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A new wave of horror is coming out of Germany, paying homage to the past while taking a very modern point of view. One of the key features in this trend is director Dennis Gansel’s WE ARE THE NIGHT, about a trio of beautiful female vampires—including former silent-film star Charlotte, played by Jennifer Ulrich—stalking the hotspots of Berlin.
Gansel discusses his movie in Fango #302, currently on sale, and here Ulrich talks about her character and the experience of becoming part of THE NIGHT.
FANGORIA: You have already starred in Dennis Gansel’s THE WAVE. How did your collaboration with him begin?
JENNIFER ULRICH: I did go to the audition for THE WAVE like anybody else. Dennis liked my interpretation of the role and hired me to play it. I got into the project the common way.
FANG: Who is Charlotte and how did she become a vampire?
ULRICH: Charlotte was a modestly talented, modestly successful silent film actress in the ’20s. She met Louise at the premiere of the film DR. MABUSE in which she was starring. At that time, Charlotte was vivacious and hungry for life; like so many people of that era, she wanted to do it all and relish her newfound freedom. Louise promised all that to her and so Charlotte let herself be bitten voluntarily. And she certainly enjoyed being a vampire at first, but she quickly became bored of it, falling into a kind of depression and seeking refuge in literature, her sole source of peace and happiness. While the other fellow vampires are very emotional and impulsive, Charlotte is the more cool, rational and reserved of the four. She’s more the intellectual type, who isn’t looking for kicks, she’s a calm, collected observer, seeing through a lot of things quickly and accurately. She exudes tremendous serenity, acting mainly in the background, with a grace and poise that creates its own special elegance.
FANG: Is Charlotte based on any real silent film star?
ULRICH: I read a lot about Asta Nielsen, a famous Danish actress of silent movies who worked a lot in Germany. There are actually a few parallels between her life and Charlotte’s. I also thought of Angelina Jolie a lot, too. I think it’s fascinating how she manages to exude so much sex appeal while remaining extremely cool in a lot of her roles. She has a subzero sensuality, a calm and presence that can switch over into extreme aggression and energy at the drop of a hat. That’s a trait I saw in Charlotte, as well. She has this mysterious side I wanted Charlotte to have too. She can be warm-hearted and sensual in one minute and on the other she turns into an ice-cold killer like in WANTED. She is sexy, instinctive, mysterious and elegant, all traits I needed for my interpretation of Charlotte. A big inspiration was her black and white campaign for St. Johns. for example.
FANG: The movie has a lot of action, and Charlotte is a very demanding role. How did you prepare?
ULRICH: Oh yes, Charlotte was a demanding and fantastic role. She is not only a vampire, she is also from the roaring ’20s, which is such an exciting and fascinating era of time. On the one hand, I was watching a lot of vampire movies like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, UNDERWORLD or BLADE to get the sense of what it means to be a vampire, to find my own interpretation of what their needs are, how they move and what they are searching for. And on the other hand I read a lot about the ’20s, saw Fritz Lang movies and tried to find out about the 20th lifestyle. I also read a biography of Asta Nielsen, whose life was close to what we wanted Charlotte’s to be, and who had a big influence on me for my role. I love the research for roles and movies. You learn so much about people, history and daily life in other epochs.
FANG: Did you have to wear a lot of makeup and prosthetics?
ULRICH: I got to transform in two ways. Into a vampire on one hand and then into a ’20s movie star, my role had to have a lot of makeup, which is typical for the time she is coming from. Smokey eyes, lashes, lipstick and elaborately hairstyles. That took some time every morning. Then I had to wear vampire teeth in some scenes. In the first rehearsals, we had complete bridges, but they impede your speech and vampires with a lisp wouldn’t have been quite so seductive. So that was when Georg Korpás, who did the makeups, decided to use glue-on teeth. After wearing them for a while you totally forgot you had these false teeth in your mouth. That was great. Two very new aspects for me, that both had interested me for a long time. The ’20s clothes are a dream and the vampire teeth look very realistic.
FANG: Did you do some of your own stunts?
ULRICH: Of course, I love stunts. I love everything that challenges me, everything new that I have to work for and especially the things that people, or even I myself, would not expect from me. I played handball earlier, did standard dance for eight years and did bungee jumping before, so I am used to physical things. We had lessons in shooting; I have two pump guns and a shotgun in the movie, which were really exciting. We had special rigging training to learn how to fly around. You put on a harness, which is attached to the ceiling with ropes, and when they tug on the rope, you go flying up into the air. We soared five meters and jumped off the ceiling. It really feels like you have superhuman powers and are able to defy the laws of physics. I totally enjoyed that. I am very ambitious in things like that and love to just have fun doing crazy things. So I did everything I was allowed to do by myself. That cost me a lot of bruises!
FANG: Charlotte is very melancholic and nostalgic, the scene where she visits her daughter is very touching. Do you have anything in common with her character?
ULRICH: I must admit that I really like Charlotte and that I feel for her, but I do not see much parallels to me or my life. She is totally different to how I am. I am an open, communicative and social character, all traits that Charlotte once had but lost within her travels through time. I like her elegance and her dark humor, but I would never like to be that depressive, lonely and hurt like she is. Even her way to walk and talk is so different to me personally.
FANG: WE ARE THE NIGHT is a highly erotic story, and there are also some lesbian moments. Were they a problem for you?
ULRICH: Honestly, no. I am not a lesbian but a woman’s kiss is nicer than kissing an old grumpy bearded guy, isn’t it?! We girls liked each other, most of the time you can trust the people you are working with, and when you are in your role it belongs to it. Charlotte comes from the 20th century when people and society were open to homosexuality. It is nothing unusual for her. And bear in mind that they are vampires, so they have lots of sex appeal. I think vampires are definitely sexy. They remind me of the sirens in Homer’s ODYSSEY: They’re mysterious and exert an attraction people have a hard time resisting. They know how to use their bodies and themselves. I like the fact we have four very different women, who are all extremely sexy in their own way. It’s a little bit like SEX AND THE CITY. There should be something there for everyone.
FANG: What do you think of the recent invasion of romantic vampire movies for teenagers, like the TWILIGHT saga?
ULRICH: Well, I do not really like the TWILIGHT movies. They romanticized the vampire genre pretty much. When I wanna see a vampire movie I want blood, fights, action, fear and fun, and that is everything that TWILIGHT does not want to be. Which is fine, as we can see there are a lot of people loving the romantic vampires who can go out in the sun, but I prefer the bloodthirsty ones that burn when the sun comes out. I like to stick to some traditional elements. But I can understand that a lot of teenagers worldwide can relate to the characters of Bella and Edward. They embody so much that teenagers have to cope with every day. First love, first sex, temptation, virginity, seduction, prohibitions, self-esteem, etc. These vampires are capable of everything and kids love to escape from their daily life by imagining being a vampire to get over with all of this puberty problems.
FANG: Don’t you think that vampires should be more true to the original myth?
ULRICH: Yes, I like it when it comes more to the roots again. I like the dark, mysterious creatures that vampires were supposed to be originally.
FANG: Would you like to be immortal?
ULRICH: No. I’d probably be like Charlotte. In the beginning I’d be very excited to try everything out and enjoy it all, but that would wear off quickly. I’d rather have this one life and enjoy that as much as I can until the end. The 70, 80 or maybe even 100 years nature grants us are fine with me.
FANG: Do you like horror and vampire movies?
ULRICH: Yes, I like them a lot. Of course, there are good and bad ones. I like to watch movies that are created out of imagination, that are about something that we are not yet quite sure about, that take you on a journey into another world, a world that we do not know everything about.
FANG: Which are your favorites?
ULRICH: There are some. I like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, which was pretty much the first one I saw. It is a perfect mixture of a drama and an action movie with a fantastic cast. I think we all remember little Kirsten Dunst as the vampire child. I also liked UNDERWORLD a lot. I like the world they created in the movie, the system, the society they live in, and everything is in dark and blue colors. Kate Beckinsale is so beautiful and it is sexy when she fights. And let’s not forget the coolest vampire fighter ever, BLADE. It is an action movie that you have fun watching, and it has the best opening scene ever—the blood shower party. That is genre!
FANG: What can you anticipate us about your next film: Rainer Matsutani’s ROOM 205?
ULRICH: ROOM 205 is a horror movie that I shot right after WE ARE THE NIGHT. I am playing Katrin, who comes to university to study and lands in room 205, which has been empty for a year. Happy to start a new period of life, strange things start to happen around her. She is having visions of a girl, people around her die, she is afraid of losing her mind, feeling haunted and begins the struggle of figuring out why all this is happening to her. A spooky and intense horror story. And right now I am open to all that crosses my way for 2011.
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