An interview with Udo Kier by his Portland co-star ‘Swan Song’

Wednesday June 16 at 11 a.m., Todd Stephens’s Swan song will premiere in Oregon at Pride Pics, the new LGBTQ film festival from PrideNW and the directors of QDoc. The film stars independent legend Udo Kier as retired hairstylist Pat Pitsenbarger, who breaks free from his lackluster Sandusky retirement home and takes a long walk to give a deceased former client his final cut and color. A stop on Pat’s self-discovery journey to Ozian includes a gay bar called the Universal Fruit and Nut Company, run by an insidiously stupid twink named Gabriel, played by yours truly.

I will be present for the screening (tickets are available here) and as a native of Portland, it’s a bit surreal that my first feature film is screened in such an iconic parking lot and esteemed Cirque du Soleil cemetery. The teenager me, who made weekly visits to the OHSU to monitor my Accutane prescription, could never imagine an audience of Portlanders watching a giant projection of my now immaculate face with this building in sight.

Because I couldn’t decide whether to do an unofficial question-and-answer session at the old spaghetti factory or on the overhead tram, I decided to call the star of the film, Udo Kier, to discuss our adventures in Ohio and to celebrate the recent rise of the film to the rank of festival favorite.


THOM HILTON: How are you?

UDO KIER: I just got back from Europe a week ago, from Lars Von Trier, and now I’m here, and I’m very happy that [Swan Song is doing] so well. It’s incredible. I am very, very happy.

TH: In Portland next week we’ll have a big outdoor screening.

UK: You know, Portland is very important to me because I did My own private Idaho the. It was my first American production.

TH: Okay!

United Kingdom: So Portland is a very good memory… I met Gus [Van Sant] in Berlin, and he said to me, ‘I’m making a movie with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, and I would like you to play Hans.’ Because the Germans, most of the time, are called Hans in the movies. We had a great time because we stayed together and dated most of the time, it was kind of wonderful. Basically the same situation we had while filming Swan song: low budget, no studio, no trailer, and I remember it very well and very well. Were you born in Portland?

TH: I was born in Portland. I even worked at Huber’s, the restaurant of the very end My own private Idaho with dark wood walls. And their claim to fame, you know, 30 years later, is that they filmed that scene there.

UK: Oh, yes! And also, in the alley, the restaurant on the corner.

TH: Chez Jake!

UK: Was it Jake’s? Yeah, I went with River. And, I mean, River was amazing in the movie.

TH: I noticed in Swan song, when you’re dining on the patio, you choose an Oregon wine. I like to think of it as a little tribute to your time here in Oregon. Either way, I know you love pinot grigio no matter where it comes from.

UK: No, that’s not true, “it doesn’t matter where it comes from”. It must be a good one.

TH: It was my first time in a movie, and I was a little scared because I grew up watching you in Pinocchio, then Suspiria and Dogville and all those great movies. I got really worried the days before, but you didn’t intimidate me at all. You rehearsed with me, you said your lines when they did my close up, you didn’t go in a trailer or anything, you were there with me all the time.

UK: When Todd first sent me the script, I asked him: who is playing this character? This character? And he gave me an explanation about the friends and actors he [wanted] For the movie. i wanted everyone [to be] good. If the parts around me are strong, it makes Swan song strong. That’s why we rehearsed, especially in the scene with you. It’s a great storyline, and every game is played well, you know? Everyone was really in the film. In the story. This is what I liked the most about the film. And I can’t wait to see it on the big screen, because I’ve only seen it on the computer. I’m very happy for all of us, he’s won audience awards twice—

TH: And you won the best actor award!

UK: And I got the award for best actor in Monte Carlo. In Monte-Carlo! Where do all the rich people live who don’t want to pay taxes!

TH: You said you were with Lars Von Trier last week, and I know you say, “Don’t act,” which he says a lot to the cast. Can you talk about how you “didn’t act” Pat?

UK: Her Favorite Line Is No Matter Who They Are You Know Nicole [Kidman], Ben Gazzara, ‘Don’t Act.’ The actors move their shoulders five inches to the left, and Lars will say, “What’s the shoulder thing?” And so I experienced the situation. When I started filming in a retirement home, I slept in my bed. I didn’t want to play that, I wanted to be there for a day. Have that feeling. When Todd wanted me to roll in the wheelchair in the middle of the street, delaying traffic, I didn’t have to act. Just be proud in the green suit, smoke a cigarette and roll, roll, roll in town.

TH: I remember when I got to Ohio the driver said to me, ‘Udo will do anything. He’ll lay down on the freeway, he’ll come down and put his hands in the dirt, ”and now I see how risky you were, physical, that you connected with Sandusky. As if you were part of the earth, and Pat came to be real there…. Well I have another question and it’s not about this movie.

United Kingdom: okay.

TH: Monday, your frequent collaborator Rob Zombie announced that he was going to make a film of The Munsters. Have you heard of this show, The Munsters?

UK: No, why? Does he want me in it?

TH: It was a really popular show about Frankenstein and Dracula and all that and they were a family, and there was a grandpa in it who is a very handsome vampire and very funny. And so I just want to start your campaign now, that he should put you in there.

UK: I like it. I love Rob Zombie. What I like about him is that there is room for improvisation. The other directors, my god, won’t let you say a line any other way. So say hello to him.

TH: I’m so excited to see this movie with an audience, to hear them laugh and take all the energy you give them, so that you get more reviews and awards, you really deserve it.

UK: Let me know how it goes when you show the film. For me, it’s important to see how people react.

TH: I will. I showed it to my grandparents and they’re both your age, and they love you. They wanted to convey that it really moved them because there aren’t a lot of movies with someone 70 in the main part who can do it all. And my grandmother says you’re very sexy in the movie too.

United Kingdom: Say thank you! Thank you! Its good.


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