We were far from any ocean, but there we were, talking to a U-Boat commander. Jürgen Prochnow, star of Das Boot (and many other… fascinating films, like Wing Commander and House of the Dead), was dolled up in his beermeister outfit, chatting with the assembled web journalists on the set of Beerfest, the latest film from comedy troupe Broken Lizard.
On the day that we were visiting the set Jürgen was the center of attention as he rode a carriage (which looks like it’s supposed to be horse-drawn, although there were no horses on premises) through throngs of extras dressed up as adoring Germans, waving beer steins and huge pretzels. The scene was the opening of Oktoberfest, and Jürgen was on his way to tap the ceremonial keg.
But it’s Albuquerque, not Munich, and behind Jürgen and the carriage loomed a giant, scrub-covered mountain. The CGI boys are going to have some work to do on this one, making sure that the deserts of New Mexico can pass for Deutschland.
Read Part One of the set visit by clicking here. Check back in a couple of days for Parts Three and Four!
Q: Who do you play in Beerfest?
Prochnow: My character is the great beer baron of Munich and owns one of the greatest breweries in Munich. And of course that means real wealth because if you know how much money beer is and how much beer people drink and consume every year…so very influential person. And he opens always the Oktoberfest inside of the story and so that means tapping the keg. The ceremonial keg. And that’s a very important duty. You mustn’t spill any drop there otherwise it’s bad luck for the Oktoberfest. And we’ve got a guy there, his [character’s] great grandson, telling him about the whole thing and that’s the opening of the movie.
Q: Are you a fan of these guys? Have you seen their previous films?
Prochnow: Yeah, I’ve seen the SuperTroopers. And yeah, I like them very much. That’s why I’m doing this.
Q: Do you play it straight or is it really silly?
Prochnow: No, I think I try to play it as straight as possible because the situations are really funny and I think you have to go for the character and take it really seriously otherwise it’s not funny anymore.
Q: They seem to like to take very respectable actors like Brian Cox and make them do silly things. Have they asked you to do anything unusual?
Prochnow: Not really, no. For example, as you probably know, I did a movie years back, Das Boot. And I was the captain in that movie and we had a little U-boat scene in [this] movie.
Q: Have they been doing a good job of recreating Germany?
Prochnow: Yeah, definitely, in terms of costume, everything is really authentic.
Q: Did you give any advice on how people might act?
Prochnow: Yeah, of course, I can help a little bit because I’ve seen it all. I’ve lived there in Munich a couple of years so I know how it feels and what it is like. I’ve been to the Oktoberfest many times and I know all about the Bavarian stuff.
Q: How are they writing the German characters?
Prochnow: This is for a comedy, of course, sometimes it’s supposed to be over the top a little bit, which is necessary for a comedy. So we have five German guys in lederhosen here and they’re all my great grandsons. [laughs] That’s very funny. And they’re my team and the drinking team here.
Q: Is there any German with subtitles?
Prochnow: There’s some German dialogue in there with subtitles, yeah. I’ll speak some German, they asked me to. I even translated my own scene once into German.
Q: How’s Jay as a director?
Prochnow: Very nice, very nice guy to work with. I mean, they have been together for many years. And then they’re writing scripts together and so they know what they want to do. And everybody’s here almost every day, [and they know] what they’re doing. It’s nice to work with them.
Q: And how is the research going? You’re drinking?
Prochnow: Well, me, of course, I mean, I’ve been there so I know about the situations. I’m very well accustomed…
Q: So beer drinking in advance for this?
Prochnow: Beer drinking in advance as a special gift I would say [laughs]
Q: What does the movie beer taste like?
Prochnow: What do you mean?
Q: They have to use fake beer, right?
Prochnow: For drinking purposes, there’s all kinds of different techniques they’re using but they’re mixing stuff, of course. It looks like beer but it isn’t.
Q: I can’t imagine it’s very good, what does it taste like?
Q: How about American beer in general…
Prochnow: [laughs] American beer in general tastes terrible.
Q: You haven’t done many comedies over the years.
Prochnow: No, that’s why I’m doing this. I’m happy to do this because all over the years, I’ve done so many movies but hardly ever a comedy. People generally cast me as the heavy, so this is a nice opportunity.
Q: So do you run the games that they’re doing?
Prochnow: Yes, in the beerfest that is a special invention for the movie. It’s a competition of beer drinking, all kinds of players involved there in an arena like in a boxing arena, very similar to that. A lot of people are watching. And that’s a key to that scene, in a way. And every team has five guys – and I have five German guys in lederhosen – and there are teams from all over the world – Eskimos – and there’re all kinds of different techniques to drink beer.
Q: Do they actually have beer drinking contests at the real Oktoberfest?
Prochnow: Well, I would say they make it up themselves. If you watch the Australians over there, for example, or the U.S. guys or the Italians or whatever, you know, it’s just hilarious, what they drink, it’s unbelievable. And the Bavarians as well, you know, [laughs]
Q: What’s been the most fun sequence for you to shoot?
Prochnow: Well, I would say that it was the beerfest scenes that were really very very funny. And then the U-boat scene for me personally…
Q: Besides tapping the keg, what else do you do in the movie?
Prochnow: My part is in the opening scenes and then the training scenes. Oh, that was a funny scene as well – training my guys for the beer drinking competition with computers and high tech and everything, watching it like a trainer, a coach, coaching them how to do the best that they can.
Q: Is there a lot of ad-libbing?
Prochnow: A little bit. I think more with those guys. But sometimes with me as well.
Q: You like doing that? You like ad-libbing?
Prochnow: Yeah, yeah, I do. The other day we had a scene in a cab here and it was a lot of inventing scenes, start a dialogue in there, it was fun.