Uwe Boll is a filmmaker in the grand, throwback tradition of the
snake-oil showmen of the medium’s traveling circus infancy. Derided by
some (okay, many), he’s made a handful of genre flicks (Blackwoods, House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark), most of which are rooted in videogames, and recently also started challenging journalists to boxing matches (no word yet on whether or not I’ll make the cut). His latest film is January’s BloodRayne,
now new to DVD, complete with a feature-length audio commentary track
with Boll and star Kristanna Loken, storyboards, a five-minute CGI
montage, a 53-minute dinner-and-discussion with IGN’s Chris Carle, and
a separate copy of the eponymous videogame itself. I took some time
recently to talk with Boll about both BloodRayne, its
disappointing and strange commercial release, and his myriad of
forthcoming projects. The conversation is excerpted in brief below, 15
questions for 15 rounds.
Alone in the Dark that there were a lot of script problems on that movie and you weren’t really happy with it. So for BloodRayne you went out and secured Guinevere Turner (American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page, television’s The L Word). How did that come about?
UB: We were definitely looking out for better writers, and
for better writing for all the movies coming up, and Guinevere Turner —
even if she has no ideas from videogames — came up with the best pitch.
We were so convinced that I gave her a full briefing — like 10 pages
that I wanted in the script and she was really able to get in: the way
BloodRayne looks and fights, and certain back stories and brimstone and
vampire hunters. So this was basically a very positive development that
we had a writer like her.
BS: What about for Dungeon Siege: In the Name of the King, which seems to be your biggest production to date?
UB: It’s three times bigger than all of the other movies I
have done, and it has a $60 million budget. What is really massive is
that we have 1,400 CGI shots, which is more than (the second) The Lord of the Rings,
and it will be a big, epic movie — the first fantasy epic. All of the
other movies (I’ve done) are more horror and action, so it’s a
different thing. The writers on Dungeon Siege, David Freeman
and Doug Taylor, they both wrote the main story and script, even though
there were other writers involved. It took one and a half years, and
the first draft was like 300 pages long, but they really worked
together and developed a great script. It’s heartbreaking, full of
fantasy, interesting twists and characters, which is one of the reasons
that we got so many great actors in the film. But the same is true of BloodRayne.
BS: What was it about BloodRayne that most interested
you? I know you’ve snapped up a lot of videogame properties, that
you’ve searched for film ideas there, in that medium. But was it the
character first and foremost?
UB: First of all, I always wanted to do a vampire movie, and
here was a chance to do a videogame-based vampire movie and to do it as
a prequel, and really in Transylvania. This is one of the reasons we
shot in Romania. All of this fed my excitement. It was completely
different. In Alone in the Dark you had creatures, House of the Dead is more an action fun zombie movie, and BloodRayne
was more of a character-driven, period piece vampire movie, and so
totally different from the movies I’d done before. There’s a lot of
misunderstanding in the public, where people think I am this guy doing
videogame-based movies and they’re all the same. But this is bullshit
because in videogames you have all genres. You can do an adventure
movie, a horror movie, fantasy, sci-fi. So you have the same
flexibilities as any other movie. So I always look out to make sure
that I do different movies and genres.
What was it about your leading lady, Kristanna Loken, that most
attracted you — the fact that she has action experience but is
UB: We had a list of three women that we thought would be good for BloodRayne.
It took a while because Kristanna lives partially in South Africa, so
we went first to another actress, but she passed on it, which was good.
And then Kristanna came back and called me on my cell phone in the
middle of the night in Romania, where (I was scouting), and said she
really wanted to do it. And I had loved her in Terminator 3. BloodRayne is tall, strong and a real heroine, an Amazon fighter. And she’s perfect.
UB: Look, you never go easy over it, and I think there are
reviews that are fair and good, coming up with the positive and
negative things about that release. (pause) And there are also reviews
out there where they go on the message boards and they see what kind of
videogame geeks, how much they hate me or whatever. They’re getting
influenced not by critics, but more (by) people hanging out on the
Internet. Then they write negative reviews about it because they read
so much negative stuff there. And I also think that from time to time
there are reviews that are unreasonable and unfair, and this is
something I cannot do anything about. But my wish for the future is
basically that more people see the movies before they write something
and before they judge the movies. And then they should compare it to
similar movies and write something based on their real impressions.
This would be my wish list for the future.
Of course these are genre movies and not everybody likes that, so you cannot expect with House of the Dead to get a great review in the Washington Post.
But these are $20 million movies, and the people working on my movies
are all A-list crew people, A-list CGI people. My camera guy, Mathias
Neumann, won all kind of awards; he got, last year in New York City,
the (award for) Best DP in commercial advertising worldwide, so these
people are professionals. And the (effects) people on Dungeon Siege right now are the same people that did Mission: Impossible III and Superman.
So if then people write, “Uwe Boll’s movies are trash,” or, “He is like
Ed Wood,” then this is bullshit. You can write that you don’t like the
story, or you think it’s poor direction or poor acting or whatever, all
this kind of stuff, no problem, but to write that the movies are
completely garbage or are made like hobby movies or amateur movies has
nothing to do with those movies. Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead and BloodRayne are technical, state-of-the-art — they are more expensive and better technically than White Noise
and these kind of other movies. This is the reality. They’re looking
better, our score is always played with a symphony or orchestra of 120
people, made by people (who’ve worked) with Hans Zimmer. And (critics)
writing this bullshit means also that this crew is unprofessional, and
this has nothing to do the reality. I don’t care if the people on the
Internet are writing it, but if the New York Times guy is trashing BloodRayne
(as if) I did a movie on 8mm or something, then I have to think it’s
kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy in his head: “Oh, it’s from Uwe
Boll, I have to trash it.”
BS: If it’s the Internet geeks or fan-boys that so vehemently
dislike you, do you foresee a time, then, because you’re so associated
with videogame adaptations, when you’ll step away from that a little
UB: Absolutely, I’ll be doing two movies this year. I’ll do Postal, based on the videogame. And Seed
is a horror movie I’ve written which has nothing to do with a
videogame. And in the next few years, I will do definitely a minimum of
the same amount of non-videogame movies as videogame movies.
BS: Tell me a little about those films, then. What’s shooting first and what’s your schedule for the rest of the year?
UB: Seed comes first. In July we start it, and it’s
based on the history of the U.S. death penalty. So you know that under
U.S. law that if you survive three executions in the electric chair
they have to let you go.
BS: I did not know that.
UB: Yeah, but it’s the truth. And in the 1960s and ’70s,
there were electric chairs that were in really bad shape, basically
fucked up, and people survived it but were brain-dead. There are rumors
about what really happened to the people, but they claimed that they
are dead because they had no idea what they should do with these bodies
where the heart was still working but the rest of the body is almost
dead. And so then they buried the people alive.
UB: Seed is based on this kind of story, and the
fictional part is that a guy comes back and they dig him out after
having been buried. And (laughs) so it’s a really super, super hot
BS: Has that been cast yet?
UB: No, we start in the next few weeks, but we’ll go more for
unknowns. Because it’s based on reality I don’t want it to be too much
like BloodRayne or whatever. It would be bad for the movie. My
plan is to shoot it more like a documentary — all hand-held, and to get
that feeling like you get in Henry: Portrait of a Serial [Killer], for example. So this (is the) kind of feeling I want in Seed. We’ll have actors that we know, but I don’t want a big star.
BS: And what’s the gist of Postal?
UB: Postal is an action-comedy in a way. It’s like Falling Down,
with Michael Douglas, but funny. In the game you can play it without
violence, too. You can go in a bank and wait in a row; you wait for
two-and-a-half hours in the videogame and then basically you cash in
your check. But also you can go in the bank and kill everybody, and
cash in your check super-fast. (laughs) And in the game you can play
George Bush, Jr. or Osama Bin Laden, you can play all kinds of people.
And my plan is to do, like, Wag the Dog meets Pulp Fiction meets Falling Down.
The script, right now, is being re-written by the game guys. Running
With Scissors is a company in Arizona (that) developed the game on
their own as outsiders, and they’re super-involved also in the
development of the movie. And I think it will be a hilarious movie.
We’ll go for a bigger cast, but only as cameos. We have a couple cops,
and a local political guy who wants to join forces with Bin Laden. So
you have all kinds of freaks and people running around. I think it will
be really funny.