Daily | Udo Kier @ 70

Udo Kier in Guy Maddin's 'Keyhole' (2011)

Udo Kier in Guy Maddin’s ‘Keyhole’ (2011)

On the evening of October 14, 1944, the day Udo Kier was born Udo Kierspe in Cologne, the hospital was bombed and Udo and his mother had to be dug out of the rubble. In 1966, Udo Kier landed his first role in a small film, Road to Saint Tropez, before scoring his first feature, Mark of the Devil in 1970.

And then he met Paul Morrissey on a plane. In 2003, Franka Potente (best known at the time for Run Lola Run [1998]) asked Kier for Index, “Didn’t Carlo Ponti, who produced Blow-Up and Dr. Zhivago, produce [Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)] and [Blood for Dracula (1974)]?” Kier: “Yeah. Morrissey told Ponti that he could make a 3D horror movie in three weeks for three hundred thousand dollars, and Ponti said, ‘Here’s six, make two.’ So he filmed Dracula right after Frankenstein.” For Andy Warhol, who, of course, was present in name only. But Vittorio De Sica played Il Marchese Di Fiore in Dracula, wherein you can also spot Roman Polanski in an uncredited walk-on in a tavern.

In 2011, Caelum Vatnsdal interviewed Kier for the AV Club, walking us through the filmography, and it’s a lively read, top to bottom. Having just told a story about Dario Argento and Suspiria (1977), Kier announces, “I want to talk about Pamela Anderson!” Vatnsdal: “I was going to ask about Berlin Alexanderplatz [1980] next.” Kier: “No, I want to talk about Pamela!” And so, he does. No worries, though, he also eventually gets around to Fassbinder, with whom he also made Bolweiser (1977), The Third Generation (1979), Lili Marleen (1981), Lola (1981)—and Kier’s own short, The Last Trip to Harrisburg (1984), which he took to a festival in Mannheim, where he saw a film by Lars von Trier (then still “a young boy in a sweater”) for the first time, Element of Crime.

Von Trier and Kier hit it off. Kier, godfather of von Trier’s daughter Agnes, would appear in Medea (1988), Europa (1991), Breaking the Waves (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003), Manderlay (2005) and Nymphomaniac (2013).

All in all, Kier’s appeared in over 200 films, working with the likes of John Carpenter and Rob Zombie, with Guy Maddin, Christoph Schlingensief and Gus Van Sant. Franka Potente asks about My Own Private Idaho (1991). Kier: “I remember the opening at Lincoln Center in New York. When I came on screen the second time, people were laughing. I thought, my god, what did I do wrong? I had no intention of being funny. And Gus Van Sant said, ‘That’s exactly why you are funny.'”

When Vatnsdal’s interview turns to Werner Herzog‘s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009), Kier recalls that, back in the day: “An actor from Fassbinder could never work with an actor of Werner Herzog or Wim Wenders. Because if we would have done that, we would have been spies.” Eventually, of course, Kier would work with all three.

The IMDb has Kier lined up for eight projects in various stages of production. In Germany, Thursday sees the release of Hermann Vaske’s Arteholic, a documentary about Kier’s passion for contemporary art.

Update, 10/15: Kim Morgan writes about going shopping with Kier and then driving out through the desert. “He discusses one of the three pictures he almost made with Alejandro Jodorowsky. It later became Santé Sangre. Before it was to star Udo and Bette Davis. Wait. What? Bette Davis? Udo says he cried that they couldn’t raise the money back then; that he couldn’t work with Bette Davis. ‘Originally Bette Davis played my mother. It was a circus family and my father cut off the arms of my mother and I swear to her that as long as she lives, I will be her arms! Imagine! Imagine! Bette Davis and me!'”

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