Udo Kier on film, life and being happy

By Inger Sandal

The Loft Cinema set the bar high when it awarded its first “Lofty” Lifetime Achievement Award to German actor Udo Kier.

“There’s no one else on the planet like Udo,” Jeff Yanc, the Loft’s program director said at last month’s presentation during the second annual Loft Film Fest.

The actor – with more than 200 films to his credit – has worked with most of the major art film directors in addition to taking roles in blockbusters like “Armageddon” and attaining a cult horror icon status.

Kier’s constantly surprising career is one of the reasons “we like him so much,” said Yanc, stressing that the lifetime achievement award in no way meant Kier’s career was winding down.

On the contrary, the 67 year old made seven films in various parts of the world in the past year.

Those roles included traveling to China where he was the only foreign actor in a film called “UFO in Her Eyes.”

He portrayed a Nazi on the moon in “Iron Sky,” a science fiction comedy.

And he played Pope Innocent VIII in a luxurious production about the Borgia that was filmed in Prague.

He also went to the Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of “Keyhole,” a Guy Maddin film that Kier made last year with Isabella Rossellini, an actress he has long admired and wants to work with again.

“Each film had some interesting aspect of director or story. Normally, I don’t make that many films,” said Kier, who also recreated his role in “My Own Private Idaho,” in a project with the actor James Franco last spring.

By coincidence, Kier starred in the films that opened and closed this year’s Loft festival: Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and Jean-Claude Schlim’s “House of Boys,” respectively.

“House of Boys,” in which Kier plays the cross-dressing Madame who runs an all-male burlesque club in the emerging gay dance club scene of Amsterdam 1984, opens at the Loft on Friday for a regular run.

At his Loft appearance and in a recent telephone interview, Kier stressed the importance of the film.

“It’s a very important story about the message of AIDS in the ’80s when it first came to the surface. But it’s very nicely wrapped” in a compelling story, he said. “It’s not a doctor talking.”

While in Tucson, Kier visited the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and Wingspan, which co-presented the film at the Loft festival. He also gave an interview on KXCI about the importance of supporting people with AIDS and AIDS research.

Kier said he was concerned that people today underestimate the seriousness of HIV. “Today I think young people, maybe because there is medication, nobody takes it anymore as a deathly illness,” he said. “In the ’80s it was a matter of life and death.”

In the film, Kier’s character closes the nightclub because no one knows where the illness came from. “No one knew what it was,” Kier said.

Kier said he hopes to return to Tucson next year to present the next “Lofty.”

“The winner from this year really should give it to the winner from next year,” he said.

When he’s not traveling, Kier enjoys relaxing at his ranch in Palm Springs, where he lives with his two rescued dogs (“They have paradise. They can run and they can play.”), a couple of life-sized plastic horses and an assortment of quail and rabbits among other wildlife.

“I’m doing this filmmaking more than 45 years and now it’s coming the time that I really like more and more, nature,” said Kier, who has some of most mesmerizing blue eyes on the planet.

There is no television at the ranch. “If something happens in the world, I will hear it from the radio,” he said.

Kier is a passionate collector – art, furniture, suit jackets and experiences.

“I’m very interested in art and have collected modern art since I was 20 or 19,” he said. “Later when I worked with Andy Warhol, I got things from Warhol.”

Next summer he hopes to tour some of the world’s greatest museums in a project with German public television, talking in depth about the artists he has known and admired.

“I do know more about art than I do know about movies because I was always fascinated by it,” said Kier, who can share insights and anecdotes such as what it was like to have dinner with Warhol and Mick and Bianca Jagger.

Kier’s love of collecting and discovery also makes him love thrift stores, and he explored several while in Tucson.

“It’s my meditation,” he explained. “You never expect things to find – that would be the wrong attitude. You go and your eyes are just going over a shelf …”

He bought several jackets and some pottery in Tucson. One of his best recent finds was a wool and cashmere Brioni jacket for $6. “The dry cleaning is more expensive than the jacket,” he said.

While Kier joked at the Loft about looking at his bank account when he chooses a role, but that’s not really his motivation.

While he has selected commercial films that will help get his name to larger audiences, he picks what interests him.

Asked the difference between working on a Hollywood blockbuster and an independent film, Kier said: “The lower the budget the more creative the people are because there is no stress. If you work on ‘Blade’ or ‘Armageddon,’ there are so many people involved it is like a big, complicated clock and you are just a little screw in it.”

While working on Van Tier’s “Dogtown,” Kier said all of the actors had the same type of room and were happy “because we were working on a wonderful film.”

Kier is in a good place in his career.

“I’m in a position that I’m not forced to work to pay the mortgage, and that’s a wonderful position.”

Udo Kier

The Loft showed highlights from Kier’s extensive film career, which includes Andy Warhol’s “Dracula” and Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho,” which was also one of Kier’s first big American films.

While Kier works extensively in Europe, here are some of the films that Americans may know.

• 2011 – “Melancholia”

• 2010 – “Chuck” (TV series).

• 2009 – “House of Boys”

• 2009 – “Soul Kitchen.”

• 2007 – “Halloween”

• 2007 – “Grindhouse”

• 2005 – “BloodRayne.”

• 2004 – Dracula 3000 (TV movie)

• 2004 – “Sawtooth.”

• 2003 – “Dogville.”

• 2000 – “Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2” (Video Game).

• 2000 – “Dancer in the Dark.”

• 2000 – “Shadow of the Vampire.”

• 1999 – “End of Days.”

• 1998 – “Blade.”

• 1998 – “Armageddon.”

• 1996 – “Breaking the Waves.”

• 1996 – “Barb Wire.”

• 1995 – “Johnny Mnemonic.”

• 1994 – “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

• 1993 – “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”

• 1990 – “Das deutsche Kettensägen Massaker” “The German Chainsaw Massacre”).

• 1991 – “My Own Private Idaho.”

• 1991 – “Europa.”

• 1984 – “Moscow on the Hudson.”

• 1977 – “Suspiria.”

• 1974 – “Andy Warhol’s Dracula.”

• 1973 – “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein.”

Sundance comes to The Loft

The Loft Cinema is one of nine theaters throughout the country that has been selected to be an official venue of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

On Jan. 26, the festival will dispatch nine filmmakers from Park City, Utah to the various theaters to screen and discuss their films with audiences. The Loft does not know which film will be shown.

Tickets are $15, just like they are at Park City during the festival, said Jeff Yanc, the Loft’s program director.

The Loft started selling the tickets to members during the Loft Film Fest, and today will open sales to the general public. There will only be one screening.

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