Uwe Boll will no longer fight you — at least, not with his fists. Often lambasted by critics as the worst of the worst, Boll once literally got into the boxing ring with four film bloggers, but these days prefers to combat negative press with what he claims are more serious and polished works. While he may still be more apt to earn a Razzie than an Oscar, the German filmmaker has shied away in recent years from the video game adaptations that gave him his ignominious rep.
Now he favors more sobering subject matter via takes on Darfur (Attack on Darfur) and the Holocaust (Auschwitz, featuring the director as a concentration camp guard). Now tackling the ’08 financial meltdown with Assault on Wall Street, the Death Wish-ish story of a working-class man seeking vengeance against those who cost him his life savings, Boll makes another bid for legitimacy — and maybe even clemency from his critical assailants.
Why do you think you’ve been particularly singled out by critics?
You’re totally right, I got completely singled out. It’s really crazy, you know? It’s almost like a phenomenon, where you feel like, why do they have to mention me in every review? Whatever [films] they don’t like, they mention, “Yeah, it could be worse, if Uwe Boll directed it.” And then you have absurd things: “Who directs the new Star Trek? Uwe Boll should do it, to finish off the whole franchise.”
I hope this slowly dissolves, based on the amount of movies I’ve now done based on real stuff, and I hope that people say, “He made some bad movies, but now he’s also made some good movies.”
You’ve boxed antagonistic critics, as well as sparred in the press with well-known directors (Michael Bay, Eli Roth). Did such PR help or hinder your ability to make movies?
A lot of people thought that I did that on purpose to get massive PR. But I didn’t — I was just upset about things. I think, overall, it was not a wise decision. I made some Internet nerds basically famous because they’d boxed against me. It was kind of idiotic. And then I got bashed because I beat them up! I said, “But what were you expecting? That we would dance around and not do anything?” In the last few years, I’ve tried to do less PR stunts, and just focus on the movies.
Has it been difficult getting taken seriously with films like Darfur, Auschwitz, and now Assault on Wall Street?
Yes. It’s not easy to make a switch. I’m more interested in politics, in what’s going on on Earth, and not in video games. So I did Attack on Darfur, Rampage, and Stoic, and now Assault on Wall Street. And I’d say in the last few years, it’s gotten slowly better. People are actually watching my movies and saying, “What? This is a good movie.” Like Dominic’s (Purcell) manager is Bess Holden, who also represents Jeremy Renner and Daniel Day-Lewis. She watched Assault on Wall Street, and also the Darfur movie, and she loved them. This is my first step to maybe getting a Jeremy Renner interested in a movie.
I’m known in this world as somebody actors actually like. I think this helps against bad reviews. The only thing I can try to do to counter all the critical bashing is to just keep making movies — I do it on time, in budget, and we know what we’re doing. And I think all my movies look at least good. You can say Bloodrayne is a bad movie, but you cannot say Bloodrayne is a bad-looking movie, or badly edited, or has bad music. Everything is top. I think a lot of actors see that, that we actually put some money onscreen.
Where do you see the biggest improvement in your filmmaking?
In the development. I write on my own — although I also always hire a writer, cleaning me up and helping with dialogue, because my English is not good enough to write full dialogue. I think I’m good at creating the stories, and [developing] what it is that I really want to tell. In Assault on Wall Street, it’s about accountability. I would never have made this movie if I had the feeling that the crisis had been solved for the good. I think [the government] solved the crisis for the good for the top 1 percent, and the 99 percent only experienced disadvantages from the bailouts. Especially if we talk about the debt we now have in our households.
Did you ever think you were treating Assault‘s over-the-top murder-revenge finale a bit too seriously?
I wanted the movie to be a little radical. Of course, I don’t want people to get shot for real, but I want them [Wall Street executives] to get scared. In a way, they deserve to be miserable. In the film, the [killer] gets away in the end and says “I’ll keep doing it.” So this is my message to them: Don’t think you’re safe.