Irmi and Nick Millard in Munich
You have just shot the feature film The Bullet Ballet in Germany, right? In a few words, what
is it about?
The Bullet Ballet is
about an aging German actress who has had success in Germany and in Hollywood.
Her Hollywood career is at an end, so she returns to Munich to
try to get work - no luck. What makes the
character interesting is that she lies
constantly to others, and to herself ...
Her career will eventually be saved by a young writer-director, a character
I call Yankee Logan. Yankee is a young Orson Welles, and has always admired the aging
actress. I call the character Martina Mainz. Together, they make a
great film entitled The Bullet Ballet, it wins the Palme d'Or at the
Cannes film festival - a nice happy Hollywood ending.
What were your inspirations for the movie?
important inspiration is one of my favorite films: The great
writer-director Billy Wilder's masterpiece Sunset Boulevard.
gave the world two great film directors, Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger.
I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Otto Preminger at the 1970 Cannes Film
Festival - he had the reputation of being a tyrant on the set, shouting
and screaming commands at the cast and crew, fearsome ... but in my
conversation with him, he could not have been nicer - the Viennese charm
shined through ...
did the project fall together, and why film it in Germany?
started shooting films in Germany in 1967 - my wife Irmi is from Munich, a
city that I like very much. I've made six or seven films there through the
years. I work with my own money, so things can come together very quickly
because of that - if you have to look for money to make films it's a far
different story. I read that Orson Welles once said in an interview "I've
spent more time at film festivals and in restaurants trying to raise money
to make films, than I have actually
making films." That's sad, the greatest director in the history of
cinema (even the French will reluctantly admit that he is, although they
would very much like it to be Jean Renoir ), and he has to fight to get
money to make films. Hollywood studio heads would give tens of millions of
dollars to young directors who didn't have in their heads what he had in
the heels of his feet - film is, and always will be, a very tough
can you tell us about filming in Germany, and how does it compare to
filming in the USA?
I like shooting films in germany. I've also shot two or three in France as
well ... please understand that I live in a different world, it's called the
world of guerrilla filmaking. I have never had a permit to shoot in France or
the USA. This is filmmaking that has an edge to it, it is more exciting. I'm not sure that it would be any fun to make a film any other
way. You know what shots you must get, so you go and get them one way or
the other. I'm sure Rainer Werner Fassbinder worked that way too, in the
beginning - all low budget filmmakers must do that. The permit fee to
shoot at the Los Angeles Airport is two thousand five hundred dollars - if
I need a shot of one or two actors arriving in Los Angeles
carrying their suitcases, I go to LAX with the actors and two prop
suitcases and shoot ... I'm sure that when Godard made his masterpiece Breathless, he shot the same
way - rent a Paris hotel room, bring in Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo, and cameraman
Raoul Cotard and shoot. I work the same way in the USA as I do in Europe, and believe me, it's
Anything you can tell us about The Bullet Ballet's
T.J. Fournier as Billy Goat Heimat, Irmi Millard as
Martina Mainz, Nick Millard as Bernd Strasser.
It might be way too early to ask, but any idea
when and where The Bullet Ballet will be released?
Not sure of release date as we still have a lot of interiors to do
here in US. We have our own distribution - I am one of only a few
people who have been in all three parts of the film business exhibition,
distribution, production ... by far the most fun is production.
From what I've heard, you have made quite a few movies in
the last few years that are nowhere really listed - so I'd very much like
you to give us the lowdown on at least some of them.
Jackie Devereau - the story of a New Orleans low life pimp.
The Turn of the Screw - a modern day version of Henry James' classic ghost
Pygmalion - a
modern version of George Bernard Shaw's great play: Liza Doolittle as a
punk rocker with purple hair, and a very foul mouth ... to professor Henry
Higgins: "you like pussy, don't you?"
Hemingway - the
greatest writer of the english language since William Shakespeare ... his
life and loves.
Johnny Stompanato - small time Los Angeles gangster and
gigolo Johnny Stompanato and the glamorous motion picture star Lana Turner
liked mixing danger with passion ...
Faust 2005 - German film director Werner Faust wants a hit film, and he is
more than willing to sell his soul to the devil to get it. Werner is
very jealous of the enormous success his sometime friend Wolfgang Anderson
has had in Hollywood, so he strikes a deal with the devil ...
City Without a Soul - it's name starts with an H and ends with a
D. It's a hard town,
but everyone wants to go there, including myself. Sometimes even those
who have had great success there jump off bridges ...
The Undefeated - based on a Hemingway short story about an aging matador who
is determined to give the crowd one last great bullfight, even if it means
his death - as an aside, I learned how to write by reading Ernest Hemingway,
he gives free writing lessons in his books Green Hills of Africa and
A Moveable Feast, and other works. Too bad, he let us all
down by blowing out his brains, Irmi and I have visited his grave in Ketchum,
Don Quixote - a
modern day version of Cervantes great comic novel. The Don thinks that Las
Vegas whores are great noble ladies, he thinks that a beat up old junk Chevrolet is a
Ferrari, that windmills are armies ... I did a hell of a
good job adapting the book.....
Nick and Irmi Millard, distributor Jesus Terán
Of every script I've done, the
best piece of material, the best script is Pygmalion - not because of
Nick Millard but because of Mr. Shaw - he put the emotion into the play,
and a hundred years later it is still there. The theme a most important
one, the triumph of the human spirit. Liza must overcome not only her own
terrible background, but also the petty tyranny of professor Henry Higgins
... it is a great script. There is an actress who has just left
her movie star husband, that would make a great Liza, in a big budget
go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking to
begin with, did you receive any formal education on the subject, and how
big was the influence of your father S.S. Millard, himself a film
producer? And what can you tell us about your father to begin with?
of good films. When i was young, back in the 1950's, there were many good
films. Today we are lucky to get one really great film per year, films of
quality like The Reader, The King's Speech and Das Leben
Not a lot of education, I quit school at age 16 - but because my mother took me to the library at an early age,
I have always been an avid reader. My sister Tamara is as well. I have
also been very lucky to be able to travel for most of my life, so i
have been to the Prado in Madrid, the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, and the Tate
Gallery in London more than once.
My father was a great man - I'm sure most
sons feel the same way about their fathers. S.S. Millard was a producer,
he was a man of daring, a man who could get things done by
using his wits, and not a lot of money. He was the consort of Queen Marie of
Romania. He had a tremendous influence not only on my film
career, but on my life, and all the fun that I have had. One small
example, he would play classical music on the car radio - being a
european, that is the kind of music he liked. As a kid, I did not like
it, but my dad introduced me to it. I have spent many pleasurable
hours in concert halls all over the world listening to symphonic music
being played, the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Louise M. Davies Concert
Hall in San Francisco, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. I consider that the gift of fine music he gave
me is worth
millions of Dollars. Austria can be very proud of having produced
the finest composer of all time, Mozart - no composer will ever surpass
My father raised me to be a cynic. In this
day and age, some cynicism is necessary in order to survive - to date,
no one has ever sold me the Brooklyn Bridge...
early films were almost all of the erotic variety ... and here comes probably the
most stupid question I could think of: Why? And what can you tell us about
the erotic filmworld in the early days of your career?
did i make erotic films? To make money - they are easy to shoot. I have many good memories of making adult
films. Occasionally, not as
often as I would have liked though, one of the actresses would take a
liking to me, and we would have some fun (I don't mean going to Disneyland fun)
I tried to avoid being a part of the erotic film crowd as
much as possible - much like Ernest Hemingway, who never lived in New York
City because he didn't want to associate with other writers.
I did business
with a man named Hal Guthu, he was an agent for the models - everyone
liked Hal Guthu ... years before he had been Ed Wood's cinematographer [Ed
Wood bio - click here]. Shortly before he died he told me something about
"Nick, I always treat every girl who comes into my agency with
courtesy and respect - sometimes the girls are not good-looking, and I know that
I cannot get them work ... but I always ask them to fill out the
information form, and I take Polaroid pictures of them. I don't do this with any ulterior motive,
I'm just being nice, not wanting to hurt their feelings. Sometimes, a
week or two later, they will come back to the agency, with their
roommate - and the roommate is often a very beautiful girl, a girl I can
get work for. She will tell me how her friend raved about me, how
kindly I treated her, after other agencies had slammed the door in her
face ... the beautiful roommate will sign with my agency."
Hal Guthu is the agent who discovered Demi Moore - she was from New Mexico, and came to his
agency. Hal Guthu
told her he could get her work the next day, if she would work topless
before the camera. He said that without his even asking, she pulled
off her tank top - he showed me the Polaroids he had taken, it was a
young Demi Moore ... I told Guthu, that's quite an accomplishment, you
discovered a fine dramatic actress - Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Magazine never discovered a fine actress in fifty years of
erotic films often had a very special atmosphere and an almost artsy flair
to them. Was this at all an artistic decision, or did this just happen?
was an artistic decision - I have always liked shooting with available
light, it is real. I like shooting on location, this is one of the basic
tenets of Roberto Rossellini's neo-realism ... I was strongly influenced
in my youth by European art films - not to say that
Hollywood has not made great films, they have ... Hollywood does tend to
A quick story about myself, in
1994 I was shooting a film, adapted from a Hemingway short story The
Undefeated, my film lights were in the pawn shop, and I was not adding
even a little bit of light, because I had no lights - the footage looked
very real, very artistic. A short time later I got some money and got my
lights out of the pawn shop, which was on Sixth Street in San Francisco. In spite of knowing better,
I started to overlight too. The
footage did not look as good ...
a few of your films like Chantal,
A Couple of Trouble/Lustful
Addiction and Roxanna have been remade by
Seduction Cinema in the
early 2000's. How did this come into being, were you at all surprised by this new-found interest in your
old films, and how did you feel about the remakes as such?
was not surprised by the interest in my erotic films, because I've alway
known I was one of the best at making them. Even today if I were to go
back to shooting them, I could do better than most writer-directors who
shoot adult films. There are a few tricks, a partially clothed beautiful
woman is more enticing than a naked beautiful woman, because something is
left to the imagination. I was always able to get more from the actors
and actresses by saying very little, rather than giving them a long list
thought the remakes were an interesting,
original idea - something different ...
You have worked several times with early adult superstar
Uschi Digard ... and there are just too many fanboys in my audience (me
included, admittedly) not to ask: What can you tell us about the woman,
and what was working with her like?
can tell you that Uschi was always very professional to work with ... and
I can tell you about the first time I ever saw her, because I will never
forget it: It was in March of 1970, at the Centurry Plaza Hotel in Century
City, California (very close to Beverly Hills). One word can describe Uschi,
magnificent - I had never seen anything like her breasts in my life (and I
was raised around a burlesque theater, the Moulin Rouge theatre in Oakland,
California). She also had a very pretty face and a nice derriere. She was
from Switzerland, she spoke German with Irmi ... sometimes they write that
she was from Sweden, perhaps they are thinking of Anita Ekberg. About
twelve years ago, her agent, Hal Guthu, told me she was living in Palm Springs,
If my information is
at all correct, you turned your back on erotic films in 1975 with the
Insane. What prompted that decision, and what can you tell us
about the movie as such and its star Priscilla Alden, who would continue
to pop up in
quite a few of your films over the years?
have to have a little fun here - I like to have some fun in my films, too:
I once said that moving up to horror films was a step up for me
"from the gutter to the curb". Now, there is something even
lower than the gutter, and that is the sewer - the film genre that I would
say equates with the sewer is today's big budget Hollywood action film: Kill,
kill, kill! The adult genre is about lovemaking, lovemaking, lovemaking -
I made forty or fifty adult
films, that was enough. To paraphrase a line from Billy Wilder's great
film noir Double Indemnity: "I did it for the Money, and I did
it for the women. I got both." (Not as many women as I would have liked
though.) The last adult film I made was in 1974. Maybe I'll go back, I miss the
Insane is still around after almost forty years - I can name five or six
films that I saw at the Cannes film festival
during the years that are not. I give the credit for this to Priscilla Alden, without her the film would have been far, far
less. She was great
to work with. We started working together in 1969 on a film entitled Severine,
I brought an actress from Germany to play the lead in the film. She later had a very successful career in
Germany, her name is Elke Hart, she made a film in Germany entitled Rheingold,
produced it and starred in it. The film won many important awards.
last film Priscilla Alden and I did together was in 2006, it was entitled Funeral
Parlor. Unlike the characters Priscilla played on screen, in
real life Priscilla was an intellectual - she liked good books and good
films, she was a lover of opera (an art form i have never been able to
acquire a taste for) and worked for free in many San Francisco opera
productions. She also liked the theatre very much. I do miss her ...
As far as I know,
Insane, just like your erotic flicks, will receive an official
remake, to be directed by Brian Dorton [Brian
Dorton interview - click here] amd called Crazy
Fat Ethel. Your feelings about this, and do
you have any part in this project?
a remake is in the works. From what I see on the internet it looks
What can you tell
us about your career in horror (and later also in action cinema) as such?
I have enjoyed working in all genres, erotic, horror, action, and
drama. These days I only do dramas, or drama with some comedy in it. Like woody once wrote, "When you do comedy, you are sitting at
the childrens' table." Drama is the big show. That said, it is a
wonderful thing to make people laugh, cheer them up a bit ... and comedy is
not easy to do, some hollywood TV-series have five or six writers, and
they are still not funny. It is truly easier to make someone in the
audience cry than it is to make them laugh, but drama is the top, no
gunfights to hide behind, no vampires biting pretty girls' necks, no love
scenes ... Woody had better get up to Stockholm and shoot a depressing
drama in black and white, set in winter ...
future projects you'd like to talk about?
a film on director John Huston, and the problems he had shooting The
Misfits near Reno, Nevada in 1960. I've got a beautiful girl playing Monroe,
we put her in a wig styled to match Monroe's hairdo in Misfits,
and while she does not look exactly like Monroe, no one can say she is not
beautiful enough to portray her. The girl is a stripper, but she has has
acting lessons, and has talent. The footage we've shot so far looks very
good. Today's directors have no color, Huston had plenty of color
Then there's of course The Bullet Ballet (mentioned
above), and there is also a
film noir script I wrote, still untitled ...
favourite(s) among your films?
The Blue Angel - one critic said it was better
than the Curd Jürgens-Mai Britt 1950's remake. I worked from the novel
by Heinrich Mann, not the film.
The Undefeated from
a short story by Ernest Hemingway - an aging matador is determined to give
the crowd one last great bullfight, even if it means dying in the bullring
Pygmalion - a
modern day version of George Bernard Shaw's great play.
Faust 2005 - set
in the world of modern day German cinema..
Hemingway - the
greatest writer of the English language since William Shakespeare - his
life and loves ...
Don Quixote - a
modern day version of Cervantes' great comedic novel.....
The Life and Death
of Richard 3 - a modern day version of Shakespeare's play set in the
world of outlaw motorcycle gangs.
How has the low budget
film world changed over the years?
get more bang for your buck today. Forty years ago you had to shoot on
film, now you have high definition, no negative to buy and develop,
no expensive first answer print to make, or in my case we most often did a
one light print - and hopefully the internet will open more ways to sell
your film. Forget YouTube, they don't pay a damn thing - in fact they are
nothing but copyright infringers. Paramount has a billion dollar lawsuit
against YouTube. I hope Paramount
How would you
describe yourself as a director?
I am one of the best film directors working
today,because i watched and
learned from one of the best, two time Academy Award-winner John Huston. Huston could also write, so he was a real
who knows film will tell you that it is the writer who is the creative
force behind a good film, not the director or the producer, but the writer
Any advice you'd give
an up-and-coming filmmaker who wants to enter the (low budget) filmworld
film school and use the money to make films - that is your school. And it
is the very best.
... and equally important, watch great films, not the
Hollywood crap of today, but films like
Citizen Kane, Casablanca,
High Noon, Breathless, 8
1/2, La Strada, Open City, The Bicycle Thief,
La Notte, The King's Speech, The Reader, The Lives
of Others, ...
who inspire you?
All of the greats - Orson has to go first. John Huston because of his
great films The Maltese Falcon,
The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle, The African
Queen, and because of the colorful life he led. The Swede, the great Ingmar
Bergman. Jean-Luc Godard - Breathless will
be shown forever. Roberto Rossellini, the father of every low budget
filmmaker, including myself. Federico Fellini, 8
1/2 is a masterpiece. A film that any real writer-director admires
I think that Woody
is the best American writer-director working today, but that's not saying
much. There will never be a Nobel Prize for literature for John Grisham -
he is a good writer, but takes no chances. Hemingway said in
his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that the writer must go far, far out - a reference to the old fisherman in
The Old Man and the Sea. John Grisham must row far, far out - and woody has to go to
winter, and make a depressing film in black and white ...
I am practicing
what I preach - for the past twenty years I have rowed farther and farther
out. It is hard, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I lost my house
in the South of France, my house in Palm Springs, my mom's house near San
Francisco, and my own ... would I change things if I could?
No, I would not ...
Your favourite movies?
Citizen Kane, Casablanca,
High Noon, The Bicycle Thief, 8
The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Dial M for Murder, The Asphalt Jungle,
Kubrick’s The Killing (he does owe a lot to John Huston for The Killing),
The African Queen, The Reader, Sweet Smell of Success
(Clifford Odet's dialogue alone makes Sweet Smell worth seeing,
"you're dead kid, get yourself buried.") - a lot of others as
well, a good film makes you think and feel.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I like to try and find something good in every film, because I know
how hard it is to make a film. I do knock the major film studios in Hollywood, that's probably because they won't let me come to
make films for them ...
Facebook, whatever else?
No website, and soon I will be leaving Facebook - it is addictive. My time is better spent writing and shooting and trying to
sell films ...
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Yeah, try to get me a deal with Constantin
Film on the new film - if you pull it off, I'll make you a producer. To quote my dad,
S.S. Millard, "the film business is a miracle business." German, Austrian and
Swiss rights are always sold together in one package, these
include theatrical, DVD, cable and television rights. I don't need any
money to make the film, just a distribution deal ...
Thank you, Michael. I enjoyed doing it. I want to also thank any
of your readers who have supported my films - there is no film business
without an audience ...