Boll, Uwe (Alone In The Dark)
Despite having a few films under his belt prior to making the big screen version of the video game House of the Dead, the name Uwe Boll was virtually unknown to most everyone. Ever since the release of House of the Dead the mere mentioning of the German born director’s name tends to produce either comparisons to Ed Wood or an extreme level of vitriol usually reserved for the most heated of political arguments. It really has taken on a life of its own, so much so that Boll himself has fired back online, although his limited English skills made him sound more like the deranged lovechild of Don Murphy and Colonel Klink.
But whether you think House of the Dead is one of the most indefensibly awful movies ever made or one of the most unintentionally hilarious (like myself), the fact is that Boll continues to get his video game based films produced. The release of Alone in the Dark is right around the corner, Bloodrayne is due later this year, and he still has the film rights to Fear Effect, Hunter: The Reckoning, Dungeon Siege, and Far Cry. Like him or not, one does have to give Boll credit for pulling this off especially considering that he operates outside of the Hollywood studio system and English is clearly not his first language. Lord knows I’ve had my share of fun at the man’s expense. Heck, I think I may have been the first person on the web to start the whole sarcastic "Dr. Boll" moniker. So when the man with a passion for video game movies and randomly capitalizing words agreed to be interviewed by yours truly I decided this would be a great opportunity to try and learn more about a guy that everyone has an opinion about, even though we really don't know a whole lot about him. Perhaps this will help give us some insight as to what makes the incomparable Uwe Boll tick.
(Editor’s note: As this was an e-mail interview, the responses you see below are straight from the fingers of Dr. Boll, including the random capitalization)
The Foywonder: I might as well begin by asking the one question that I know everyone out there reading this right now wants to know more than anything else. What was it like working with Casper Van Dien?
Uwe Boll: He is crazy guy, is sleeping early, eating only salad and fish, and was on set brilliant. In SANCTIMONY, he was really good I think.
TF: Seriously though, you recently sent out a press release announcing that your production company BOLL KG is the fastest growing fund in Germany. How do you go about getting investors for your films since you operate outside of the typical studio system, which is not an easy thing to do?
UB: The other German funds are not even producing movies. They give their money to US producers and get screwed over. We work very cost effective and I sell my movies in 100 territories on my own. Only BOLL KG gets money without a distribution company directly from Japan, France, and all the other countries.
TF: What considerations go into your decision to secure the films rights to a particular video game? Do you play a game like say Fear Effect and think how much you'd love to make it into a live action movie or is it more of a monetary thing, looking to capitalize on a popular title, as is usually the case in Hollywood?
UB: Both. It depends on the title. FEAR EFFECT for example is interesting because I made my first deal with EIDOS (and I want HITMAN also) and EIDOS committed to spend around $10 million for FEAR EFFECT 3 (the next game).
TF: I'm sure some game companies care only about how much money they get out of the deal but others, such as the Halo and Grand Theft Auto people, take their products very seriously and are extremely protective of their respective properties. How difficult is it to secure the rights to particular video games and what sort of assurances do they ask of you?
UB: They want script and cast approval sometimes. At least meaningful consultation. In every case MERCHANDISING APPROVAL. And approval about any BRANDINGS.
TF: And has any company just out right turned you down for whatever reason?
UB: A few. For example GRAND THEFT AUTO - they wanna actually PLAY in the movie as lead actors - what is hard to believe.
TF: One of the biggest sources of contention regarding recent video game film adaptations is the altering of the source material. For example, your Bloodrayne movie forsakes the WWII/Nazis aspect of the game for an 18th century prequel and the upcoming Doom movie has completely dropped the whole gateway to Hell on Mars concept in favor of a more typical Aliens-like scenario. Do you think taking this approach risks potentially alienating the core audience for the film in much the same way as filmmakers taking too many liberties with certain comic book properties has hurt some of those movies at the box office?
UB: In general you are right but in regards of BLOODRAYNE I wanna tell the story first where BLOODRAYNE is coming from. Her roots in Transilvania.
TF: Excluding your own, what do you think have been the best and worst movies based on video games thus far?
UB: I like RESIDENT EVIL and I hate DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS.
TF: All the recent video game movies seem to be based on games currently popular. Since 1980's retro have become fashionable of late, how come nobody has yet to do any films based on some of the classic arcade games like Sinistar, Congo Bongo, Dig Dug, or Burgertime? I'm thinking there is a major kick ass, Die Hard-like kung fu film just waiting to be made out of Elevator Action. What do you think?
(Foy: Boll left this particular question unanswered. Possibly because he realized it was a joke question or perhaps because he's already thinking the very same thing and was worried if he tipped us off then somebody out there might beat him to movie rights for Gorf.)
TF: Very first video game you ever played?
UB: Tennis, Pac-Man, and Asteroid.
TF: All time favorite video game?
TF: Video game you are currently into right now?
UB: NBA Basketball (sorry but its fun). And I just played a demo of VOODOO ISLAND.
TF: Worst video game you've ever played?
UB: I don't wanna blame a game company. There are a few.
TF: PS2 or Xbox?
TF: Who was the better Super Mario: Bob Hoskins or Captain Lou Albano?
TF: German beer or American beer?
UB: Krombacher, Warsteiner, Veltins and Jever are all VERY GOOD and German.
TF: I've read that your favorite TV show is "The Simpsons". Which character on the show do you most identify with?
UB: Homer is the nice side of Al Bundy with the same intellect. I really like him and Al Bundy.
TF: Are you as sick of hearing about the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston break-up as I am?
UB: Why? I always wanted to fuck Jennifer Aniston. Now is the chance - hopefully – maybe.
It is sad because this marriage was the hope that Hollywood is not totally fucked up. But it shows now that people sucked in the Hollywood system have no chance. A guy like Brad Pitt gets on every set he is working, in every hotel he is going NONSTOP OFFERS from girls. They would sleep with him NO MATTER WHAT - AND WITHOUT ANY QUESTIONS.
And he is for shootings a long time away from Jennifer.... So this is going well for a time period. Then in a relationship the big first love is gone and he is more open for other woman.
And Jennifer has the same thing...
TF: Who are your favorite directors and which ones have had the most influence on you as a filmmaker?
UB: Of all times: Orson Welles, John Ford, William Wyler, Kubrick, Carpenter, Polanski, Scorsese, Spielberg, Cameron
Right now I'm also a big fan of Michael Mann.
The most influence was John Ford. He was asked in a BBC interview: "How you picked your movies and why you made so many Westerns?" And he said: "I picked nothing. I made what I got and I tried to make it good. The process of filmmaking is that what is interesting and the work on set. I did so many Westerns because I could go out of the stinking studios in the desert and I could hire the Indians as extras so that they got some money in their pockets! They were starving on the reservations."
TF: All time favorite movies?
UB: Godfather, Dances With Wolves, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Citizen Kane
TF: Scariest movie you've ever seen?
UB: Rosemary's Baby, The Shining.
TF: What movie coming out this year are you most looking forward to?
UB: RING 2, STAR WARS - last episode.
TF: Absolute worst movie you have ever seen?
UB: I see so many direct to video titles it is hard to pick one. I hated Matrix 2 and 3, Van Helsing, Daredevil, Hulk, SWAT; but these are bigger movies and so they are only crap in regards of story.
TF: Are you familiar with a recent German movie Daniel - Der Zauberer, as it currently ranks #1 on IMDB's Bottom 100 and I don't think anyone outside of Germany has ever seen or heard of it?
UB: Never heard about it.
Given the sheer number of zombie movies in the works of both the big screen and direct-to-video variety do you think there is a strong possibility that the zombie genre could soon burn itself out through over saturation?
UB: The possibility is there. This is the reason I don't do a zombie movie right now.
TF: Favorite musicians?
UB: Rammstein and Metallica, but also Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra, In the Nursery, and Marilyn Manson.
TF: It's no secret you frequent many internet movie sites. Which ones do you visit the most?
UB: IMDB, yours, Joblo, AICN, Bloody Disgusting, Box Office Mojo, Prophets, Insommanias
TF: You graduated college with a doctorate in literature. What is your favorite book and what was the subject of your doctorate thesis?
UB: Subject was the History of TV Serials. My favorite book is MARS from Fritz Zorn. And DER ATEM from Thomas Bernhard.
TF: A popular question sometimes asked in the US is where were you when we landed on the moon, when JFK was assassinated, on 9/11, etc. Along those lines, where we you when the Berlin Wall fell?
UB: I was at home and saw it on TV. I don't have relatives in Eastern Germany so there was not a personal involvement in WEST and EAST coming together. But it was a great day for Germany in total.
TF: Taking a cue from the movie Fight Club, if you could fight anyone, who would you fight?
UB: I boxed 15 years in a club. BAYER LEVERKUSEN, where people like "THE TIGER" Michalczewski or FELIX STURM (lost in Las Vegas fighted also.) I got a spinal cord accident and got a platinum disk in my neck finally. So I fighted enough and don't do movie show fights.
TF: A couple of questions regarding House of the Dead since it is the movie you are currently most well known for and has been a lightning rod of controversy to say the least. You paid homage to the game by giving killed off characters a "game over" death sequence as is done when your character gets killed in the video game yet you abandoned the technique after only two character deaths. Why?
UB: It slowed down the speed a little.
TF: This next question is actually the one most people have wanted me to ask you regarding House of the Dead. Could you explain what the point was of that lightning fast edited flashback sequence Jonathan Cherry has while watching Liberty get killed?
UB: Everything that happened the hours before are coming back to him in that moment.
TF: If you are ever trapped in a house surrounded by zombies and someone in your group decides to end their life by going outside and blowing himself up with a stick of dynamite do you think it's rude of that person to not stand at least 50 yards away from the front door when doing so?
UB: This is a good point. But he assumed that the other guys were gone also in the backyard. He was alone and he was circled. The question is: would he be able to move more forward and then still fire the dynamite? Or he underestimated the power of the dynamite!
TF: There is one thing in House of the Dead I've never been able to understand. The zombies had axes. The house was made of wood. How come they couldn't get in?
UB: Not all zombies have axes and I think they would come in. See the scene where Ellie's dead. But after the big attack they bringing the dead zombies away so there are a few minutes break also for zombies. We made the decision in general that Castillo has the zombies under control so they are not completely braindead.
And in the game the zombies are also using weapons.
TF: Aside from the obvious need for a good script, what do you think was the biggest lesson you learned from your experience making House of the Dead?
UB: I did it before HEART OF AMERICA (by the way now on DVD out) a movie based on a great script with great acting, etc.! The problem I had with HOUSE was that I didn't like a lot of the dialog and the gags etc., so I omitted a lot on set, and so I destroyed maybe the characters even more. It was written more funny like SCREAM and I wanted to make a Gore Action Movie, but I was not able to replace the dialog I omitted with proper dialog.
TF: Ever see that killer bees movie from the late 1970's called The Swarm? There is a scene in the movie where some kids angry at the bees decide to toss a few Molotov cocktails at them in hopes of killing them only it ends up causing the bees to swarm even more ferociously than before resulting in further carnage. With that in mind, do you think in retrospect that the rant you posted online against all the negative criticism you were getting regarding House of the Dead only succeeded in making the amount of flack you continue to get that much worse? I mean look what happened to Dean Devlin after telling Godzilla critics to go to hell.
UB: You are right, but on the other hand if I feel a lot of critics went far over the top then I must be able to say that. I'm the wrong guy in ignoring problems etc., and everybody around me (manager, producers, financers, etc.) think I should ignore negative internet voices!
TF: What do you feel is the biggest misconception your harshest critics on the internet have about you?
UB: Whatever it is I take it with humor, don't worry. I use NAZI-GOLD to make my movies is a funny one. And to be honest if I sit with my friends in a theatre and we see for example a movie like JEEPERS CREEPERS or ALEXANDER then we are also making brutal comments. Why in JEEPERS CREEPERS they driving back to the ranch without weapons, etc.----NOBODY WOULD EVER DO THAT. So it is a lot of fun to trash movies. Yesterday I saw HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and in the end scene the question is: "is she now dying or what?" It takes forever.
TF: Of all your movies thus far which one are you the most proud of?
UB: GERMAN FRIED MOVIE because we made it with no money and convinced all equipment houses, actors, crew etc. to work for free on weekends. And we made the release on our own in the German theatres (nobody bought it) and we were number 4 in the BOX OFFICE 1992 with our trash movie.
TF: A major movie studio gives you $100 million and says you can make any movie you want (including remakes, sequels, video game adaptations, etc.), what would that movie be?
UB: It would be a comedy making fun out of everything: Big Movies, Politics, TV Shows, Stars. I'm a big fan of the NAKED GUN movies, South Park and other black humor shows.
TF: It's been announced that the first real trailer for Bloodrayne will appear before Alone In The Dark. Any idea yet as to when this year the movie will be released?
TF: Have you decided on what your next movie project will be following Bloodrayne?
UB: DUNGEON SIEGE
TF: What kind of film do you have in mind for Dungeon Siege? By that I mean are you envisioning a grand sweeping serious fantasy epic along the lines of Lord of the Rings, a more fun swashbuckling Star Wars in a fantasy setting type of movie, or a bloody sword and sorcery film along the lines of Conan the Barbarian?
UB: CONAN or BRAVEHEART meets LORD OF THE RINGS.
TF: Finally, I thought I'd toss in a quick little word association:
Resident Evil (the games)
TF: Resident Evil (the films)
UB: Good entertainment
TF: George Romero
UB: Great horror director
TF: The Matrix Trilogy
UB: A masterpiece and two attempts to make more money.
TF: Paul W.S. Anderson
UB: Solid action director
TF: Will Sanderson
UB: Primitive Scheisser (He knows what I mean)
UB: My favorite band. Great music and best lyrics of all time (I hope they have translations of the songs in USA).
TF: Roland Emmerich
UB: A very good event movie director.
TF: The Lord of the RingsTrilogy
UB: A masterpiece.
TF: Tom Atkins
UB: The actor?
UB: A symbol for the revenge of the nature.
TF: Nosferatu (the original)
UB: The most creepy one. By the way, we have in ALONE a homage to this movie. We used in a scene a similar shadow like in the German expressionists of the 30's. Look out for it.
TF: Mark Altman
UB: A very nice man and totally into the comic and videogame world.
TF: Atari 2600
UB: What should I say? I never had one. I went from COMMODORE to PC.
TF: Ain't It Cool News' Quint
UB: It looks like he is my biggest fan. I think I should do SCHINDLER'S LIST PART 2 so that he gets a heart attack.
TF: Van Helsing
TF: Tara Reid
UB: A celebrity
TF: Silent Hill
UB: Most creepy game ever
TF: David Hasselhoff
UB: Actor, Singer, Producer, but his productions are not my taste.
TF: The Foywonder
UB: I know you and Quint are friends.
TF: Thank you for your time, Dr. Boll. I appreciate your candor and your ability to be a good sport. But just for the record, I barely know Ain't It Cool News' Quint as I've only spoken with him on a few occasions in the AICN chat room, nor do I share his absolute frothing at the mouth hatred for you. While I'm certainly guilty of having much fun at your expense I do agree that the level of outright hatred directed at you has gotten a bit over the top. The way some people react when your name is brought up you'd think you ordered the invasion of Iraq or something.
UB: Good to hear that. IRAK is almost history - BOLL STAYS!
TF: Well, umm...I think that pretty much sums it up.