Director Uwe Boll
At the moment Uwe is working on Sabotage 1943, a film based on a videogame which is itself based on a true story, that of Violette Szabo. The videogame Velvet Assassin is based loosely on her exploits in Occupied France.
"The sabotage game is based on a true story, but [we] will not follow exactly the story how it was, to give our lead acress the chance to survive, whoever plays the role."
Video-game based movies have formed a large part of Uwe's work, and he talked about what drew him into making these films.
"[Some people think I] do it all for the money", the reality was I made no money until I was 34, and now I am 43. it was always practical thinking, if I never did this I would never have made a movie, maybe [just] written 100 scripts.
"In the end, if you really want to physically do the movie if it's a TV station, the subsidies, private investors, it's all the same...
"I try to raise private money. [The way the system used to be] if you get rich people to do it, they could at least write off the loss. If the movie didn't make the money back they could write it off. The 'hit' was not so hard, because basically half of the money was covered by the government. I was a good sales person, I convinced people - money collectors, financial advisers - to collect money for me and this was really hard, exhausting work. Instead of hanging out in Hollywood and talking in the coffee bean every day with other people who wanted to make movies I was driving from dentist to dentist, convincing bankers and so on to make bigger and bigger movies.
"The point with the video game movies [is this], to make very good movies like Heart Of America, which wasn't a great success, and then make House Of The Dead, which is really not my best movie but you make a lot of money. The investors said, 'Uwe, keep making the video game based movies and we can get you more money!' I looked out for better video games, like Alone In The Dark which I liked, for example, to make different movies in different genres.
"You do it for the money, the reality is I never made movies for the money, [but] it's better, [if] you have the bigger budget. It's also better you're not starving for a living on 500 euro a month. I did movies where I did not get paid for a long time and I would not do something else. if I cannot make movies because I cannot make the money I'll make documentaries for 20,000, I'll not be a banker or something."
"I did a documentary about boxing, 25/26 years ago, I think it's in The Boll Edition. [I am] very interested in a lot of documentary things, [I'm working on] a movie in a documentary style about the Janjaweed militia."
"I don't want to have another job, I want to keep making movies."
It seems there is no stopping him, then but what drew him into making films in the first place?
"As a child, I loved looking [watching] movies. [I would make a] deal with my mother, 'let me sleep in the afternoon and in the evening watch Mutiny On The Bounty'.
"[I loved] to be in that fantasy world. Seeing adventure movies as a child you get fascinated by Ben Hur and Quo vadis and the big Cecile B Demille movies and I never lost that love for movies. When I was 11, 12, 13, I would go the movie theatre 12 kilometers from our house and see two or three movies a week; I would read books about making films. This was all a prologue to the movies.
"A lot of people don't realise how hard it was to get a job in the film industry, not as a director or producer, more as whatever, a cable helper. So I shot a lot on video, VHS and Betamax and so on and later on super8 and I found a friend, Frank Lustig, who had the same dream. It's very important to find that other guy, together you are stronger, and start thinking about doing something for real. When we did the German Fried Movie we were both still in university, we raised 60,000 marks (you can imagine, that's like £20,000) to make this whole movie; but we shot it on 35mm because we convinced Kodak and AFGA to give us film, we convinced everyone to work for free, the actors, everyone, and we got it released on our own."
Listening to Uwe, his excitement is palpable. There's always the sense that he's smiling, and his laugh, somewhere between a chuckle and a mischevious cackle is catching. Whatever issues he's had with critics, it's clear he's got a sense of humour.
I asked about his upcoming film Tunnel Rats, which, in a reverse of the usual pattern, is to be adapted as a videogame.
"[I was talking to] Replay at the video game movie congress in Hanover, and they suggested we join forces.[They had the] Viet Cong engine to work with and suggested develop a Tunnel Rats video game. It's not so much money, they have the engine already."
Did he do it to get at his critics? "No". (Though he does admit that the thought was funny.)
"It's a different position [to where I was] before, it's very boring to make movies out of video game. You can recreate the story."
"Den clarke one of the producers came up with the tunnel rat book in Cu Chi* , which was so fascinating. I recognised also, that I had never seen it in a Vietnam movie, [and it's the] real reason why America lost the war. I started developing a treatment based on that book; the characters are fictional, but whatever happens in the tunnels, happens to the people, everything is accurate. It must happen in the real world, [but the] story of our actors is fictional."
"[I wanted to make a] disturbing war movie. My number one movie is Apocalypse Now, and films like the Deer Hunter, Hamburger Hill, big vietnam movies, [even] Birdy. In a time like now after 9/11 and with Tunnel Rats, I wanted to make a point that war is wrong, in general but to go a little further, what comes a little out in the movies, in today's time the normal soldier cannot claim any more that he doesn't know that war is bad and makes no sense and you're only a puppet for the people with the power. [In Vietnam] TV just got developed, so there's the reasons like Platoon, where the poor guy gets used by the government, [now you can] blame a little every single soldier; it's an individual decision. Less and less people are willing to die for the religion, the country, the peace, it's all bullshit."
We then talked about his film, which is set in Southern Darfur.
"[We're going to] shoot in Capetown with the producer involved in Tunnel Rats, who also worked on Hotel Rwanda, [we] want to do something that's very shocking.
"I do it in the same way, so that we give only basically an outline to the actors [use] a lot of handheld [cameras], and very focused on the person. What I wanted was this journalist getting confronted after the interviews, in a southern Darfur town, with the African Union soldiers, being confronted with the an attack by the Janjaweed after they've left the town; [they have to] make a decision to help the people who have been interviewed, or play it safe, go away, and record about the next massacre.
"What I want is that a few journalists go back to fight, and them getting killed, I don't want a happy end, I want a very depressing ending, I think it's necessary. It brings us to the main point; how many times can we look at something before we do something on our own? Is it not the case that we close our eyes every single day because otherwise we wouldn't be able to live, there are so many things we get confronted with, physically in front of us, our whole lives would fall apart; our whole lives are a pushing away of information from us, [you] couldn't work as a journalist, I couldn't work as a film-maker."
It's fair to admit the discussion was a little rambling. As Uwe puts it, "It doesn't make any fucking sense." Though [in truth] he was talking about standing idly by when genocide is occuring, and it's clear that he's passionate about bringing attention to the situation in Darfur. Though he lives in Canada now, he's German, and it's hard to convey the excitement in his voice as he's talking about films.
Some have problems with his work, as he himself admits "House Of The Dead is not my best film", but it's clear he loves making films, and talking about them, too. For novelty value alone Tunnel Rats is an interesting project, as it's a part of the Vietnam War previously unseen, save for a brief glimpse in Forrest Gump, and as part of South Africa's rise as a filming location it's of interest to industry bods. Sabotage 1943 is interesting in that it's based on the same true story (albeit more than second-hand) as Carve Her Name With Pride. Then there's his pragmatic side; it genuinely seems that Uwe Boll loves making films, and as long as he can do that he'll be happy. From what we've seen of his forthcoming works it looks likely that audiences will be too.