“Nazis on the moon.” With a tag line like that, do you really need to know more about Iron Sky to know that you need to see it? You do? Okay. At the end of WWII, the Nazis fled earth and set up a secret base on the dark side of the moon, plotting for the day the Fourth Reich can return home and take over the world. America has decided to revisit the moon - the first time in decades - and their astronaut (who happens to be black) discovers their moon base. The Nazis insist he take them to his leader on earth, and hilarity ensues. No, really.
Genre legend Udo Kier plays Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, the leader of the Fourth Reich (not Hitler, as many of the characters mistakenly call him). We spoke with Udo about his role in the film, and why he doesn’t like playing Nazis.
After doing Iron Sky, do you now want to go visit the moon?
I did visit it! I was living on the dark side of the moon! It was amazing because we shot the film partly in Frankfurt, Germany, and partly in Brisbane, Australia. It was amazing because it was a big studio, and everything inside the studio was green. It was all green screen. We did not see anything. The director said, “The helicopter is landing over there” and they made a white X on the wall. So we had to imagine the helicopter was landing over there. But it was fun. The director [Timo Vuorensola] had a great sense of humor. All the Nordic people have a great sense of humor. I worked for 20 years with Lars von Trier, and I start on his new film, Nymphomania in a couple of weeks in Germany. All the Danish and Swedish and Finnish have a very different sense of humor. It’s very dark.
It is certainly a bizarrely funny movie. How did you get involved in it?
Years ago, they asked my manager if I would play the leader. I am very careful with Nazis, so when I heard the words “Nazis on the moon,” I thought, “Oh my god. Nazis on the moon.” He told me it was a comedy and I read the script and was laughing a lot. They put on the IMDB that I would be in it. It took years [to go into production] and everyone kept asking me about it - “What is this on your resume? Iron Sky: Nazis on the Moon?” I told my agent we needed to take it off, but he said, “No, no, they got the money for the film.” So I made the film and we had a lot of fun. When I read that it had nothing to do with the Holocaust, that it was more like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator or Mel Brooks’s Springtime for Hitler, I didn’t mind. I played a Nazi for Rob Zombie, and I played Hitler twice in comedies. They have made great movies about this time, Spielberg and others, but I have never played a serious Nazi. When you are German and you come to America to act, they always want you to play Nazis.
Is that why you don’t play serious Nazis? Because you don’t want to be typecast?
No, nothing to do with that. I am very much aware of the German’s history. I was born at the end of [WWII] and I know what happened quite well. It was not only a horrible time for Germany, but for the whole world as well. I don’t feel alright playing it. The Germans are always connected with this dark history, and I don’t like that. I like to play all different kinds of roles.
Like vampires. You have a long, storied history in cult and horror films. Did you set out on that career path, or was it something you fell into?
I was living in Rome in 1972 and I was flying to Munich. A man was sitting next to me and we started talking. He asked what I do, and since this was the beginning of my career I always had headshots on me. So I told him I was an actor and showed him my pictures. I asked what he did, and he said he was a film director - he was Paul Morrissey. He wrote my phone number down on the last page of his passport. I thought I must be important! A couple weeks later he called and said he was doing a little film for Carlo Ponti in Rome, and he had a role for me. I asked him what the role was: “Frankenstein.” So that is how it started. I did Frankenstein and then we did Dracula. So at first I was very energetic as Frankenstein for three weeks. Two or three days later I was a very weak Dracula, thirsting for the blood of virgins - which is of course very difficult. There are no virgins, especially in Italy. They’re religious, but no virgins.
Iron Sky has a lot of political undercurrents. Do you see it as having a political message, or do you just see it as a comedy that happens to be topical?
I think every film is political if you see it that way. I don’t think that the director had any intention to give a political message. I mean, the President of the United States looks very much like Sarah Palin - ironically, of course. But I think it was just cliches and crazy people on the moon. I don’t see it as political.
People always ask me, “How did you get to the moon?” So I made up my own little story. The favorite Nazis were sent to the moon with rockets. My mother went with them, and I was born on the moon. In reality, I was born in 1944, so it is basically the same time.
You mentioned earlier that most of the sets were actually green screens. Did that make it more difficult for you to act and interact?
In my case - I can only talk for myself - if the background is all green, there is no distraction, so I can concentrate on the person I am talking to. For me it was okay. It reminded me a little bit of being on stage. We had storyboards, so we knew what was in the background.
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