by Steve Dollar

Udo Kier, photo by Steve Dollar

German actor Udo Kier has worked for the most idiosyncratic auteurs dead or alive—Andy Warhol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Lars Von Trier, Guy Maddin, E. Elias Merhige, Dario Argento, Gus Van Sant and Werner Herzog among others—and he's also co-starred with Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire. He's the single degree of separation between extreme European art cinema and Hollywood popcorn overdrive, it seems, and even in his mid-60s, he's having trouble slowing down. "I made seven films in the last year," he said recently, chatting during a visit to Montreal's Fantasia Festival, where he was promoting a small but pivotal performance in the new horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre (itself pitched between sly European sensibilities and low-budget grindhouse mayhem). Besides projects with Maddin, a Bela Bartok biopic and the role of a Nazi leader on the moon in Iron Sky, he has a small role in Von Trier's forthcoming Melancholia, and was onstage at the Cannes press conference where the director caused a ruckus by declaring himself a Nazi.

Blood for Dracula "He is not a Nazi," Kier said, "That was a misunderstanding. What he wanted to say—he told a story that he was brought up Jewish, and his mother told him before she died that his father was named Hartmann. So he said, 'I'm German. I'm a Nazi.' Which was against the Germans, because he said actually all the Germans are Nazis."

The actor was ready to take a break, but the phone keeps ringing. He was looking forward to returning to his five-acre ranch in Palm Springs. "Now I have the happiest moments there by myself when I give water to the trees. I have 41 palm trees. It's so beautiful to stand there and smell how happy those trees are."

Over coffee in a hotel lobby, Kier reflected on his career and some of the notorious characters he's known over the last 50 years.


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