Udo Kier-Cult Actor


Udo Kier-Cult Actor

by Sherif Awad

Last July, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival received German-born and now California-based cult actor Udo Kier to present his latest film “Zero” by Hungarian director Gyula Nemes. The film mixed genres and styles to send a message about how the world should respect bees and honey for the sake of the future of life on Earth. Given the fact that the film viewers at Karlovy Vary Festival are usually very sophisticated due to their background as film critics and cinema professional, Kier tried to light up their readings of the film by explaining that it has a very simple message and no political or symbolic innuendos at all. Kier is also very simple and down to earth artist. He is the complete opposite to the tense and villainous roles he used to play since 1966, which were in horror, science and erotic thrillers.
“If bees die, we die… This is the message of the film… There no need to say but …but… but…  ”, he put it when we sat down after the screening of “Zero”… “People must take notice that the climate of Earth has shifted: While there are floods in Texas, there are restrictions on watering land in California. We are permitted to water three times a week otherwise we get a ticket for 500 Dollars”…
Udo Kier was born 1944 in Cologne, Germany, during World War II. On the evening of his birth, the hospital was bombed but he and his mother were rescued from underneath the rubble. After a move to Britain to study English when he was eighteen, Kier took a few acting courses then was eventually offered a role by director Michael Sarne in “Road to Saint Tropez” (1966).  Kier’s first hit film was also “Mark of the Devil” (1970) although it was banned in 31 countries for its extreme graphic violence and sexuality in reference to the standards of those days. Kier, who thinks that luck played great role in his start, met director Paul Morrissey on an airplane trip. After Morrissey wrote his number inside a page of his passport, Kier got a call from the director who offered him the lead role in the 3-D Flesh for Frankenstein (1973). It was this film, along with its sister film “Blood for Dracula”(1974), that made Udo a cult figure.
Before “50 Shades of Grey”, there was “The Story of O” one of Kier’s earliest starring roles. In 1975, the film was banned in the UK in 1975, until it was passed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 2000. Meanwhile, it was a big hit in Paris and played for 52 weeks in Champs-Élysées cinemas and so people took the train from the UK to France to see it there. Udo Kier played the role of the handsome young man René who takes his beautiful girlfriend O to a remote house where she is subjected to sexual S&M by rich men seeking strange ways of pleasure. “I remember there was a lot of objections from women’s rights movement claiming that the film shows women in an inappropriate way ”, said Kier about “The Story of O” which is  now considered a cult classic. I have not seen 50 Shades of Grey but I read its reviews and watched its trailer. I think hot things happen 30 minutes through it not like in my film”, laughed Kier.
The Internet Movie Data Base states that Kier made around 224 films shot around the world. “After all these movies, I am more interested now in my private life, in my land and my animals”, said Kier in a humble way. “In cinema, I look for something I have never done… I played The Pope, Adolf Hitler, vampires, scientists and transvestites. I look for something to provoke me …, which is difficult but not impossible… In 2011, I played a puppet narrating the anthologies in a film called Theatre Bizarre, which I liked because throughout the film, the puppet transforms gradually to a human being when it reaches the final story… I guess that the film industry changed since I have begun. There is too much technology to the extent I needed to adapt myself to perform to camera that were getting smaller and smaller through the years…  ”
Although he is based in the US since the 1970s, Kier is still offered roles in Europe. “Directors are still having control of their films and its final cuts till now. A European studio cannot come to a director like Lars von Trier and tell him we want to recut your film”, explained Kier. “In America, especially in big studios, the executives can still control the fate of a film if they didn’t like the director’s edited version”
Only few years ago, Kier succeeded to buy a car he dreamt of buying when he was moneyless young man. He is keeping it at the entrance of his house with no intention of driving it. “I like to watch it every day to know that it was of my dreams I fulfilled… I always wish I will have unfulfilled dreams because this will keep me going on”