When I reviewed Ulli Lommel’s film Revenge of the Stolen Stars recently (see Klaus Kinski’s ghost gets to do whatever he wants), the actor Barry Hickey contacted Du dumme Sau! to add some comments about working on the film. Since then there’s been the short interview with the lovely Joycelyne Lew (see A few words from Joycelyne Lew on working with Klaus Kinski) who played the maid Suki. Now Barry Hickey (who played Klaus’ nephew in the film) has agreed to talk to Du dumme Sau! about his experiences with Klaus and Ulli and the making of Revenge of the Stolen Stars:
When you went to the audition for Revenge of the Stolen Stars, did you know that you’d be starring alongside Klaus Kinski?
No. The director said it was going to be Tony Curtis, but weeks later, after returning from the Philippines, when we came to my “uncle” scenes Tony had checked himself into the Betty Ford clinic I believe and the search was on for his replacement.
Very much so. One of my favorite films in college was Fitzcarraldo directed by Werner Herzog. I’d heard a story about Klaus I can’t verify… That he performed in an enormous soccer stadium in Berlin, I believe. Just him on a stage with a small piano for a packed crowd. He came onstage, took his seat and waited and waited and waited until you could hear a pin drop. Then he played a few notes from Mary Had A Little Lamb or its German equivalent. He thinks he hears someone in the audience make a sound. Stops his performance and waits for dead silence again before continuing. I’m told his attempt to play the one short song took several hours. But such was his control and mastery of the crowd as a performance artist. [Du dumme Sau! note: this sounds like a variation on the Jesus Christ Erlöser event!)
No, he would not. He tried to avoid any kind of conversation with me since he would be playing my dead uncle and I was not supposed to discover his presence until the scene we’d shoot the following day.
I hear rumours that Klaus used to try and sell other actors his lines (presumably the ones he refused to say himself), did he try and sell you any of his lines?
No, no lines. And the lines he kept I couldn’t hear anyway.
Joycelyne Lew told us about how Klaus, ahem!, made a nuisance of himself when she was around – are there any other fun stories about Klaus on or off set?
He was enamored by women. I did hear a hilarious episode from an actress who co-starred with him in Crawlspace and what he attempted to do to her under the covers. I’ll leave the rest to your readers’ imaginations.
I understand that because Klaus refused to do so many things (he didn’t want to sit down anymore, he didn’t want the boom near him, he didn’t want to talk loud, he didn’t want to say certain lines, etc) the storyline had to be changed somewhat – what was the original story supposed to be before they made Klaus into a ghost? [Du dumme Sau! note: Ulli Lommel says himself in the interview on the DVD that he had to make Klaus into a ghost as he refused to sit in order to do continuity shots; the idea being that “as a ghost he can be wherever he wants to be, there’s no continuity or nothing because ghosts don’t have continuity”!)
Ulli Lommel always intended the uncle as a ghost. But he was also supposed to be a guy with a great sense of Irish humor. Comical almost. Ulli has a great sense of humor and he really wanted to lean towards slapstick comedy in the picture. Originally the film was supposed to be an upbeat adventure yarn. But Klaus’ take on my uncle totally turned the mood of the picture, unbalanced it. With our budget and deadline to deliver we were sort of stuck.
I understand that aside from the problems with Klaus there were other problems on the film – the guy demanding $10k to use his property for filming when he had previously said it was free of charge, all the different shooting locations, etc – did it feel chaotic working on the film?
It was my first feature, my first starring role. Chaotic? Not really. Ulli is very low key. Our crew the same. We had a lot of fun on the sets in the United States. Ulli’s wife at the time was Suzanna Love. She co-starred in the film with me. She had a young Katherine Hepburn air about her. They told me stories of their adventures in New York with Andy Warhol and Jackie Onassis… Ulli isn’t impressed by celebrity. He loves to be around genuine articles. Tom Jones who was an associate producer on Revenge also played the film’s butler. He’s Australian with a fantastic checkered past. Ulli loved being around him. Tom walked with a limp from being speared in New Guinea years earlier. Very colorful and a great friend. Ullli too, I might add. He is devilish, really. We did shoot a ton of locations. When Ulli signed Klaus there was a scramble to shoot in Mexico because we were non-union. If we wanted Klaus, it had to be Mexico. I literally left Ulli’s house after a scene and drove straight to Mexico with an older buddy Ray and Roger, the money guy. I found a realtor who had been a famous bullfighter. He knew the “Johnny Carson of Mexico” living high in the hills overlooking Tijuana and we rented his house for two days. Klaus came down in a limo with Joycelyne Lew, the makeup artist. It was my first time meeting her and she ended up snagging the maid role as Suki in the picture days later. Yes, there were some problems at the end of the shoot. We sent the camera and equipment truck and Klaus and Joycelyne down the mountain and left a near empty rented U-Haul full of wood for them. It was a run for the border. Other places – Agoo and the Banaui Rice Fields in the Philippines, Malibu, California, the basement of the Alexander Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the former Rudolph Valentino suite upstairs, the Golden Gate bridge and exterior streets of San Francisco which we shot on the fly without permits. We even flew to Colorado Springs. I managed to get the local symphony to appear in my opening scene where I am a Timpani player. Ulli and I flew with a small crew to Colorado Springs. There was an enormous blizzard when we arrived. Our symphony cancelled and I ended up playing Timpani in a string quartet. [Du dumme Sau! note: These scenes seem to have been removed from the film and the only reference to Barry’s character Gene playing timpani is when Klaus’ character Uncle Duncan says he always liked the way he played the drums]
Were you aware of how successful Ulli had been himself as an actor (with Fassbinder) and his previous films?
And what about the subsequent films you worked on with Ulli Lommel? How did working on your other films compare with this experience?
I never knew what to expect with Ulli. He did several pictures, often incorporating German actors that were visiting Los Angeles. He’d write scenes around them and film. He’d bring me in as an FBI agent or cop or ask me to produce a little with him. I enjoyed a small film he did called Royal Affair – about the end days of Princess Grace of Monaco. I don’t know what ever happened to that one or another – Lethal Orbit with Casper Van Diem. Our last picture together was Tornado Run. A humorous piece about that was that our lead actor Jeff Rector demanded more money to finish the film. Ulli hired his identical twin brother Jerry to step in and finish the picture for less cash. I often wonder what sort of picture Ulli would make given real money and support. He hired me to write the screen version of Mario Puzo’s (The Godfather) Fools Die. I wrote six drafts before we were satisfied. Ulli really knew the craft and we put together a solid, but dark script. There was a $400,000 payoff to me if the film was financed. Then the project got twisted when we discovered another producer had been given the same rights by Puzo. It would have been a legal nightmare so Ulli had to abandon the picture. It very much reminds me of Casino and even Leaving Las Vegas, both done long after our attempt.
I see you have now written several novels and screenplays, do you feel this is more rewarding than working as an actor? Tell us about what you’re doing now.
My third novel comes out in April. It’s called The Glass Fence. After that is Waking Paul Bunyan followed by The Mermaid Latitudes. Then I hunker down for a four book Young Adult series. I do enjoy novels tremendously. Unlike film everything is my fault and I can accept that. But I have to tell you that my 15 years in Hollywood, not just as an actor but working at the studios and networks and writing and producing while still singing all the time is what has given me the confidence to go it on my own. I do want to give Ulli Lommel a great deal of credit here. Despite what the reviews may say about Revenge of the Stolen Stars, Ulli never gave up. He worked with what he had in front of him. He was always inventive and creative. Unlike Klaus Kinski, he was gracious and kind. Almost like an older, mentoring brother to me. He and I had dozens of great adventures in Hollywood in the eighties and nineties. I can’t say I enjoyed it all, but I am blessed for the lessons learned about life in general.
Thanks for being so gracious and kind yourself, Barry, and for telling us about your experience of working with Klaus and Ulli. Du dumme Sau! wishes you lots of success with the novels and your other projects!
Barry Hickey’s website includes details of his novels, his albums and videos: http://www.barryhickey.com/
Behind the scenes photograph of Barry Hickey with Klaus Kinski and Juan Luis Curiel (the Mexican Johnny Carson) used with the kind permission of Barry Hickey