Uwe Boll is a filmmaker used to derision — early on, his entire career was based on it — so interviewing him, and in particular trying to divine which of the liberal amount of almost boyish giggles that pepper his answers are in fact winking asides at his reputation, is like some sort of post-modern exercise in and of itself. The inimitable Boll may have started out as a mangler of C-list videogame properties, but regardless of what one ultimately thinks of his movies he has, well, matured as a filmmaker. And, now as ever, he is a one-of-a-kind happy warrior — a sort of ever-animated cinematic pirate, living off the land and fueled by the sheer, unadulterated thrill of simply making movies. For ShockYa, Brent Simon recently had a chance to speak one-on-one to Boll, about his latest film, “Rampage: Capital Punishment,” which of his own movies he’s not totally emotionally involved in, the state of his feud with Michael Bay and, you know, how to solve all the political problems of the world. The conversation is excerpted below:
ShockYa: Good morning, what are you up to right now?
Uwe Boll: I was in Vancouver until the middle of June, and now I’ll be here in Germany until the middle of September. I’m doing a little theatrical tour with “Rampage” in Germany, with events at theaters and film schools. I basically spend my summer holidays in Germany, but always also using it to promote my films.
ShockYa: You took a writing credit on “Rampage: Capital Punishment,” only your second such film in the last couple years. When you’re not in production, do you have a specific time of day you like to write and kick around ideas, or do you just sporadically binge and crank through it as fast as you can?
Uwe Boll: To be honest I’m not a writer who can just sit there and write. I have a huge problem with that. For a long time I can sit and nothing (will happen), and then I will quickly write — like five or six days in a row when I just hammer it out. But I cannot force that moment. That is my biggest problem. And with “Rampage 2” I feel almost now it’s my duty that I have to finish the story of Bill Williamson, and I want to direct “Rampage 3.” Now I’m just thinking about ideas, and far away from being able to write it. But basically when I have a structure in my head, then I feel like I can write it. But my main daily work is actually basically selling the movies, like being in contact with buyers — “We want a HD master of this format, 4:3, blah, blah, blah” — so I am basically doing that. A lot of time is taken away from me with contractual stuff, and the basics of making a movie. (laughs)
ShockYa: You talk about wanting to complete “Rampage” as a trilogy — did you feel the material had the capacity for a franchise when you did the first film?
Uwe Boll: No, I felt like it was a stand-alone movie where the bad guy wins, in a way. But the feedback to the movie was good, especially in Europe and North America. The movie performed well, people loved it and I liked the character. So I thought, “Okay, how can I keep going with the story without doing, like, a redundant thing again?” And also Brendan Fletcher was not really into it, especially (since) got the shittiest pay on the first film. But when I pitched the idea to him of how we keep going with this story and make it harsh and political, with one-and-a-half or two years in hiding where this guy was reading a lot and basically looking into the political facts around us and got really angry and basically turned into a political terrorist, and away from a selfish bank-robber, Brendan really liked that. And I thought also that since we went down that road now I can continue and finish things up in a very realistic way with maybe now the biggest manhunt in U.S. history, after they found out he’s not dead in the final scene. I’m very political, and when I make a movie like “In the Name of the King 3” or whatever, I make it because I can make it, because I get the financing or whatever, but I’m not, like, emotionally and totally involved in it. Like, when I go to see movies I watch “The Wolf of Wall Street” and this kind of stuff. I’m not into fantasy movies. I may watch that stuff on video but I don’t go to the movie theater to see it. I feel like, in a way, movies are getting way less political than they have been since the 1980s, and this in a time where we have hundreds of political problems. The movies are not really attacking (the issues). They think “12 Years a Slave” is a controversial movie, but it’s not. It’s a historical kind of thing — that’s what Hollywood always celebrates. They make, like “Dallas Buyers Club” or whatever — they are good movies, but they are political stories that play in a time of history where something was different. But I want to make movies about the problems we have now, you know? I don’t know if you watch the HBO show “Vice,” for example, but I think in that show they show what the fuck is going on right now. The pole is melting, or in Darfur, which I made a movie about, three million people are in refugee camps and nothing is really changing. I mean, stuff like this burns now, and it has to get solved now. I mean, it’s a scandal that a guy like (Julian) Assange is in London sitting in a room in an embassy and will get arrested if he walks out. Where would we be without Wikileaks? If we have to pick yes or no on Wikileaks, I say absolutely yes! They were so informative for all of us about the lies all around us, and it’s ridiculous that there’s no bigger outcry from the people living in democracy, from the people living in the Western world. I mean, in 10 years is he still going to be living in that embassy? It’s absurd. Or (Edward) Snowden hiding in Moscow — without him there would be no NSA reveal to us all, we would have no clue that Facebook and Google and everybody gave all our info to the NSA, and all our emails and stuff. This is all crazy stuff, and the outcry should be bigger. I think most of the people in Europe and the U.S. have almost given up on politics.
ShockYa: Bill has several extended political monologues… and you play a sleazy TV producer who at one point comments on one of his rants, and says he’s right. Was this movie a vessel for a lot of your own personal frustrations, maybe even more than any of your other movies you’ve done that have tackled sociopolitical elements? Is that accurate?
Uwe Boll: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of a satire, what we’re doing — we are getting a lesson in truths, but taught by this really psychopathic killer. That’s what makes it so interesting, I think. It’s not like a Steven Spielberg movie, where the hero is also a morally positive person, and teaches us a lesson. But I like that, to be honest. A lot of times, the craziness of the world that we’re living in is reflected in a character like Bill.
ShockYa: And yet he’s a bundle of contradictions, too, and some of your lead characters rants are ironic — you have a gunman advocating gun control, for instance.
Uwe Boll: Oh yes, I have a lot of political ideas that are very left, but I also have a lot of political beliefs that are very right, and what I try is common ground, to find rational explanation for stuff and then attack the problem. For instance, I say in “Rampage 2” stuff about the prison system in the U.S., why the U.S. has 25 percent of the prisoners in the world. We always say China has no human rights, blah, blah, blah — but China has 1.2 billion people, the U.S. has 300 million people, and the U.S. has four times as many prisoners. Why is that? Because a lot of the prisons are private, and it’s obvious that a lot of judges are getting bribes and stuff like this, to put people in prison, so that people are busy and that the taxpayers of the United States pay for the stupid prison system where people are sitting there for nothing. I mean, if you have 10 grams of cocaine or whatever, or 50 grams of marijuana, who gives a fuck? Why should you sit in prison for it? It’s absurd and idiotic. And if you look at how many black people are in prison, they’re the majority and yet they’re not the majority of the population (at large). It’s absurd, and why we cannot, between Democrats and Republicans, attack that problem and take the lobbyists out of the system, and say get rid of all that corruption — change that system, step by step and point for point.
ShockYa: One time when I talked to you before you mentioned that your wife didn’t really like a lot of your movies. Has she watched “Rampage 2,” and if so what did she think?
Uwe Boll: Yes, and I think she liked it too. But of course it’s not everybody’s taste, to be so radical. And of course it’s violent and cynical, and so on. But in the end I had to make the movie I wanted, and what I think is necessary to show right now. And most of the movies coming out are I think just so soft that it’s important to be uncompromising right now as a filmmaker.
ShockYa: Did the relatively positive reception to the first “Rampage” that you previously mentioned surprise you?
Uwe Boll: Yeah, totally. I thought the critics would be harsher. I actually never read a negative review of “Rampage,” to be honest. The worst reviews were, like, neutral, but not like, “Oh, this is a piece of shit,” never. I was surprised too that a lot of festivals invited it, to places like Paris and Barcelona, and in Germany and in Montreux. And I think you have people who want to also support the message of what Bill says. There’s a political discussion going on about it. I really wanted that he attack the main problems — he doesn’t dig around the main problems. I think it’s important that we focus on the stuff that really matters. If you look at the news, they always focus on the stuff that’s kind of brainwashing people. Like the whole spring on CNN was the stuff about that missing Malaysian airplane. Who gives a fuck? (laughs) I was like after five minutes done with the news. I was like, “Okay, there’s a plane that’s gone, everybody is dead, and there were 300 or 400 on it. It’s a tragedy; next news, please.” But no, they had to make a whole Area 51 story out of that thing. And all that sort of stuff takes time away from the real problems we have. Also, for example, look at Guantanamo Bay, and how Obama and everyone says, “Well, we don’t know what to do with the people who are sitting there.” I mean, if you cannot charge people after 13 years with something, because you found nothing against them, then is not, like, your duty to just take people back to the spot where you arrested them? I mean, they caught everyone on the street somewhere, whether it was Pakistan or Afghanistan or wherever, and they’re sitting in Guantanamo Bay. I’m sure they have a list of where they were [picked up]. So why not just fly everyone back home and say, “You know what? We fucked it up, sorry, goodbye.” I mean, every single person at Guantanamo Bay costs the U.S. taxpayers $150,000 a week. If you think about that number, it’s totally absurd, I mean just pricewise! For what we piss money in the wind, 24/7, it should be like an issue just based on cost-cutting. That is just too expensive, and absurd. …If you picked up someone in Kabul, why not just fly him back and let him go and say, “Goodbye, here’s 150 bucks.” I don’t get it! I don’t get why politics cannot solve problems, why they cannot just, like, do what they promised by moving shit ahead. If you think about it, Obama has now been president six years and is really proud of the health care reform, and it’s good that he did it, but I mean, what else? The rest is all talk, and nothing has happened. That is the thing that I don’t get. How can he actually be happy with the situation.
ShockYa: You’re obviously very animated about politics, and the energy and frustration that you have is something that a lot of people share. This “Rampage” film, the plans for the third that you’re talking about, and a film like last year’s “Assault on Wall Street” — do you feel that you’re becoming a more political filmmaker, and someone who will have that personal attachment to all of his films, or will you still always keep a foot in genre material?
Uwe Boll: I’ll say it this way — my problem is that I always wanted to make movies, I’m a big film fan, and I love shooting movies. I know, for example, that maybe, say, “In the Name of the King 4” is easier to finance than “Rampage 3.” So this is the reason that I never say no, I’m done, I’ll never do movies based on videogames again. I would never say that because I like the act of filmmaking, being on a set, and I lost so much money on “Attack on Darfur,” which is a good movie. Compensating for those losses, I can make money on “In the Name of the King 3” or “BloodRayne 4” — which I’ve always wanted to do but it looks like Majesco won’t let me do. But I can make a few hundred thousand dollars profit on those movies, and I reinvest that money in movies that I really want to do. The good thing is that I don’t play golf, I don’t drive a Ferrari, I don’t want to go do a bunch of drugs — all that stuff. What people don’t get — and with all the accusations of the past, also — is that I really, really have only wanted to make movies ever since I was 10 years old, and it’s not about the money. For me, money never really mattered. It made it happen, that I could make “In the Name of the King” with Jason Statham, that I raised all that money. But I took $120,000 as a director out of a movie like this, and if you think about what Michael Bay gets, $20 million for “Transformers” or whatever, it’s obviously not to make me richer it’s to make things happen. I think that’s something that I show — making movies and supporting ideas with more of a political subject matter. Like, all the money I made on “Bloodrayne 3” I spent on extra days of shooting for “Auschwitz.”
ShockYa: You mentioned Michael Bay, who I know at one point had some unkind things to say about you, and you challenged him to a boxing match. Have you had a chance to meet him?
Uwe Boll: No, not in person. He would probably run as fast as he can away if he sees me. (laughs) No, I haven’t had a chance.
ShockYa: Did you see the new “Transformers”?
Uwe Boll: (sighs) No, I didn’t. Ugh. I cannot watch it, you know? I’m so over it. But I had a chance to talk in Berlin at the festival, because I was in the same hotel as (him, with) Shia LaBeouf, and we talked about it, and he agrees with me I think about Michael Bay and Michael Bay’s abilities as a film director: He has a great crew, and great special effects, and studios believe in him and… yeah, this is what it is. (LaBeouf) told me they offered him a lot of money and so he kept doing the “Transformers” stuff and then he couldn’t do it anymore. He said he felt so shitty doing that shit movie. (laughs) I mean, he’s also a crazy guy, but I think he’s turned more into an artist over the last few years, and has gone away from this childhood star thing, which is a good step I think in the very end — for the long term, that is the right thing. And I think Michael Bay, in a way, has returned to the worst (instincts) — his earlier movies, like the first “Bad Boys,” I like those movies. He had something. He’s not all a bad filmmaker. It was cheesy or whatever, but the style I liked in the beginning. Even “Con Air” I enjoyed, you know? But then it turned disastrous with “Pearl Harbor” and so on — really just bad movies. I only say what I think about him, but he doesn’t give a shit. He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars, and maybe that was his game plan and he’s very happy being just rich. And I’m very proud that I did “Attack on Darfur” or “Stoic” or “Auschwitz” or “Assault on Wall Street.” Those kinds of movies make me proud. They’re way smaller, but it’s not one day where I don’t get an email from somebody saying, “I just watched ‘Assault on Wall Street’ on Showtime or whatever and I love it.” So that is also good feedback, and I’m happy that I get that now, after years of people bashing me.
Written by: Brent Simon