With a career spanning over five decades, German actor Udo Kier has seen it all. To casual observers, he's likely best known for his scene-stealing roles in blockbusters like Blade, End of Days, and Armageddon. He's also famous for being a favorite recurring player in the films of auteur directors like Gus Van Sant, S. Craig Zahler, and Lars Von Trier. Still another generation of movie fans know him for his hugely influential turns in the Andy Warhol-produced films Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula, as well as iconic Italian horror films like Suspiria.
Udo Kier's latest film is the science fiction comedy sequel, Iron Sky: The Coming Race. An irreverent joyride through a post-apocalyptic Earth, this film has everything: Moon Nazis, dinosaurs chases, lizard people, a religion based on Steve Jobs, and a jolly sense of unbridled imagination. Kier stars in a dual role, reprising his role from the original film, and playing a humanoid reptilian version of history's most infamous villain, Adolf Hitler.
Speaking to Screen Rant about Iron Sky: The Coming Race, Udo Kier shared his thoughts on the Iron Sky films, including his love of Charlie Chaplin's classic scathing satire, The Great Dictator. He dishes about the unlikely meeting which led to his career-defining roles in Warhol's gloriously campy horror films, and talks about how, for the sake of the art, he doesn't like to reach out to directors looking for roles... No matter how badly he wishes to work with one director in particular.
First of all, you're an actor who can do anything. Over the last fifty years or so, you've done it all. You've done psychedelic horror and straight Italian terror, intimidating bad guys and gay role models. You can play anyone. In your acting, do you have a type of character you like to play, or are you an actor because you get to don so many different personalities?
Well, let's take, for example, the film I did, Bacurau, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes festival this year. It was the script. When I read the script, if I think it's interesting for me to play that part, then I meet the director, then I meet everybody. If I think it's something which is memorable... You know, I don't want to waste my time by being in a movie where nobody remembers my part. That's not interesting at all! Sometimes, for example, Lars Von Trier is a friend, and we've been working together for many years (1987's Epidemic was their first collaboration). Sometimes, when he makes movies, he offers me a part. But all the parts, from Breaking the Waves to Melancholia, the people always remember them. They're all something different.
Where are you hanging out right now?
I'm in Ohio. I'm working here, on a movie. We finished our first week yesterday, and we have two more weeks to go. It's been a very interesting week, because I've never been here before. Everything is going wonderful.
You mentioned working with Lars Von Trier, and there are a lot of directors with whom you've collaborated many times. Gus Van Sant, S Craig Zahler... This usually means they like you, right? I mean, for Lars, you're the godfather of his child, right?
So, these directors whom you work with many times, do you become friends? Do you try to bond while you're making a movie, or does it come after, how does your social life and work life mix together?
People want to meet me, I think. As I recall... I live in Palm Springs, and Alexander Payne called and said "hello, I would like to come to Palm Springs to have lunch with you." And he did, and a couple of days later, I made a contract to be in Downsizing, with the wonderful actor, Christoph Waltz. And that's how it works. I've never asked a director, "I'd like to work with you." Not even David Lynch, whom I'd like to work with! It's the director who decides it, not the actor. I want a director to send me a script, with me in mind.
Let's talk about Iron Sky. Over your career, you've done a lot of wild stuff, but I think – I think – this is the first time you've gotten to ride a T. Rex.
Yes. I was in Iron Sky, the first one, and I liked it very much. I liked the technology being used. The technology has such power. I liked that. And we became friends. (with director Timo Vuorensola.) And when I learned he planned Iron Sky: The Coming Race, I could play a double role. I wanted to play my role of Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, and I also wanted to play the role of Adolf Hitler. It was an amazing thing because, my whole career, over the years, I have played Adolf Hitler a few times. But I never play a serious Hitler. It is always comedy. Whenever I play a comedy Adolf Hitler, I always think of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. What he did, it was so brilliant. It's a lot of fun to play comedy.
It must be interesting for you, in particular, playing Hitler in a comedy, since the hospital you were born in was bombed just hours after your birth near the end of World War II.
Yes, two hours later. My mother told me that when I was 14 or 15. It is a true story, a true fact. I was born, and the nurse was collecting all the newborn babies to clean them up. My mother said, "can I have him a little bit longer?" And the nurse said, "okay, okay." Then, a little later, the babies were lying all on one table, and my mother saw the wall coming down, and the nurse was jumping over all the babies to protect them, and everybody was dead. My mother was lucky that her bed was in the corner, which was a little stronger. She held me with one hand, and with the other hand, she made a hole in the rubble. Sometimes, I have that vision, of a fallen down building with a hand sticking out and waving for help. She was freed, with me. I was two hours old.
That's incredible. Is there anything else you can tell us about Iron Sky?
The interesting part about Iron Sky was crowdfunding. It was financed in a very special new way. Timo Vuorensola is an amazing, concentrated person who was able to make this comedy. When I saw the film for the first time, I liked it very much. And we already did Iron Sky 3 (Iron Sky: The Ark) in China, with Andy Garcia and myself. There will be many Iron Skies! I think, from the first one, we shot in Australia, in Brisbane. The second one, we shot in Belgium, in a studio. It's amazing, how we shot the film. Everything in the studio is all green, it's all green screen, and everything is going to be added in afterwards. The actors have to work with storyboards to see exactly what is where so we can look in the right direction!
The end result is seamless. It was so good, and so much fun. I can't wait to see how they handle part 3!
I can't tell you, it's a secret. But Iron Sky: The Coming Race, let's hope it will be well-received!
When you were a young actor in the early 1970s, you starred in the Paul Morrissey Frankenstein and Dracula movies, as part of that whole New York City Andy Warhol scene. I live in New York, and I walk past both of the Factory locations in Midtown and Union Square, I walk past those buildings all the time. Could you tell me a little bit about how you wound up in in NYC and met that whole crew?
I was in an airplane from Rome to Munich, sitting next to a man. We started talking, and he asked, "what do you do?" I said, "I'm an actor," and I showed him a picture right away, like actors do when they're starting their career. He said, "Give me your number," so I wrote down my number, and I said to him, "Who are you?" And he said, "I am Paul Morrissey. I work for Andy Warhol." Andy Warhol, at that time, everybody talked about him in Germany because Trash and Flesh were very well received; they were totally different from independent films. A couple of weeks later, I got a call, "Hey, it's Paul from New York! Remember me? I'm doing a little film from Carlo Ponti, we're gonna shoot at Cinecittà in Rome, it's Frankenstein in 3D. I have a little role for you." I said, "Great, what do I play?" He said, "Frankenstein." That's how that first film happened. It was one production, but they were doing two films. Carlo Ponti produced both films. The camera man, set designer, everything stayed the same for both Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula. And then, after I did Frankenstein, they wanted me to do Dracula. I got involved, and then, of course, Andy Warhol came, many times to the set. We took pictures together, and talked. We were all living in one villa, all together, in Via Appia Antica, the oldest street in Rome. Then, of course, I visited them for New Year's Eve in New York, and met all the Warhol people, all the people who were working for Warhol.
It's been an honor, and so much fun to talk to you. You're an inspiration, so thanks so much for giving us your time like this.
Thank you very much.
Vertical Entertainment will release IRON SKY: THE COMING RACE in theaters and on digital / demand July 19, 2019.