Saturday, 2 February 2013

interview: Uwe Boll (2000)

I met German director Uwe Boll at the Cannes market in May 2000. His serial killer film Sanctimony was one of the best movies I saw there, and the following month I interviewed him by e-mail. This interview has never been published.

Very simply: where did the idea for Sanctimony come from?
“From me!”

How did the script change between the first draft and what you shot?
“The story didn't change much but the dialogue did. A German writer cannot write US dialogue. In total there was about 25% of my first draft in the finished screenplay.”

Did you write this with the intention of making an American film, or might it have been made in Germany if circumstances had been different?
“No - I wanted to do an American film.”

How much say did you have in casting?
“I got my favourites. I always wanted Casper Van Dien.”

What was your reaction when Casper said he would prefer to play the killer rather than the policeman?
“Oh, I wanted him as the killer. I could never believe him as a good cop.”

The killer is called ‘Tom Turner’ in the film, but ‘Tom Gerrick’ in the production notes. Why is that?
“Tom Gerrick was my idea for the name but we didn't get the right clearance approval to use that name.”

Although the cast and crew are mostly American, you and the DoP are both German: what aspects of the film (if any) do you think are indicative of the German contribution?
“I don't know because I'm not a typical German film director!”

What differences did you find between making an American movie and making a German movie? And did the cast or crew find any of your working methods different from American directors?
“In the US the teams are bigger and better organised, so you can work faster. You cannot shoot a film like Sanctimony in Germany in five weeks. You need at least seven weeks. I think the actors were happy with me because I didn't interrupt them and they could always show me in rehearsals what they thought about the scene.”

Because of the timing and because they both feature successful, good-looking serial killers, people may compare Sanctimony to American Psycho: how would you respond to such comparisons?
“Tom Turner in Sanctimony has more substance that Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. He is not just interested in how he is looking and what clothes he should wear...”

In your view, does Van Dien’s character have any redeeming qualities, or is he just evil?
“No, in his mind he is the hero. In a lot of his scenes, what he says is true and right. He destroys a company and his boring friends because they are assholes.”

There is a slight hint, near the beginning of the film, that his success may have some connection with Satanism, but that is never followed up. Was that considered as part of his character, or is that just a bit of misdirection?
“That is a bit of editing misdirection.”

I was a little puzzled when the killer came forward as a witness to a murder because it seemed too convenient a way for him to become part of the investigation. Then later I realised that perhaps he was bored with being an anonymous serial killer and wanted to make the whole affair more dangerous, that he was actually taunting the police. What did you intend as his motive for coming forward?
“Exactly what you just said. He finds that just killing people is too boring The police were not able to find him even after thirteen dead people, so he decided that he had to start a new game.”

It is a massive shock for the audience when Smith is murdered because she is an important character who we assume will survive. It’s like Janet Leigh’s death the first time you see Psycho. What were your thoughts on this twist to the story, and did you meet with any resistance to the idea from the producers?
“No, it was always very clear that she must die. But Jennifer Rubin, the actress, was not very happy about that because it means she won’t be in any sequel!”

Why did you use different camera speeds for different parts of the story?
“I like to switch between camera speeds to affect the audience’s feelings. We used speeds from 3 fps to 400 fps. We shot a lot of scenes with four different cameras.”

Some parts of the movie are very sleazy and unpleasant, like the filming of the snuff movie. What was it like to film something so horrific and intense?
“That was shot in the dark atmosphere of the cellar of an old mental hospital. It really was a horrific atmosphere, just like it appears in the film. Although generally it is a lot of fun to shoot dark scenes like that.”

Have you explored similar themes in any of your previous films?
“Yes, my film Run Amok/Amok Lauf was the story of a serial killer. But it was more like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. You don't see any cops in Run Amok and at the end of the film the killer is still very much alive.”

What has been the reaction to Sanctimony from audiences and critics so far?
“You are the first critic to write about it, Mike! But audiences so far have been very happy with the film.”

What are your plans for the future?
“I have scripts called Deadly Trust and Breathe in development right now. I really want to make more American films.”

interview originally posted before November 2004

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