Jan 29, 2013

Interview with Ulli Lommel


Love him or hate him, no other actor/director can boast a life so diverse and seemingly contradictory as German-born actor-turned-director Ulli Lommel.  As the man who directed one of the greatest and most gruesome serial killer films ever made The Tenderness of Wolves (1973) aka Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe, as well as the "most hated film" ever made, Daniel - Der Zauberer (2004), Lommel certainly has experienced the positive and the negative as a filmmaker.  As someone who worked with both German New Cinema master filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and famous American 'Pop Art' leader Andy Warhol, Lommel is not exactly someone that will be forgotten by film history.  As an individual who has starred in and directed some of our favorite films, including Whity (1971), The Tenderness of Wolves (1973), World on a Wire (1973), Shadow of Angels (1976), Satan's Brew (1976), and Melancholie der Engel (2009), among countless others, Soiled Sinema is quite proud to bring you this interview with Ulli Lommel.

 Soiled Sinema: Your father was a famous comedian and your mother was an actress. What was your upbringing like? 

Ulli Lommel: It felt normal, because I didn't know anything else. And it was fun, because I grew up right after WWII and Germany was completely destroyed and all the people that survived this madness were so happy and stuck together and helped each other, there was a lot of love and sudden peace, even though we had nothing for years to come, but we were content with what we had. Today nobody seems happy, nobody seems content, with few exceptions. There is way too much of everything today. Too many songs that are terrible and too many awful movies, week after week, bombarding us and that's almost worse than being bombarded by the allies in WWII. 

SS: You originally got your start in cinema as an actor. Did you always have plans to become a film director? 

UL: Ever since I saw VERTIGO at age 12 I knew I wanted to make movies. VERTIGO had an amazing influence on me and two of my favorite films, OLIVIA and BRAINWAVES, deal with the VERTIGO trauma, the VERTIGO theme. Plus I adore Hitchcock. He and Kubrick and Peckinpah are my top three directors. 

SS: Your first feature was Haytabo (1971). How did you get involved with directing the film and what were the influences behind the film? 

UL: I had gotten tired of working as a movie actor with a whole slew of idiotic directors and I had become quite impossible to deal with, because I had such a hard time accepting their stupidity. So instead of continuing to have such an awful time as an actor I decided to make movies myself. I has just met Eddie Constantine, the star of my first movie HAYTABO, and when he accepted the role I had the financing for the film. Constantine had made several very successful films in France, including Godard's ALPHAVILLE and so it was easy to get the money for my first film.

SS: Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore (1971) was based on the hectic experience of making Whity (1971). As someone who acted in both films, do you think Beware of a Holy Whore features a realistic portrayal of what happened during the making of Whity

UL: No, not at all, it's complete fantasy, and anyway, Fassbinder was always drunk during WHITY and probably didn't remember a thing. I actually co-produced WHITY and due to Fassbinder's insane actions which went way beyond being drunk on and off the set non-stop, it almost ruined me. But I forgave him. 

SS: How did critics in Germany respond to The Tenderness of Wolves (1973) when it was released? Were you the first New German Cinema director to direct a horror film about a serial killer? What did Fassbinder think of the film? 

UL: It opened the Berlin Film Festival in 1973 and became an instant scandal. It was highly controversial with some critics adoring the film and others hating it. Fassbinder loved it, I think. Critics in London, Paris and NY loved it, and so I was invited to NY and met Warhol, because Vincent Canby, the star critic of the NY Times had written that TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES reminded him of the early Warhol films, only that it was much better. So Warhol got curious, went to a screening, loved the film and invited me to work at the Factory in Manhattan for three years, where we did Art, Polaroids and Movies (BLANK GENERATION and COCAINE COWBOYS). So in a way, TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES was my break-through. As to other German serial killer movies I believe I was not the first, there were others, but I don't remember the titles right now.

SS: Your third feature was Adolf and Marlene (1977). Can you describe this film to our readers? I once read the film is 'lost.' Will it ever be released on DVD? 

UL: The Fassbinder Foundation is currently restoring ADOLF & MARLENE (it's a Fassbinder production). I met with Fassbinder in Paris in 1976 in a famous brothel and told him that I had discovered the diary of Eva Braun, Hitler's girlfriend and Fassbinder said let's make a movie! It's a very dark comedy, Michael Ballhaus did the camera and Kurt Raab, the male lead of TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES, plays Hitler. I myself play Goebbels. The movie was compared to Ernst Lubitsch TO BE OR NOT TO BE. It's one of my dearest films. 

SS: What was your relationship like with Fassbinder? 

UL: Everything one can imagine and more, that's all I can say. He asked me to star in his first film LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH so he could get the financing since I had already become a teenage idol with covers on teen mags etc. and I was box office. I accepted and for the next 10 years collaborated on 21 Fassbinder productions. He was a true genius, with all the madness and the good, the bad and the ugly.

SS: Which of the Fassbinder films that you personally starred are you most proud of? 


SS: What was your relationship like with Warhol? 

UL: Warhol was the opposite of Fassbinder. While Fassbinder tried to jail you in his own prison of the mind, Warhol gave you the key and set you free. I owe Warhol more than I will ever be able to imagine, not to mention the few pieces of Warhol Pop Art I have in my possession and Warhol Polaroids. Warhol was and is out of this universe for me. 

SS: You worked with Warhol on Cocaine Cowboys (1979) and Blank Generation (1980). How was he involved (aside from acting)? What were his thoughts on the films? 

UL: Warhol was very much involved in his own way, his quiet way, he told people that Ulli Lommel was his favorite new director and that opened all the doors for me. he raised the money, he acted in both movies, I was his "Soup Du Jour" for several years. And when some people trashed my films Andy said so what, they trashed mine too and look what happened, where are they now and where am I? I kind of feel the same. I love and adore Andy Warhol!!! BLANK GENERATION and COCAINE COWBOYS have become cult classics, selling over and over again and again world-wide with audiences loving it and critics as well, it's so much fun to be so closely connected to these two films. Andy rules!!!

SS: Did you expect The Boogeyman (1980) to be such a hit? What inspired you to direct the film? 

UL: After the first sneak previews where audiences went crazy we knew we had a winner, but that it would be THAT big, nobody could've ever expected. What inspired me were the Brothers Grimm and their dark fairy tales. Boogeyman to me is a fairy tale. Next year I'm making BOOGEYMAN 4D - why 4D? It plays in the forth dimension, Sci-Fi /Adventure genre and not R-rated but PG-13. Budget $24 million to be filmed in 3D. 

SS: You made a number of films, including Olivia (1981), BrainWaves (1982), and The Devonsville Terror (1983) with your then-wife Suzanna Love. What was it like directing your own wife? 

UL: Oh, we had such fun! She was perfect in all those films. Ten great years and ten wonderful movies. Wonderful to make and enjoy. Wonderful times. Unforgettable... 

SS: Your underrated cult musical Phantoms of Paradise (1984) seems to be a more ‘personal’ work. Do you agree? What was the inspiration behind the film? 

UL: We just completed the German version and it should come out in Germany later this year. Yes, it's very personal, political, rebellious…I think. I love this film and I loved making it.

SS: You worked with popular German pop singer Daniel Küblböck for your film Daniel – Der Zauberer (2004). How did that collaboration come about and what was it like to work with Küblböck? 

UL: He was hated by millions of Germans and I was fascinated by that type of hate towards such an innocent young man and I decided to defend him and stand up for him and make a movie to set the record straight. Needless to say, the haters voted it worst movie ever made, hahahahah! But I like it a lot. Always will. And it got some great reviews too. So what the hell, right? And it made money. Hahahahah!!!

SS: You dedicated Absolute Evil - Final Exit (2009) to Fassbinder. Is there any particular reason why? Are you still planning to direct an “Absolute Evil Trilogy?” 

UL: Because Fassbinder's madness was similar to Carradine's. After his death I stopped thinking trilogy. RIP David and RIP Fassbinder. 

SS: Out of all the films you have directed, which ones are you most proud of? Why? 

UL: Proud is a word I don't know what to do with. But I love almost all the films I made, just like they were my children. 

SS: You still make films in Germany from time to time. Do you prefer working there or in the United States? 

UL: I love making movies in America, especially LA, which is my favorite place. I love LA, I made over 40 films in LA. Germany is different, more dark and analytical and stuff, right now I'm making theater in Berlin combined with 3D movies, almost like a new genre. It's called FUCKING LIBERTY which means fucking great or fucking beautiful and it's 500 years America in 100 minutes with lots of music and dance celebrating "my" America. 

SS: How has filmmaking changed since when you first started? Where do you see cinema heading in the future? 

UL: When I started it was much more precious with far less films coming out every week and I much prefer that. The future is something I rarely speculate about, I love memories, I love the past, it's all we have. The present is only an illusion and the future has not arrived yet, we can only dream about it. But every split second the future turns into the past, without ever stopping in the present.

SS: The movie genre that you always come back to is horror. Did always have an interest in horror? What are some of your personal favorite horror flicks? 

UL: I don't go to the movies much more any longer. Plus I do not consider my films horror films, for me they are experimental films, maybe that's why some hate my "horror" films, because they're disappointed that they didn't get a horror film. And maybe it's Lions Gate's fault to market and sell them as horror films, just made people mad I think. Some at least. Sorry for that...

SS: You appeared as an actor in German horror auteur Marian Dora’s Melancholie der Engel (2009). How did you get involved with the film? Have any of your films had an influence on Dora?

UL: I think Dora likes my films, he's a very cool guy. And when he asked me to do him a favor I said yes. 

SS: What can we expect from you in the future (be it film or otherwise)? Do you plan on writing an autobiography?

 UL: My biography came out in Germany two years ago and it's a huge success, it's called "Tenderness of the Wolves", how fittingly, right? Other than that I'm working on a bio pic and of course BOOGEYMAN 4D. Cool questions BTW. Thanks!

For more info on Ulli Lommel, checkout his official website UlliLommel.com


Anonymous said...

A bio pic and a new Boogeyman film?

Could be interesting.

Anonymous said...

When he was younger he looked a bit like Mark Godard from the original "Lost In Space".

jimmie t. murakami said...

Its a shame he had to degrade and demean himself by working with two worthless faggots like Fassbinder and Warhol.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I wonder if he ever got to bugger Hanna Schygulla ! ?.

teddy crescendo said...

Lommels films are all quite good, the reason people like to trash his movies is because hes a Kraut bastard, thats why they trash Uwe Bolls films as well, Krauts are still unpopular even 70 years on ! ! !.

Anonymous said...

To actually know Ulli is to love him. and better yet is working with him. To watch his passion and love of the craft is admirable, also inspiring. He is gentle to a fault with an air of childlike enthusiasm. Hopefully he will make films for many years

jervaise brooke hamster said...

A-girl to that, of course another reason why it would be great for him to keep making films until hes 90 is that he isn`t British ! ! !.