Interview: Uwe Boll Talks Postal, Kevin Costner, and Answers Reader Mail
Talking video game movies, moneymaking, and more with the German filmmaker.
It is fun to see Vince Desi in the movie, because it plays on your reputation developing video games into movies -- against the wishes of diehard fans. Is this the best relationship you've had with the creator of a video game you've adapted so far?
UB: Absolutely. It's their baby, and they basically are all the way on my side. They don't dump me if I have a bad review, they stay on my side, and they promote the shit out of the movie. They are really helping, and it's not easy to get support on a movie like this.
Was the case different with movies like Alone in the Dark and Dungeon Siege?
UB: On Dungeon Siege, I have to say we developed a long time, that script -- over a year, we had three different writers, and [game creator] Chris Taylor, he was really happy. They were also very nice and supportive. But they didn't show as much [support] as Vince Desi. They came to one screening, and this was it. But they didn't organize a party where they played, and Vince is doing all that -- wherever he is, whatever video game convention he's at, he supports the movie.
We opened Rotten Tomatoes to some of our readers to ask you questions, so here goes. lavatory love machine asks, "Why is it that on your videogame movie adaptation you only take the game's concept and characters to use them on an original story instead of using the one from the game?"
UB: I think that you have to see it project by project. Alone in the Dark was supposed to come out, the game together with the movie -- Atari was developing it in LA: Alone in the Dark 5. So if they would make that, and finished it, there would be a game and the movie together. But I was in the end alone with the movie because they closed down LA; Atari was on the edge of almost bankruptcy. And now, after all those years, this year Alone in the Dark Part 5 is coming out. Way too late, yeah? But we produced Alone in the Dark 2 based now on that new game. So I don't take the blame alone, let's say. Because when I did the movie, it was supposed to be together with the video game.
With BloodRayne, I went totally away from the concept in the beginning because I thought I wanted to do it as a trilogy. So I said, let's start in the 1700s Transylvania Romanian mountains and everything, like a period piece vampire movie, to show where she comes from. And then we jump into the Wild West with BloodRayne 2 one hundred years later. And then we go to the Second World War for Part Three, which is the game. This is basically how I approached it -- of course, people say [the game] isn't directly in the Second World War, but then I wouldn't like to go backwards in time. So I thought, why not start in the 1700s and then we go forwards.
But in everything that I did, I kept a lot of the ideas of the game, and the characters -- for example, BloodRayne, how she's dressed, or how she's fighting. So I kept a lot from the game. And some game stories are also kind of, let's say, Dungeon Siege -- tell me the story. Right? The only thing I could use was in the beginning, there is a farm, and the Krugs coming in killing everybody, and the Farmer goes on a revenge trip. The funny thing is that I even got bashed from game sites about why his name is Farmer. But it's exactly what I kept from the game, because in the game his name is Farmer -- he has no name. So it's like whatever you do, you'll have people getting mad about it and it's kind of stupid.
jomo999 asks, "Mr Boll, why do you like to adapt video games into movies? Your movies aside, the general reaction to video game adaptations is largely negative. To name a few, Hitman, Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil trilogy all had a cold reception. So what are your reasons for working on this particular genre?"
UB: I know, but you have to see we are not spending $150 million on the movies. Dungeon Siege was $60 million -- our biggest movie -- and the other movies are more between $10- and $25 million. We know we can recoup the money also out of DVD; so theatrical is more like an advertising machine, and then you cash in money on the DVD. This always worked. Alone in the Dark was on DVD a big success, House of the Dead and BloodRayne, and I think if you see the business there is right now a lot of movies losing a lot of money, because they make those movies too expensive to recoup the money. And this is what I did more carefully -- also because I didn't have the money, I cannot spend $150 million on a movie!
So in the end, if you really break down the numbers like what I spent and what I get back, then even a $5 million box office for Alone in the Dark -- what was around $20 million to do...of course, it tanked in U.S. theaters, but you have to see the relationship. If BC 10,000 [sic] makes a $90 million box office but it was $200 million to do, and they spent $80 million to release it, are they losing not way more money than I "lose" with Alone in the Dark if it makes $5 million theatrical but then $26 million on DVD? And then I have only $20 million spent on it, and $15 million in advertising. The chance that I make my money back is bigger than a movie like BC 10,000.
But it's not that I'm happy with the theatrical performance of my movies in the U.S. It's always interesting for me to see that outside the U.S. the movie is working. Dungeon Siege, like every single country it got released in, stayed three weeks in the top ten: Germany, Austria, Russia, Greece, Turkey...we stayed three weeks in the top ten in Germany and beat American Gangster, for example, and smashed Beowulf in the same weekend -- it's kind of strange, right? This is what I think: in the U.S. I don't get a decent release at all from the beginning on. If you would put $50 million in advertising in Dungeon Siege and have a real studio releasing it, it would also make a $50- or $60 million box office.
So does that explain why your movies perform so much better overseas than in America?
UB: Absolutely! Because here, maybe since House of the Dead, I'm not able to set up a domestic distribution where I can make money. If, for example, a studio takes a movie over, you sign a contract that they can charge advertising costs -- like, unlimited -- before you get one dollar. So you know, maybe out of the U.S., I get nothing. I cannot do that. I need money out of the U.S. So this is the reason I always have that strange theatrical self-distribution -- you know, it's kind of a strange thing that I'm doing, what is definitely not positive for my career as a director, but what is better for me as a producer. In the Name of the King, for example, tanked in the theaters with Freestyle Releasing, but Fox is doing DVD and TV, and it's massive. So on DVD, the movie performs like it made $50 million box office, and Fox is for me a real cash cow, because they didn't spend the advertising money for the theatrical release. Now, I get 6, 7 bucks per DVD -- cash. If the movie makes $30-$40 million on DVD in U.S., I get at least my $10-$15 million out of U.S. out of the DVD and TV, and I'm not running into a total disaster. If Fox had released it theatrically, they'd have kept all the DVD and TV revenues against the cost.
Next: On Seed going to DVD, Grand Theft Auto, and Michael Bay...