Uwe Boll is happier than any man has a right to be. The Teutonic wonder of directing carved 20 minutes or so out of his busy schedule to talk with me, and while we went all over his career and his critics, I was struck by how gosh darn plucky the guy seems. His infamous email missives to critics and outlandish stunts (cue Rocky theme) condition you to expect a more confrontational and volcanic fellow. That guy just didn’t show up during our chat, and I got the distinct feeling that he realizes how lucky he is to be able to make films, regardless of how shaky they turn out. After all, this is a guy, like Albert Pyun before him, that absolutely loves movies, and while he’s never cranked out anything better than a turkey (critically and financially speaking) I’d always rather watch people with their heart in it take a stab at it rather than enduring well-polished, cynical studio hackery from the Shawn Levy and Adam Shankman-types.
Admittedly, I’ve always liked the guy despite havin’ a laugh or two (thousand) at his expense. Maybe it’s the German accent (and as funny as some of the grammatically incorrect bits below may seem to read, imagine hearing them in his distinct brogue…). It’s hard not to respect a man with so much seemingly against him find a way to do what he loves anyway. It’s even harder not to respect a guy that isn’t totally oblivious to his shortcomings and seeks to grow beyond where he is now in terms of being a filmmaker. Granted, the direct-to-DVD release of Bloodrayne 2 (It hits stores September 18) will do little to boost those efforts. Whatever you thought of him before, this movie will do nothing to change your mind. But perhaps this chat just might…
Thanks for taking the time to speak to me, Dr. Boll. Since BloodRayne 2 is your latest, it’s the obvious starting point. In watching it, it became obvious to me that you really, really, really wanted to make a Western, so why make it a BloodRayne movie also?
It was my wish to make a Western and to do an homage to the Italian western of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone with the music and do the second part of BloodRayne. When I bought BloodRayne, I planned it as a trilogy where the first part would be in the 1700s, the second part – she had to go to the Wild West – and then the third part, of course, in the second World War where the game took place.
But it seems odd to make a vampire story with real life figure likes Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett…
Yeah, but I thought it’s a cool idea to use the legendary stories of the West, and to bring BloodRayne in along with the Brimstone Society. We saw that story told over and over again…I don’t know when the first Billy the Kid movie was made, but it was, of course, maybe a silent movie already in the 20s…like an old western. They told that story 40 or 50 times. To show it again with vampires is a new point of view.
Fair enough. I notice you reuse actors a lot and the same people will pop up in two or three consecutive films of yours like Michael Paré. Do you grab these people for that specific purpose?
Well, if I like an actor, I always try to use him again in movies. The funny thing about Michael Paré is that he survived the first BloodRayne – he was Iancu, the weapons dealer – and then I thought using him again here as a good guy brings a connection to the first part in a way. Especially because we changed the BloodRayne actress – Kristanna Loken couldn’t do it because she shot Painkiller Jane and had no time. Chris Coppola, Zack Ward, Chris Spencer, Jim Robinson…they are all in Postal, and because I like those guys so much, I made the decision that I want to hire them for BloodRayne 2 also.
You’re notorious for having problems with online critics and take a LOT of heat here in America. But I would say that even some of those critics are at least entertained. Does that bother you that they are entertained on some level, but slag your films anyway?
No, I am happy if they say at least it’s entertaining, right? It’s better this way than saying they are completely crap. On the other hand, I think a lot of online reviews were like trying only to damage me without even looking at the movies. This is the point where I went upset with critics – they don’t see the movies at all, they bash the movie way before it is out, and they go on IMDB and vote every movie with, like, one point way before the movie is out. I don’t still know why IMDB open my movies for votes six months before the movie comes out. They don’t do that with any other director on Earth. They do that only with me because they know there are a lot of Boll-haters…they go there and they write on the message board and give it one point. They did that with Postal, In the Name of the King, and with BloodRayne 2. I think this is totally absurd. It’s absurd that IMDB is accepting this…I think someone at IMDB is part of the Boll-bashers! But this is a different subject matter…
But looking back, don’t you think you deserve some of the criticism with some of your films?
Absolutely! I think that from the normal critics, I learned a lot in regard of House of the Dead, for example…and Alone in the Dark. I think from BloodRayne on, we spent way more time and money in the project development, and we attracted a lot of big, big actors for that project. If the script was so bad, why we got all of the actors? For example, Gwyneth Turner (Guinevere Turner)…she wrote American Psycho and BloodRayne. I think that without that bashing and bad reviews…I would maybe not grow as a filmmaker. From this point of view, I learned and got better, definitely. This is the good side of that bashing. That’s not an excuse for writing reviews where people don’t even look at the movie. This is the thing…what is pissing me off. Of course, you can criticize any movie.
A common criticism for your films is that your movies are thrown together. You quickly acquire a videogame property, slap together a basic script, then make it cheaply using a lot of the same casts.
I don’t think that it’s true, to be honest. Only because I shot a lot of movies, I have a big operation going on. In the last three or four years, I have almost 200 people working on my movies, non-stop. At the same time, we put a lot of effort into the script development. In Far Cry, the movie we just shot, we developed two and half years of script. And Dungeon Siege got very, very good reader reviews in all of the big agencies – William Morris, CAA, ICM. This is the reason we got all of the stars for [it]. I think this is the result that we spent more money and time on script development. [Dungeon Siege] took two and a half years to finish with 1300 CGI shots and one and a half years of post-production. It took so long because we weren’t happy with the quality of some CGI, so we replaced it all and hired companies like The Orphanage, that did Pirates of the Caribbean 2, to finish. I think I work non-stop and have a very good crew – a very good DP and producer that takes care of a lot of stuff. Because we work in a bigger group mean not that we put something together in a hurry. There’s a reason why In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale took two and a half years to get into the theater. Of course, Postal and Seed…I wrote both, produced both, and directed both.
So I don’t think that this critic is adequate, but on the other hand, if you have a movie like BloodRayne, for example, it was a good script, with a good cast and the movie looks good. But we faced problems in Romania we couldn’t handle. Michael Madsen was always drunk and he couldn’t even hold a sword. So now you need a stunt double for him – the Romanian stunt people were not so good. You don’t get, in Romania, a perfect crew to do it. There were problems in BloodRayne that made a few scenes not really perfect. It was one of the reasons the next big epic movie (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale) was shot in Canada. We could control it better and had a better crew. But it’s not like we don’t care, and I put movies together on a monthly basis. This is absolutely not the case.
The other observation regarding you is that your movies are money losers in America, yet you keep finding American theatrical distribution. You just signed a deal for more movies to be released here theatrically through Freestyle Releasing. How do you do that?
I think there are two things we have to see separate. First of all, House of the Dead with $10.8 million box office made money. It was $7 million to make that movie. Lionsgate shipped one and half million DVDs. This made it happen that Alone in the Dark came out and made only $5.8 million or whatever box office. But it shipped also 1.2-1.3 million DVDs. Alone in the Dark, compared to House of the Dead, was very successful theatrically in Italy, Spain, Russia, Middle East, Thailand…and the whole Eastern Europe territories. But in the US, it was definitely a money loser. But I think the only reason that there are, let’s say, more theatrical releases after BloodRayne – we didn’t get the screens. We were scheduled for 2,000 screens and Lionsgate moved Hostel against us four weeks before. Theaters dropped our movie, and we didn’t have a real opportunity for theatrical success. I cannot really judge this under the same point of view. The reason why Postal gets a release or Dungeon Siege does is that the movies are way, way better than everything I did before. [In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale] is a $60 million movie with huge stars and huge CGI. We shot it four months, and I had Tony Ching as action director. He did House of Flying Daggers and Hero. The movie is so much better and bigger in quality than what I did. I think Postal is edgy and over-the-top, but it nails the situation in which we are worldwide right now. This is the reason it goes out in a limited platform release to see how it works out that first weekend. If they both don’t work, then I think I don’t have theatrical release chance in USA ever again.
You obviously are someone who appreciates films of different genres and loves making them. Why limit yourself to videogame adaptations?
Absolutely. Seed, my horror movie, is not based on a videogame, and I did that back-to-back with Postal. And Postal…I really turned that videogame into satire. I acquired that game to do something different so that I didn’t repeat horror movies and sci-fi movies forever. On Tunnel Rats, the Vietnam War movie I shot in the beginning of this year in South Africa, we developed a game based on the movie. So I turned that around because I like to do a Vietnam War movie, and then we can make a game based on the movie, and not the other way around. The thing is, I have investors…they like the idea that the movie and game is a combination. To do an original movie…it’s way tougher to finance. I have some good ideas from earlier days to do as original movies, but it’s not so easy compared to Far Cry because Far Cry sold five or six million game copies. To get financing and pre-sales involved in the movie, it’s way easier.
So we’ve talked a lot about criticism and mistakes. Let’s end on a positive note. Which of your works are you proudest of?
The films I most proud of is, first of all, Postal because it works as a comedy, and it was a little like going back to my roots. My very first film was German Fried Movie, what was like Kentucky Fried Movie. I’m really proud of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale because to handle all that stuff and to shoot it on time and on budget and under my full responsibility…what looks like Braveheart or Gladiator and Lord of the Rings…it was a lot of pressure. I think I delivered a very strong movie. This makes me happy as a filmmaker because as my own producer, the pressure is on me. I hope a few people think the same.