. It was, at that time, not like when Guy made his first film, or Gus Van Sant when he made Mala Noche. It was the beginning of intellectual people trying to get their thoughts out. And I got the role.

I’ll tell you now a story which is very funny. The first day of shooting came, and of course I was nervous. I would lie if I said I wasn’t impressed. I mean, Lars von Trier hiring me to be the king in Medea… And we did the first day of shooting, and we were shooting under the earth, it was a stranded boat, and water, brown water, it was like sepia pictures. All the actors from the Royal Theatre were standing there. I was a real bear by now, long hair, and I turned around and Lars said, “Stop! Stop!” And I was so nervous, I turned around and said, “What is it?” He said, “I forgot, we have a star. You’re the king, I gave you a horse, the symbol of masculinity, two dogs that high. Just be a tired king.” And that’s the only direction I ever got in 20 years. 

Other films I did with Lars—Dancer In The Dark, Breaking The Waves—I never, never asked him for direction, because I never forgot what he said to me: “Be a tired king.” It always works.

AVC: You mentioned that there were great similarities between Lars von Trier and Guy Maddin. What are they?

UK: Guy and Lars are lovers of technology. That’s why in Medea, the first film I did with Lars, there was a lot of, for example, footsteps of myself in the sand, and the camera was above, and you can see that the wind is blowing away the footsteps. And it’s like, now, working with Guy, he also uses a lot of technology, back projection, front projection, or whatever. I mean having the technique play a very important role in their films. For example, the film with Lars von Trier, Europa, was back and front projection, and they had also pre-shot films. Barbara Sukowa, who plays my sister, she goes to the train, and you see on the screen, she never actually went to that train. And so it’s very similar.

And Guy is shooting here in a factory where they made busses; Lars shoots now, next week—and also did Dogville and Manderlay—in a big hall where they used to make trains. So it’s kind of a transportation thing.


The Kingdom
(1994), The Kingdom II (1997)—“Aage Krüger”

AVC: While we’re on the subject of Lars von Trier, tell me about The Kingdom.

UK: There was a door, a hospital door. There was, on the floor, some blood—a trail of blood from a little baby.

AVC: And were you that baby?

UK: Of course the baby was me, and I was tied up in computer cords on the floor, and I didn’t know what I had to say, and finally I said, in Danish, “Mor, hvor var de,” which means “Mother, where were you?”


My Own Private Idaho
(1991)—“Hans”

UK: I was in Berlin, and I saw a film by the name of Mala Noche. And I thought “Wow. Wow, wow, wow. How independent can you get?” Then I went to a party and I met Gus Van Sant. He came to me and he said, “You know, you are one of my favorite actors. I’m making a movie with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, and I would like that you play, if you like, Hans.” Of course, if you’re German, your name in films is always Hans. Simple. If you make a film in Japan, your name is Hans-man. I thought, “Ah, I like him.” Very intelligent man. 

So I said, “Okay. Here’s my address.” A couple of weeks later, I got— this was not the time of e-mail, and not even faxes. So he sent me the script, I read the script, and I was scared, I was so scared, thinking, “I have to go to bed with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix?” My friends back in Germany said, “Fuck you! They are teenage idols in America! Every American actor would love to be able to do that!” Then I wrote Gus back. I love Gus, because he’s the one who got me my work permit, and he’s the reason that I’m living in America.

So it was very funny, and I said, “Okay, I’m coming.” I wrote him saying, “I just found a suitcase at a flea market, and Hans should have a suitcase.” I brought all my clothes, and I said to him, “Hans should be always dressed very high, should cover his body,” because I knew I had to be naked to have sex with Keanu Reeves. Amazing to have sex with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix! So I came to Idaho, and I was sitting in a restaurant with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix, and Gus introduced me, and River was amazing. He said, “Hans, sit next to me!” And Keanu didn’t understand anything. Anyway, to make the story short, I made the film and I had a great time.

Blade (1998)—“Dragonetti”

AVC: Tell me about Blade. What did you do in that one?

UK: I like the way you say, “What did you do in that one?” Of course I didn’t do anything in “that one.” I was hired to be the overlord vampire. The director was Stephen Norrington, British guy, and I went to an audition, which I hate. Audition is the worst thing. It’s like cleaning furniture in a department store. Anyway, I was sitting in the corridor, and there were people up for the same part as me, and I heard through the glass door [bellowing Master Thespian voice], “I was born like a vampire!” And I thought to myself, “Oh my god, I better leave. Could I go to the store and buy an ice cream? And maybe I’ll buy a chair from Eames. Maybe I’ll make myself happy.” Then I thought, “Well, anyway, I’m here, so fuck it.” So I went inside. Steve Norrington was sitting there. I said, “I wasn’t born as a vampire, just let’s do it like a stock broker.” And I did the scene and he said, “Okay, I think you are all right.” So I made the movie. So I was born as a vampire! With Wesley!


End Of Days
(1999)—“Head Priest”

AVC: What was it like working with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

UK: You mean the Governor? Right! I worked with him on—was it End Of Days? Yes, I think it was. Arnold, if you would ever listen to this, I will always protect you, because people are stupid to think that you are just muscles. I’m sure your wife wouldn’t have married you just because of your muscles. You are a cool man, and I will see you again, man.


Shadow Of The Vampire
(2000)—“Albin Grau”

UK: Shadow Of The Vampire was a film we shot in Luxembourg with Willem Dafoe, and Malkovich playing Murnau, and I played the producer, Albin Grau. It was with Eddie Izzard, some very interesting British actors in it. Personally, I’m not an ensemble actor, because it’s always a lot of ego when you’re all together in the scene. It’s kind of intellectual fighting for something. But it was very good, and I was only jealous that I didn’t play the vampire, Nosferatu, which Willem Dafoe played, and he was nominated for the Oscar for his performance, which was an amazing performance. But the actor’s always as good as the stories are. And so many important things, there is the light, there is the costumes, the makeup, there’s the text, there’s so many elements which the actor himself cannot control. But the script is the most important thing. First of all the story, and then you go from there. You know, it’s like you stand in the kitchen, and say are we making a fish or do we grill a steak? And you go from there.

Shadow Of The Vampire was an okay film. You never know. I made so many films I thought were great and they turned out horrible, and I made films I did not believe in at all, and Shadow Of The Vampire was one of these films I did not believe in during the shooting. And then when I saw it I was surprised what they had made out of it. They edited for quite a long time. I like Willem. I did with Willem Manderlay, and I did with Willem My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, last year, a David Lynch production. And he’s a wonderful actor, a good actor and a wonderful person.


Megiddo: The Omega Code 2
(2001)—“The Guardian”

UK: Ah, well that was just a commercial film.


Masters Of Horror: John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns
(2005)—“Bellinger”

UK: When I did the Masters Of Horror and they told me, “All the directors want to work with you.” I said, “Who are they?” They said, “John Carpenter, Argento, Romero…” I said, “I want John Carpenter.” And I met him for a coffee at Musso & Frank’s at Hollywood Boulevard. It was just a coffee. And we talked two minutes, it was just like a presentation, and he said, “Yeah, you got the part.” I said, “What do I have to do?” He said, “You have to open your stomach and pull out your intestines to the projector and you have to press the button.” And I said, “Great! Wow! How did you come up with that idea?” You seen the film? I’m a collector, a billionaire who collects films, and a guy comes, who I hire, and I offer him $20,000 to find me a special film. When they were showing that film in Spain, the cinema was burning down. So I’m fascinated and I pay him the money to get me that film. So at the end he gets me the film and I open the package and take the film like a cake. I’m rich, I’m a millionaire, and I have my own projection. So I put it down in the projection room and I take a knife and open my stomach and take my sausages out, and into the projector and I press the button. And it runs, it goes “flup, flup, flup.” And the blood is running down!


BloodRayne
(2005)—“Regal Monk”

UK: Uwe Boll! Hello! Uwe Boll! I got a call from Uwe Boll. And of course my reaction, like all the actors do all the time, I said, “Who’s in the movie?” And he said “Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez, Geraldine Chaplin, Mr. Whoever,” and I said, “Okay!” And I made the movie. And I like Ben Kingsley, because I like the fact that Variety wrote, after the movie, that Ben Kingsley should give back his Oscar after that movie.


Grindhouse
(Werewolf Women Of The S.S. trailer) (2007)—“Franz Hess”

YK: Rob Zombie was doing the short films, and they asked me if I would like to do it and I said okay. They said, “It’s Nicolas Cage and you.” And we did it, which was very excessive—two days of craziness. Rob Zombie’s very intellectual-crazy, and I like people like that. No stupid craziness. It was the first time in my life I put the Nazi uniform on. I learned something, when you have this uniform on, why people were so evil and used their power. Because it’s a very powerful uniform, it’s like boots and black and silver and skeletons everywhere, on your hat, on your shoulder.

I never saw Grindhouse. I only saw the short film. I said to Rob Zombie, “It’s a pity you’re doing Halloween,” and he said, “Yeah, I know.” A week later I got a call from the producer, who said, “You will get a nice call from Rob Zombie. He created a doctor, the head doctor, in Halloween for you.” Which was a remake, of course, of John Carpenter. And I was put in, and when the film was too long, I was put out. And I was a little bit disappointed. So he invited me to a concert he did in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, singing, and I said, “Ach…” Anyway, I went. He said, “Nicolas Cage is also coming.” So I went there, and I never had been to the stadium, it was sold out. It was Ozzy singing and him. And before the concert started, all of a sudden all the monitors were showing the short film. And at the beginning, I didn’t know that, it says, “Starring Udo Kier and Nicolas Cage!” So I was very proud, and he made up for Halloween.

So that was Grindhouse. I never met Tarantino, we never talked. And after Grindhouse everyone said, “Why are you not in Inglourious Basterds? He must know you because he saw you in the film, and you got paid by him.” Sometimes in this business there’s intrigues going on. There’s a casting agent who doesn’t like you… But the only role I could have played in Inglourious Basterds was played by a wonderful German actor who got the Oscar, and so I’m happy. I could have done it too; not like him, in a different way. But I thought he gave an amazing performance. He did it with so much pleasure, and I thought he did it very well. We have the same agent.


My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
(2009)—“Lee Meyers”

UK: Werner Herzog, I knew him for so many years, when Fassbinder was at his highest moment. But we had a rule: An actor from Fassbinder could never work with an actor of Werner Herzog or Wim Wenders. Because if we would have done that, we would have been spies. “Ah, you worked with Werner—how was it? How did he direct you?” I was Fassbinder’s actor. Then, when Fassbinder died, many years ago, Werner Herzog offered me to be a part in Invincible, with a wonderful actor, Tim Roth. I love Tim Roth. I always love good actors.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done was a compromise, because I had a contract with [Alejandro] Jodorowsky for a lot of money to do a film called King Shot, with Asia Argento, Jeff Bridges, and Marilyn Manson! Hello Marilyn, I love you! I thought the cast was amazing. Marilyn Manson, Jeff Bridges, Asia Argento, Udo Kier, in a film being gangsters under the sea. And somehow, I don’t know what happened… I had a written contract! I could sue them. But, you know, intellectual people, you don’t sue. It’s like a worm getting killed on the way to the top. So who likes to be a worm being killed on the way to the top? So I said fuck it, and they said okay, we offer you in exchange a David Lynch production, Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done.

AVC: You seem to go back and forth between horror films and what you might call “intellectual” films. Is that something you do on purpose, and do you have a preference?

UK: The thing is, which is very funny, is that people, when I walk around, even in Winnipeg, the people who recognize me immediately were concerned with Blade, or the bad guy. The vampire or the bad guy, that’s what people do remember. Lars von Trier, like Guy Maddin, their films are made for a group of exclusive people who like special films. And they are special films, they are art films. And I started with commercial films at the beginning, and later on, because you know, when you are an actor, you have the same cliché like everybody else, you want to be in big films, you want to be known and all that.

So I started with this, and then in ’73, when Paul Morrissey discovered me to play Frankenstein in 3-D… I talked to him today, I called him in New York, and I talked to him for a while and said, “You should bring out the film again, everybody is in the fever of 3-D, and you made already a 3-D horror film in ’73.” He said “Ach, that was different. Now they want to use the technology of flying wolves turning into people.” So the Andy Warhol films, they set a—before that I never made a real horror film, except Mark Of The Devil, which is still today available in a video store.

So it wasn’t actually me who decided that. When you’re a young actor, you’re happy that you work; when you start out you don’t say, “I wait now for Steven Spielberg or David Lynch.” You start out and you start working, and later on… I was very lucky in my life and my career, that I knew Fassbinder. Fassbinder I knew when I was 15, but all the other people besides Fassbinder, like Gus, I met at a party in Berlin; Lars I met at a festival in Mannheim… So I was very, very lucky. I don’t do that on purpose.

But now the time comes that I decided I only will do art films, basically. In a way, very similar to Isabella Rossellini. I prefer to work only with people like Lars von Trier or Guy Maddin or Gus Van Sant, just to name a few. But also there’s bills to pay, and sometimes you have to make a movie. So my decision from now on is art movies, or movies which are commercial, but for real money. That is my decision.

If you go into a forest of film stories, you never can get right through the forest straight ahead; you always have to make some U-turns or whatever, because there’s some trees in the way. And that’s what I’m doing. Sometimes, as an actor, if you make only these intellectual, wonderful films, which I love, from time to time you have to make a film like Armageddon so people see that you’re still around.

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