Got a chance to chat with Uwe Boll, a name that requires no introduction to genre fans, now that his straight to DVD BLOODRAYNE II is hitting stores. Say what you will about his movies, but Boll himself is enthusiastic, engaging, and as honest as you can ask of anyone. Hang on for the ride my friends, and yes, I ask him all about Raging Boll (hint: there was in fact an intelligent logic to his challenge).
How you doing tonight?
Fine. While we talk I have to walk my dogs in the rain.
Lucky you. I guess the obvious first question about BloodRayne II is why did you use a different leading lady?
Kristanna (Loken) had signed on to do Painkiller Jane and wouldnít be available for over a year. We didnít want to wait that long so the situation forced us to look out for other actresses. Natassia Malthe was in Electra and DOA and was very convincing in her abilities. She started with ballet and then went into martial arts.
So I thought sheíd be a great BloodRayne with a darker attitude. I was happy to go for a different type rather than just a Loken look-alike. A totally different route.
A route that included an actress who wouldnĎt do nudity.
This was a problem. When you have that typical American behavior, which you donít have with Kristanna because her parents are from Norway. They are used to being naked on the beach during the summer, and you donít have that problem with European actresses very often. But you do with a lot of Americans, even though someone like Tara Reid is going to parties and losing her top.
I was pleasantly surprised by Zack Wardís performance as a villainous and vampiric Billy The Kid. How did that come about?
Heís a very underestimated actor because a lot of times heís played smaller roles and gotten typecast. In Postal (which shot prior to BloodRayne II) he really showed that heís a great lead, kind of a Gary Oldman type. For Billy The Kid, as a vampire, Zack played it very intense.
As opposed to Ben Kingsley whose vampire was very cold - dead for a long time, hardly moving, and hardly showing any emotion at all. Benís vampire just doesnít give a shit because heís been around so long. Zack created a character whoís really into it. He loves killing people.
He even loves killing kids. Was the choice to include that aspect based on creating added intensity?
Absolutely. You only see the actual kill in the Unrated version. We had to cut it for the R-rating because it was a kid. But I thought it was very intense and unusual. Since BloodRayne II is a Western, you couldnít have a gore fest like the first one. So here was an opportunity to give the film an edge. It would have been easy to shoot this as a PG-13 movie, but I didnít want to do it. I wanted to keep the tone of the movie violent.
I thought the Commentary Track had a lot of interesting anecdotes about the challenges of filmmaking. Can you talk some about what you faced with this shoot?
This was a really horrible experience. The plan, since we were all exhausted from shooting Postal and Seed back-to-back, and the weather was bad, was to shoot for about two weeks before Christmas and then finish up in the New Year. But Bordertown, the Wild West town, was rented out in the middle of January so we were forced to shoot it all before Christmas.
5 weeks, nighttime shoot, I always got home about 6 in the morning. My dogs looked like total shit, so I had to wash them outside with freezing cold water before we could go in the house. So when youíre really tired, and all you want is a warm shower and a bed, itís just horrible. Then I get to bed about 7:30 - 8, and then Iím up again at 1, drink some coffee, have breakfast, and then at 3 Iím driving the 1 1/2 hours back to the set.
On set problems were like we had ice rain one day, followed by snow so it was all white, but then the weather changed so weíre bringing in fake snow to make things look right. Then in the middle of the shoot a disaster happened with a gas heater where the hose started burning, and the stunt coordinator was there and tried to take the hose off, but the whole cylinder started burning.
We had to run out of the house and then it exploded shortly after. And in that building, which was the railway station, were all the other gas cylinders as well as all our props. So basically we had to escape the city. Everything burned down, and we couldnít even film it because we didnít know which direction the gasoline might fly out of the roof. So it all burnt down.
It was $600,000 damage and we couldnít shoot for three days. We had to recreate the props, and then we had to shoot a scene of Michael Pareí throwing a torch at the train station after the hanging of BloodRayne. He was trying to distract the people, but mostly it was because we had to explain why the building was gone.
So it was all really horrible, but I think it helps the movie in a way because I think you see that it was a dark and exhausting experience for everyone. A movie like Pathfinder, itís completely fake in the studio, all Styrofoam. They were never near real cold, but you feel it in our movie.
Sounds tough, and hey, if you ever need another stunt coordinator who can accidentally blow up your set and cause massive damage, I could probably handle that for you.
[laughs] No problem.
Is BloodRayne III definitely going to happen, or is it dependent on the DVD sales of the second one?
Well, I hope that the sales go well this weekend because I always wanted to finish the trilogy in the 2nd World War, BloodRayne: War Hammer, just like the game. It will depend on how BloodRayne II does. I have a co-production company in Croatia that is ready to come in with 50% of the budget if I shoot in Croatia. So they have all those tanks and destroyed cities left over from the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia. Itís a perfect location and I really look forward to being able to do that.
Has the alteration of the German Tax Laws affected your ability to finance your movies, even though you were one of the few people using those tax benefits as they were intended?
Absolutely it has affected me. I have to change the whole structure of my company. I went public in Germany and opened up world sales. I also sell movies from other producers and raise more money from private equity, etc. Universal helps by giving me advances for US DVD rights. I have opportunities with Fox in Australia, and Warner Bros in Germany.
I basically know I get ďXĒ amount of dollars per movie, no matter what it costs. That allows me to do decent budget genre films, but to do another 60 or 70 million dollar production like In The Name of the King: Dungeon Siege is almost impossible. Now if one of my movies like Postal or Dungeon Siege makes a lot of money, or a smaller budget film is a surprise hit, then maybe I can work with a larger budget again.
Speaking of Postal, it seems like a very political movie at first blush. Is that your intent or are you just painting a very broad satire of the current state of the world?
It is a comedy. It is a satire. I first played the game and I thought this is hilarious and totally politically incorrect. Just a great story about a loser who wants a job and everything goes wrong. So even though the game is very brutal and bent, I thought it was very funny. And I convinced the games producers to go that route, and they ended up very happy. Because it is still very violent, but we could not play that straight and get it past the MPAA. Weíre able to be much harsher because it is funny. It is an all people offender. Itís a comedy about a loser, but itís also a comedy about the dirty political landscape we live in. Sort of a live action South Park.
Any concerns about facing a fatwa from Bin Laden because of Postal?
In Germany and England there is a problem that some theaters are not showing it because they are afraid of death threats from fundamentalists. On the other hand, this is exactly the reason I made the movie. I mean what are we? Are we all pussies now? We bow down to just a few people and this is how the terrorists achieve their goal.
For instance, in the US, Cinemark and National Amusement are still not playing it. I think itís a scandal, because who should decide what people think. Should the guy from Cinemark, sitting in Kentucky, judge what people should see in Cinemark theaters everywhere in North America? I think no. I think the choice should be with the audience. If the movie bombs you can remove it after one week, which happens with other movies all the time.
I think Postal is too important to get censored by a few people. This is exactly what fundamentalist leaders want. They want us all to be scared without any threat. Nobody has come from the Muslim side to complain about Postal, but everyone gets scared up front, and I think it is ridiculous.
Fair enough. Will you talk some about Seed?
Seed and Postal are brothers. I wrote them parallel and shot them back-to-back. Seed is kind of a statement about what humans are - what they are doing with animals and what they are doing with humans. Itís very dark and very nihilistic. Itís not a fun horror movie where you laugh if somebody gets cut in half.
I think Seed has a lot of my hate after BloodRayne came out and we didnít get all of our screens, plus we got thrashed by Hostel. I was just full of hate, and I donít think I would have been able to write Postal so funny without writing it parallel with a movie that I could put all my bitter, depressed, dark feelings into.
So writing Seed was kind of cathartic?
Exactly. Seed is really merciless. Thereís no hope. In a way it shows the same point of view about humanity that Postal does, but without being funny. You have the feeling after watching Postal that we should really get on it and save the planet and make it better because there is still a chance to do it. But after Seed you donít feel good. You think itís over and weíre all going down the drain.
How about the Far Cry adaptation?
To be honest, after Postal, Seed and Dungeon Siege I felt like Far Cry would throw me back two or three steps. Because itís similar to Alone In The Dark for example. So I had a negative feeling about doing Far Cry, but the thing is it had been financed for two years. So I thought about what is it? You have a real hero with dry humor, like John McClane from Die Hard. After we developed the script for two years on this property that is the biggest video game franchise I own, with a game sequel coming out next spring that will also be a big hit, I sat back down with the script and started looking for the right actor to play Jack Carver.
Any idea what the theatrical release dates are going to be for Far Cry?
Germany should be April/May next year, and then hopefully summer or fall in the US.
It sounds like when you challenged your critics to a boxing match it was during a pretty dark time in your life. Is there anything you regret about that, or anything you want to explain to people about why you did it?
The thing was when BloodRayne came out I felt like I got trashed by people on the internet in a way that I shouldnít given that Iím an independent filmmaker who is getting no studio support. I started with nothing, made my first movie in 1991 with 60K and suddenly Iím so hated and totally crushed. And it all started with House of the Dead, ignoring anything I had done before that. So I was totally pissed, and then BloodRayne didnít even have a chance to make any box office because we got dropped from 2000 screens to 800 screens. And the 800 screens werenít the good screens, they were the shitty screens.
We finally did about 2 1/2 million, which to me was a disaster at the time, but there are a lot of movies that barely make a million - Skinwalkers, Dead or Alive and so on, just tons of movies and nobody cares about it. But Iím getting called the biggest bomb, the biggest loser of the year. So whatever. And most of this was coming anonymously and from people who didnít see the movie. BloodRayne was voted in the bottom 50 worst movies before it was even released.
So I thought if these guys want to trash me, kill me, then Iíll meet these guys in the boxing ring. Because they are coming after me, not my films. So I will give them a direct confrontation if thatís what they want. But they also have to step out of that anonymous chair. The interesting thing is who really stepped up finally was people from websites, real journalists.
Not the anonymous jackasses you were trying to call out?
Exactly. They werenít who I was after, but I admire that they had the balls to do it. Meanwhile these assholes who I named from IMDB, because I named 40 or 50 people and told them they were all qualified to participate, but they didnít step up. Not one. And then they post things like, ďI wrote him an application, and itís a good thing he didnít pick me because I would kick his ass.Ē Which is a complete lie. I didnít know who my competitors were going to be until one day before the fight. I had no idea what size they were going to be or if they were trained. And Iím fighting four of them in one evening.
But then people turned it against me and said I was a pussy and an asshole without seeing it from my point of view. I have to fight four people in one evening with no idea of their fitness level. So even though I have boxing experience, which is really from 12 years ago, I still have to train hard to be able to do this.
Anyway, it all came together, Seed and Postal and the boxing, it was a very dark Spring. So I was very excited when Summer came to shoot those movies and then see that I accomplished something with them that I wanted.
Certainly Postal is getting a good response so far.
The online critics in North America have really given it a chance. In Germany, the first press screening, people trashed it immediately. I just felt like I can show these guys anything and they will pre-judge it. I was so pissed about it that I said ďFuck yourselfĒ in Germany. Iím not giving anymore interviews, itís over. But a lot of people gave it a fresh shot, and those people have given it good ratings. This makes me proud. When we showed it in San Francisco the guy from the Chronicle said, ďAw, shit Uwe. Now I have to write you a good review.Ē
It makes me feel very positive and I hope the audience gives it a chance. This is a movie that a studio would never make, and I think it gives an important point of view. Itís time to make a movie that has a different ending than an Adam Sandler/Ben Stiller comedy that always has a sentimental ending. Itís time to loosen up post 9-11, this depressive political view that has covered the world. I expect it will open in 500 theaters in North America and I hope people will look out for it so that it can expand to other theaters.
Sounds like it should do well on DVD regardless.
Yes, but as a filmmaker you always want people to see your movie in a theater.
What else are you working on now?
Iím taking 7 - 8 months to finish Far Cry, prepare BloodRayne III, and of course support the release of my movies. Iím traveling to half the world for screenings, because we donít have a big advertising budget.
Sounds like now that James Brown is dead, you may be the hardest working man in show business.
I always work hard, but I do what I like. Itís half work and half fun.
Thanks for taking the time today.
Here's what I know about Uwe Boll. He's a smart, passionate guy with strong opinions. He's got feelings like anyone else. He takes damn good care of his dogs. In addition, what I've seen of Postal so far looks pretty funny, and I say that without caveats. Here's wishing him success on his current and future projects. If you can't even give him that, then like Axl Rose said, "Get in the ring, motherf*cker!"