Jörg Buttgereit interviews Udo Kier!
Following on our interview with Buttgereit in FANGO # 323, the NEKROMANTIK director gives us the English-language exclusive of an interview he conducted with genre legend Udo Kier upon the release of IRON SKY, wherein the two Germans offer insights on the popularity of Nazis in exploitation cinema.
We always knew this. The Nazis live behind the Moon. On the dark side of the Earth’s satellites some of Adolf’s top companions have escaped in the Reich’s flying saucers. In 2018 they were accidentally discovered by a US Moon mission and were forced to lust after world domination again.
When the Zeppelin spaceships of the Moon Nazis are gliding through the universe accompanied by the bombastic score of the Slovenian Industrial-prehistoric-rock band Laibach, you are aware of the subversive potential of a film which seizes the Fascist aesthetic in a carefree way. The appropriation and desecration of Nazi symbols by youth and subculture has not been understood in Germany, and has been forbidden due to ignorance. Tasteless Nazi exploitation classics like the 70s ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS or GESTAPO’S LAST ORGY were never shown in Germany. This could have been due to the fear of the German investors, or angry reactions to the power of certain pictures, which have moved the Finnish director Timo Vuorensola to stray from too much political correctness with slabs of silliness in his first work, IRON SKY. But a tasteless joke can only catch fire if you don’t apologize for it straight away.
Those glassy blue-green eyes immediately put a spell on you: Udo Kier, the German Superstar of the international Underground, sits in Salon Wannsee in the Ritz Carlton, Berlin to promote the premiere of IRON SKY. The peerless German actor, born in 1944 in Cologne-Mühlheim has never attended a drama school and yet he has starred in at least 300 movies, and has stood in front of the camera with all – really all – the biggest Hollywood stars. He watched IRON SKY himself for the first time at the Berlinale. “On principle, I do not preview my movies. I don’t even watch the dailies during shooting. I only look at myself, and I never like what I see. It only makes me feel insecure.”
Just over 20 years ago he starred in Gus Van Sant’s MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO as the perverse German Hans, who goes to bed with the hustlers River Phoenix und Keanu Reeves. That was his first improvised role in Hollywood. Back then a girlfriend had convinced him to stay. Since then he has lived in a small villa in Los Angeles with his two dogs. “I never had a dream to own a swimming pool, to drink tea with Joan Collins or have a trainer like Schwarzenegger,” he says. Kier eventually became big thanks to German films. He has starred in many films by Fassbinder and Schlingensief and is a favourite of Lars von Trier. Anyway, Udo Kier is everywhere.
Last year I met Mr. Kier at the “Weekend of Horrors” in Bottrop. We sat beside each other in the multi-purpose hall signing autographs for horror fans. Mr. Kier, a real Diva in the best sense of the word, was infuriated by the fact that his international colleagues at the other tables were shamelessly asking 20 Euros for one autograph, while he was diligently signing for nothing: “I am not a hustler.”
Genre fans love Udo Kier, but not just because his autographs are for free. At the beginning of the 70s, he equally shocked all the world’s smut film fans and art-house lovers with his excessive lead roles in ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA (aka BLOOD FOR DRACULA) and ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN (aka FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN). “To know death, you have to fuck life in the gallbladder!” he improvised as Baron Frankenstein before mounting the reanimated body of a beautiful sliced-up woman, thus putting his words into action. Larger than life exploitation cinema, even back then – with many entrails hanging out in 3D.
“Never in my life have I asked a director for a role,” Kier asserts. “That just doesn’t work. Directors want to feel like they have discovered you.” Madonna discovered the smart-looking Udo for her video “Deeper and Deeper” and her Coffee table book “Sex”. Kier swears to not know the Diva at all, only having starred in the video to make millions of men jealous.
Even Nazi roles like the Moon Führer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch in IRON SKY are tailor-made for Kier. “I have already played the Führer many times,” he says. “For example, in 100 YEARS OF ADOLF HITLER: THE LAST HOUR IN THE FUHRER’S BUNKER by Christoph Schlingensief. But for these roles I have never had to seriously deal with the character of Adolf Hitler. It was all comedy, in which I could serve up the cliché. In IRON SKY I didn’t want to constantly lift my right arm and bark. Also, in order to prepare myself for the role of Kortzfleisch I concocted the backstory that the German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun really liked my mother and therefore launched her and the other Nazis to the moon at the end of World War II. She was heavily pregnant and gave birth to me on the moon. Of course, all Nazis wanted to go to bed with my beautiful mother, and they always spoiled me, the baby, with chocolate. Everybody loved me, which is why I later became the Führer. I have laid out this little story for myself. Wolfgang Kortzfleisch lives on the Moon, alone, with his supporters. He has no enemies and no responsibilities whatsoever. He only plays the role of the Führer. Like a child.”
As so often happens, Kier’s role in IRON SKY is far too small and he dies too early. Often small, independent productions can only afford a world-famous star like Kier for a couple of days and still benefit from his name. But Kier shows off his solidarity: “Budgets are of no interest to me. I don’t want to talk about that. I have received my fee. I can assure you of that. And I cannot remember the number of shooting days. I was standing in a large studio somewhere in Australia looking at a white cross above, on a green wall. I was assured that that was a spaceship. I find my departure as Kortzfleisch on the roof of a New York skyscraper really wonderful. And there is something you do not know yet. I will appear in the sequel. I am not dead at all. I have this syringe in my bag which I inject myself with, and then I fly like a newborn Superman from the roof, directly onto the White House. Well, hello!”
I give a questioning look to the producer of IRON SKY who also sits at the Salon. But he shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. And if nothing will come out of IRON SKY 2*, and as Udo Kier will never ask, I want to take the opportunity to appeal to the producers of the next Bond film to take Mr. Kier up as the Bond villain. For inexplicable reasons, he has not played one yet.
Originally written by Jörg Buttgereit for German Magazine Tip Berlin / Exclusive English translation by Aerandir Baiza
IRON SKY 2 is indeed in the works, and has an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign with 28 days to go, which you can see and donate to HERE: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iron-sky-the-coming-race