Your new movie Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky - in a few words, what is it about?
It's a hero's journey gone bad.
What were your inspirations for writing Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky? And to what extent can you
identify with Hans Wagner, actually (or with any of the other characters,
My main influence for writing Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky
was a book called Cult by Ukrainian author Ljubko Deresch, who
mixes Lovecraftian horror with popcultural references and social
commentary on post-socialist Ukraine. I read it when I was about sixteen
and I loved it. It started out as some kind of a classic story about young
people at a boarding school, but then the Cthulhu-part started and it
turned into this completely surrealistic tale which wasn't even narrative
anymore in the end, just words, random quotes from Pink Floyd songs and
stuff like that.
That, to me, is one of the most
fascinating aspects of the Cthulhu-mythology: The decontruction of reality.
Actually, the song I wrote for the
opening credits of the movie has a quote from the book, „Things get
broken, out of control and start dancing“, which pretty much describes
I can identify with Hans Wagner's
struggle with existential questions, the things he's thinking about in the
beginning of the movie. I find stuff like that pretty scary, too. I guess that's why I made a movie about it.
Your film's narrator kind of reminds me of
fairy tale records of old I listened to in my childhood - was that at all the intended effect? And was
the narrator in the script from the get-go or was he only added later on?
And how much fun was it writing his lines?
That is exactly the intended effect!
I wanted Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky
to feel like a fairy tale film, I wanted the narrator
to sound like one of these friendly old men narrating fairy tales on old records,
to kindly take the audience by the hand, let them relax. To me, this kind
of a narrator is someone you can trust. He will tell you a nice story and
in the end, you will feel good. But our narrator betrays your trust.
Having the narrator in there was one
of my very first ideas for the movie.
The scene where (SPOILER!) Hobbit
gets eaten was a lot of fun to write. When I was a kid and a movie got
scary, my mother used to cover my eyes with her hand. I hated that. I know
many people who cover their eyes when a movie gets bloody. So I thought
it'd be funny to have a narrator, who describes the violence in gruesome
detail, while we don't really see it all that clearly.
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky makes at one point a rather
drastic genre switch - was that your idea from the beginning, or did that
just happen during writing?
That was the initial idea to this
whole movie. When we decided to make a feature film next, I had no idea
what kind of a story I wanted to tell. I was playing a key role in an
Australian TV show at the time and I had a lot of time sitting in my
trailer, watching movies. I shared my trailer with another actor, who was also a film nut, and whenever we had a break, we would watch something fun
together. This was the first time in ages that I got really interested in
entertaining, fun blockbuster movies again. In the years before, I had
become sort of a snob; I only watched weird underground stuff and
considered anything else dumb and boring. You can see that when you watch
my short films.
That guy reintroduced me to the
sheer fun a well made blockbuster can be and I wanted to make something
equally entertaining. So I thought „What is it, that makes a movie
entertaining?“ and my first idea was „It's got to be some kind of an
emotional roller coaster“ - which is a cliché, I know, but it has some
truth in it.
I found it hard to come up with a
good story full of drastic ups and downs, but luckily I remembered a story
I had written as a 16 year old. It was called „Why Hans Wagner Hates the
Starry Sky“ and it had this huge twist in the middle of it.
Do talk about Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky's very own brand of humour for a
I guess that's
just my personal humour. I remember finding it really difficult to write
the first half of the movie, because I wanted it to feel like a genereic rom-com (I love generic
rom-coms! Notting Hill!!!) and I thought I needed
all these dumb little oneliners, that I couldn't come up with. So I
forgot that quickly and just wrote without thinking. In the end, I found
it funny, the actors made it funnier, audiences tend to laugh. Success!
You of course also have to talk about the film's
song-and-dance scene, and how difficult/how much fun was it to
Very difficult and very much fun. We
thought we had chosen a really quiet street. We were wrong. Cars tried to
run us over in pretty much every take. The drivers were really annoyed
with us. I'm in that scene, too, and at one point, a woman pushed me with
her car because she wanted to get through and we didn't jump out of the
way when she honked.
When we finally had a take without
any cars in it, we were very happy ... until we discovered, that one of the
dancers, the only one not wearing sunglasses, was staring into the camera
all the time. Argh!
A few words about your directorial approach to
your story at hand?
The atmosphere I wanted to create
is, like I said earlier, the atmosphere of a fairytale movie for
children. The first concept art we made looked like illustrations from The Little Prince.
We shot most of the film on a rehearsal stage in an acting school for children, we even used
backdrops made by children. Most of the special effects look intentionally dorky and
there's always a certain feel of fakeness during the whole film, very much
like in classic German or Scnadinavian children's movies.
On one hand, to me, that makes the
movie nice and fun to watch, while, on the other hand, making it even more
Do talk about your key cast, and why
exactly these people?
We were casting this movie for quite
a while, as I recall it. We had real trouble finding Hans, and we were
originally auditioning Hubertus Brandt for some other part. The rest of the crew
were against him playing Hans because they thought he wasn't likeable
enough, but I had just watched Mary and Max, so I sort of liked his ears.
He turned out to be the perfect Hans, and, almost more importantly, the
perfect lead actor: He was so much fun on set, entertaining the whole crew
Many of the others had already been
in my short films – people I knew from drama school. For many parts, I
already had the actors in mind when writing them – „Hobbit“ for
example is played by Ulrich Bähnk, who was one of my teachers at
What can you tell us about the
shoot as such and the on-set atmosphere?
had a minimal crew, not even a 1st AD, and no permission to
shoot on our outdoor-locations. It was exciting, stressful, chaotic and a
lot of fun!
A few words
about critical and audience reception of Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky so far?
seem to like (and understand) it, some of the reviews are unbelievably
good. Audiences, however, often seem quite disturbed. The humour is well
recieved, the accident seems to confuse people, after the scene in which
Hans cries, there's usually silence. In Q&As after screenings, it
always takes a while until someone asks a question. I guess, people need
time to process the movie.
future projects you'd like to share?
I made two more feature films after Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky
- Emma hat Flügel, believe it or not, a romantic
comedy without any horror elements, and Cordelias Kinder, which can
almost be considered a sequel to Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky
as it features the same
mythology and even one of the characters has an appearance. Cordelias
Kinder is a lot darker than Why
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky, but the ending is a little
My next film is called Zeckenkommando vs. Cthulu. It's a slacker comedy about a loser
punkband that has to save the world by fighting Cthulhu. Yes, I do like the
whole Cthulhu myth. Plus, I try to have all my movies set in the same
universe and link them somehow.
What got you into
filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the
According to my mother, the first
question I ever asked when I started talking, was: „How does one make a
I can't remember a time when I
didn't want to become a filmmaker. I attended my first film festival at
the age of nine and won a price for a rather disturbing animated fantasy
short film. During the Q&A afterwards, a man asked me, a nine year old
boy, how I would feel if someone would take a cue from my little film and
kill somebody. I answered „I don't understand that question“ and went
on making weird movies.
I studied acting in Hamburg and I
have played some roles in TV and theater. Kathrin, our DOP and editor,
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky?
With Radikal & Arrogant, I
made three short films, 20, 35 and 45 minutes. Espacially the first two
are pretty radical and disturbing and I love all of them.
Before that, film was my hobby. I
got my first video camera when I was six. When I was about 13, I started
playing guitar in a punkband and became more interested in music than
movies for a while, but at 15, I began making a typically German amateur
fun splatter comedy with my friends. It was awful, but I actually learned
a lot about easy-to-do DIY special effects and editing while we made it.
Plus, it was a nice hobby, fooling around in the woods with tons of fake
blood every weekend.
How would you
describe yourself as a director?
pretty driven, in the worst way. The moment I finish writing a script is
the moment I start panicing – I'm always very afraid of failing. The
movie has to get made – quickly. So, I guess I'm always asking a lot
from everyone, but they keep coming back for the next movie and I'm not
paying anyone, so it must be some kind of fun to work with me.
Filmmakers who inspire
When I was a kid, I couldn't say the
complicated German word for „director“, which is „Regisseur“, so I
told everyone I wanted to become Steven Spielberg. So, he's an
During my time at drama school I
became obsessed with the work of Christoph Schlingensief. I'd never have
started Radikal & Arrogant
without his inspiration.
Also, Lloyd Kaufman, John Waters,
Edgar Wright, Joss Whedon, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, George Lucas, Aaron
Katz, Joe Swanberg [Joe Swanberg
interview - click here], Takashi Miike, Peter Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock, Jon
Woo and many others inspire me a lot. I get easily inspired …
Your favourite movies?
A few of my all-time-favourites in
no particular order:
Annie Hall, Manhattan, (500) Days of
Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Indiana Jones 1-3, Quiet City,
Drinking Buddies, The Avengers 2, X-Men: First Class, Dead or Alive, In My
Father's Den, Return of the Jedi, The Princess Bride, Stardust, Peter Pan
(2003), Almost Famous, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Let the
Right One In, Where the Wild Things Are, Terror 2000, Hellboy II,
Spider-Man 2, The Graduate.
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
German comedies are unwatchable, I can't stand horror movies that are just
looking for the most revolting thrill, and I find James Bond films
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I really liked your questions.
for the interview!