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Uwe Boll bites back

Notorious movie director talks tough.

Uwe Boll is fed up. He's fed up with people slating his films on the Internet, mainly. He's also fed up with Hollywood producers who won't take movies based on videogames seriously. And perhaps most worryingly, at least in terms of how the rest of this interview is likely to pan out, he's fed up with the person who's interviewing him.

"The dangerous thing right now is that a lot of people bash me without thinking about the movies. It's fashionable to hit on Uwe Boll, and this is what I don't get. And I don't get why this comes so harshly from the games press," Boll says.

The problem, he explains, is that "Tons of journalists, including you, have nothing else to do than to follow the Internet voices of one or two thousand people. Only half of those people have seen my movies, and only two per cent of those people have seen my movies before House of the Dead."

Boll says the point is that his movies get better as his career progresses - Dungeon Siege is "ten times better" than BloodRayne, which is ten times better than House of the Dead, and so on.

"If people don't see that, then it's not my problem, but I think those are the people who hate me or who want to bash me. Normal people, people who buy movies or watch TV, they see that absolutely."

Whether you agree with Boll's argument or not, you can't deny that he's taken a lot of flack since his first videogame adaptation, House of the Dead, appeared in cinemas back in 2003. The Alone in the Dark movie did nothing to bolster his reputation with the critics, and his latest effort, BloodRayne, was widely slammed - before the film was even released, Boll says.

"People say BloodRayne has a very bad IMDB rating - yes, but how many votes of zero points were made before the movie was out, by people who hate me but haven't even seen the movie?

"I've met tons of people who think BloodRayne is way better than Underworld 2, but they're not going on the Internet and writing that... I'm a little tired of only getting questions from journalists like, 'Your movies were so badly received, blah blah blah.' I know tons of movies that were way worse than Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead."

And besides, says Boll, what exactly is it that we are expecting from him? After all, he is using videogames as his source material, and they're hardly reknowned for their complex characterisations and sophisticated narratives.

"Let's be realistic, what is House of the Dead? House of the Dead is a brainless shooter, where you shoot zombies into pieces. So what are you expecting from the movie, Schindler's List?

"I think I made a perfect House of the Dead movie, because it really shows how the game is. It's a lot of fun, it's over-the-top action - it's not 28 Days Later, because the reality is that House of the Dead is about how it's a lot of fun to shoot zombies... It's cheesy entertainment with a lot of gore and a lot of violence, and it's super-fast."

Hollywood hangups

Christian Slater and Tara Reid talk shop in Alone in the Dark.

Us games journalists, Boll argues, should be pleased that videogame-based movies are getting made at all. "It's tough to convince someone from the studio system to believe in a videogame-based movie. It's way easier to have a great book or to have a comic book [as your source material], because these studio guys, they know Spider-Man, Batman, that kind of stuff."

Boll believes that part of the problem with convincing Hollywood that game movies are a good idea is down to game publishers themselves. He argues that Marvel, for example, are very good at cross-promoting movies based on their properties - whereas videogame companies simply sell off the licence and then forget about it.

According to Boll, he's fallen foul of this on more than one occasion. "Sega did nothing for House of the Dead, and Atari did nothing to support Alone in the Dark. They developed Alone in the Dark part 5, parallel to my movie, and then they closed the LA facility and never finished the game. And I was standing there alone in the rain with my movie...

"The reality is that a lot of the videogame companies are quite sloppy - they are happy to sell the licence, but then they don't give a sh** about it, and this is not the right approach."

So, Boll argues, it's difficult enough to get a videogame movie made in the first place, and it doesn't help when that movie is slated before it's even been released.

"When I try to get videogames turned into movies, and get videogames accepted as [the equivalent of] best-selling books for the younger generation, I get only sh** from the videogames press - what an asshole I am, what a criminal I am for doing these movies, whatever, instead of being happy that there's a movie getting made of a game. This is what's confusing me."

In fact, it's not just confusing Boll - it's putting him off the whole thing all together. "I won't say that I won't acquire another videogame licence in the future. But I'm not so eager to do it any more, to be honest. After Far Cry, maybe I'll go away from videogame-based movies. And everybody can be really happy about it."

Going Postal

It's one thing being vertically challenged, it's another when all your girly mates have bigger guns than you.

But before that, he's still got to make the Postal movie, based on Running With Scissors' controversial PC title. And just to show he's still got a sense of humour, he's going to take the opportunity to have a little fun with his critics.

"I'm in the movie - Uwe Boll will play a minor part. I get killed by my 'Boll haters'," he explains. So will he be getting real, er, Boll haters to play themselves?

"Absolutely! I don't have a problem with that," Boll says. "I think I'd get thousands of extras doing that, coming to the set to track me down and lynch me!"

When asked if he's worried that the Postal movie will attract a flood of negative publicity, just as the games have, Boll replies: "I don't care, to be honest."

"The movie will be so politically incorrect and harsh, it's like a mirror to American society, and I don't think the movie will be well received by everybody. For example, Osama Bin Laden will be one of the lead characters - I think that shows the mood of the movie."

So what will Bin Laden's role be, exactly? Well, Boll explains, the idea is that he's holed up in Tucson, Arizona, running a Taliban camp. "That shows a little bit how politically incorrect Postal will be - it's really an underground, alternative point of view. Let's wait and see; I think we will suprise a lot of people."

Boll confirms that Diff'rent Strokes and Postal star Gary Coleman is already signed up to play himself in the film, but he's yet to find a leading man to take on the role of the Postal Dude. One thing's for sure - he'll be going for a comedic actor, "Like a Matthew Lillard, for example, or Ron Perlman," rather than a serious type.

Taxing questions

Reid asks Boll for some directorial advice. Boll wonders if it's too late to get Shannon Elizabeth in.

Talking about Postal seems to have cheered Boll up a bit, so let's throw in a tricky question while the going's good. Is there any truth in those rumours that Boll has been exploiting a tax loophole in German law to fund his films, and to provide a dodgy tax break for investors?

"There is no loophole," Boll says - at least not any more, it seems. He explains the situation used to be that if you invested, say, $100,000 in a movie, you could reduce the income you pay tax on by $100,000. As a result of this, German investors funded around 30 per cent of Hollywood movies, but all that's changed since the law was amended in December.

Things are still looking good for Boll, however. He says he's got full financing for his next three movies, "And all my movies, no matter what reviewers are saying, are getting sold."

Apparently Boll is "number one in the market" as far as paying investors back goes, and that's "Not because I make the best movies on earth, but I make movies for a minimal amount of budget compared to what major companies are spending, and the movies look good, and they go out theatrically, and they make a lot of money on DVD or Pay TV.

"This is the main point - if the movie is really, really bad, why are a hundred territories buying it?"

Boll says it's tough to get his movies on screens in the UK and France, to give a couple of examples, but they do very well in cinemas in Spain, Italy, Russia, Thailand and the Middle East, generally spending a few weeks in the top ten of the box office charts.

"I can live with that situation. The average Hollywood movie last year had $65 million production costs, and $40 million promotions and advertising costs. My movies have $15 million to $20 million production costs, and $10 million P&A."

Reality bites

A House of the Dead character considers he options. We suspect they're rather limited.

And he's off again. "So if people are writing on the Internet about how my movies were big failures, it's because these people are amateurs and they have no idea of the reality of film-making and film selling.

"I get bashed as the worldwide enemy number one in film-making by people who are working at Starbucks and who also want to make movies. It's ridiculous - it's completely idiotic because they're hitting on a guy who actually made it happen, but I started my career in the same position as anybody else," Boll argues.

This seems to be a particularly sore point. Boll says it was a long, hard slog to get where he is today - his parents couldn't afford to finance his first ventures into film-making, and he didn't have any contacts in the industry. "I started with $50,000 to make my first movie. I travelled with my f***ing print for my first movie to 150 movie theatres in Germany, theatre by theatre, and was sitting there talking with the audience to get my movie played. So I did it the hard way.

"Now people are getting hired as directors at 20 years old, coming from film school and getting 100 million bucks for their first movie. If people think that this is a good situation, that I'm the worst enemy in film-making and a completely talentless idiot, it's their decision."

The figures speak for themselves, Boll says - for example, more than 1.4 million copies of the House of the Dead DVD have been sold in North America. "Maybe this is bad news for the Boll enemies, but while there are a few thousand people trying to crush me on the Internet, there are millions of people who buy the product."

Blood money

The lovely BloodRayne - remember ladies, never attempt to apply lipstick whilst driving.

However, he concedes, as far as BloodRayne goes, which arrived in American cinemas last month, "I cannot say that it was a big success in the movie theatres. I tried it with a new theatrical distribution company, and they were not able to lock in all the theatres - that was the biggest problem we had. We were scheduled to go out on 2000 screens, and then we came out on 930 screens, and only sh**** screens, so it didn't work out.

"Now we are counting on the DVD release - I'm sure that on DVD it will sell very well."

So if, as Boll argues and as the DVD sales figures would suggest, the viewing public are a lot keener on his body of work than you might think after a casual glance at the Internet, just why does he receive such a lot of negative criticism?

Boll believes it's because he's too willing to discuss his movies, and too honest in his responses. "I think I'm very open, and I talk with everybody and give interviews to everybody. Over the last few years I've realised that it's not helping me that I'm open, and ready to discuss and to learn. Saying that I learned from my mistakes is maybe the biggest mistake I made."

BloodRayne is due to arrive in UK cinemas later this year, and after that will come Dungeon Siege - but this time he "won't do any experiments" as far as distribution is concerned.

Boll confirms that it will no longer be split into two films, Kill Bill-style, as previously suggested. "That was the plan, but now it's only one theatrical movie, plus a longer DVD and TV version."

Metal Gear sold?

BloodRayne and chum. Yes, it is her out of Lost.

So what about the rumours that Boll was keen to direct the Metal Gear Solid movie, but that Hideo Kojima turned him down?

"This is a huge miscommunication in the press," Boll says.

"What happened is, two French writers wrote a Metal Gear Solid script, and they approached me because they wanted me to direct and produce the movie."

Boll asked the writers if they had obtained the licence, and they said no, but added that they had good connections with Konami.

"So they contacted Hideo Kojima and I think his response, because of the press, was like, 'I never talked to Uwe Boll, I've no idea what he's talking about.' This is the situation.

"I like Metal Gear Solid, I like that script, but unless the rights situation is cleared, what can I say?"

And besides, Boll continues, the movie won't make any money if the studio throws money at it while the game publisher ignores it completely. He observes that as a videogame, Doom is just as popular as MGS - but the movie "Didn't make half of the f***ing budget back. People didn't give a sh** about Doom and they won't give a sh** about Metal Gear Solid if it doesn't get the kind of promotion it deserves."

Doom and gloom

The stars of Dungeon Siege. Yes, it is her out of Deep Impact, him out of Snatch, him out of Goodfellas and him out of Smokey and the Bandit.

Yes, Boll has seen Doom, and he's rather ambivalent about it - "I liked the movie a little, it wasn't a really bad movie, but it was not really good."

Would he have done it any differently, then? "I don't know if I would definitely make the movie very differently, because I think that Doom remembered me in a lot of the camera angles, what the creatures were doing and so on... I think the guy who made Doom definitely saw Alone in the Dark."

As for Halo, an example of a videogame-based movie which has a hefty budget behind it, Boll isn't too optimistic. "I personally think that with the budget they've planned, Halo will be a failure. I think Halo will not make the money back in the end."

We've reached the end of the interview, so there's just time to ask Boll if he has a final message for those infamous Boll haters.

Course he does. "Before they judge, they should see the film, that's the first thing. Second, they should really try to compare it fairly, and not based on my name.

"If people really think I'm completely talentless, and this is to journalists, they should at least rent one of my earlier movies, like Heart of America, which is a really, really good movie.

"And then they should say, 'Okay, this is the history of this director, we should judge him based on this.' They shouldn't say, 'This guy cannot make movies,' because this is unfair. I think it's very arrogant that a lot of journalists are not even willing see that movie before they judge my directing ability."

Best get off down Blockbusters, then...

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About the Author

Ellie Gibson avatar

Ellie Gibson


Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.


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