Creation is Violent: Anecdotes on Kinski's Final Years (2021) - full transcript

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Kinski was a movie himself.

He was a rather peculiar
individual, a very curious person.

Klaus Kinski was the worst
work experience of my life.

I would never do it again,
even under torture.

I worked on NOSFERATU IN VENICE,
and it's a long story.

I was involved in every
step of the production,

from development to the very end.

The story starts around 1984
when I was directing second unit

and doing the special effects for
Dario Argento's PHENOMENA.

NOSFERATU with Klaus Kinski had been released
not too long before and it was a big success.

Carlo Alberto Alfieri wanted to do
a sort of ripoff, an unauthorized sequel.



He was optimistic because
he'd known Kinski for years.

And one day, when Kinski was visiting Rome,
he managed to have him sign a contract

to make NOSFERATU IN VENICE,
a sequel to the famous NOSFERATU.

Alfieri asked me to work on this movie because
he wanted me to do the special effects,

since he knew I had
experience in that field.

So I was involved in the development of
the project from his office.

At first it was quite an ambitious movie which
was supposed to be directed by Maurizio Lucidi,

who was a gialli and
western director.

Lucidi was going
to direct, initially.

The movie was supposed to
be shot in 1984/85, I think.

There was already a script and the whole
story was set during the carnival in Venice,

which happens in February. And since
Kinski wasn't coming to Italy

until summer, because he was shooting another
movie, they had to shoot the carnival in February.

It would have been impossible
to recreate at a later time.



So I was there during
pre-production with Lucidi and Alfieri.

They went to Venice in February to shoot
the carnival footage, using some actors,

not the leads, but
extras and minor characters.

But, most importantly, they had a perfect body
double for Kinski, looking just like NOSFERATU:

Bald with long nails,
big canine teeth, etc.

They shot a lot of footage, at least two hours of
footage, and they edited it to about 20 minutes.

It was very expensive
to shoot those scenes.

Venice was particularly expensive
during the carnival.

It was hard to find hotels and so on.

They shot this footage without Kinski, with the
plan to shoot the rest with him in the summer.

If I remember correctly, it was the summer
of 1985, and Kinski was very busy.

He always had other movies
to shoot outside Italy,

and he kept on postponing
this movie.

The distributors who were attached by Carlo
Alberto Alfieri gave up on the project,

and he ended up without
distribution for NOSFERATU IN VENICE.

So he contacted a producer who was working
a lot at that time: Augusto Caminito.

The idea behind NOSFERATU IN VENICE was to redo
Herzog's NOSFERATU. We wanted to follow that idea.

Kinski agreed immediately and there was a script,
which I completely re-wrote, but it was good.

We had several directors.
At first there was a guy called Lucchetti,

then Mario Caiano... No wait,
before him there was Pasquale Squitieri,

who wanted to do a futuristic Nosferatu set in a
future Venice, but he didn't get along with Kinski.

So we hired Caiano, who was brought on to shoot a more
traditional movie, more his style and as it was written.

A friend introduced me to a
producer/screenwriter named Augusto Caminito.

He was in a
desperate situation.

He'd sent a director to Africa to shoot an
adventure movie, a kind of INDIANA JONES,

and this guy did everything in Africa
except shoot the action scenes.

So he came back with footage
which couldn't be edited, and he told me,

“Mario, do me a favor.
Save this movie for me.”

So I shot for 10 days. I was lucky enough to
find a reconstructed mine at De Paolis studios.

Then I went to Tor Caldara,
where I recreated Africa.

I shot 10 days of action scenes
in order to save this movie.

I even used some of Sergio Leone's
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA locations.

Well, I did that for 15 days or so and I saved the
movie. They edited it, he liked it, and he was happy.

He was so grateful that he told me, “You'll
be the director of the next movie I produce.”

He even had me sigh a contract.

Around the same time he also promised Kinski that he would
direct his next movie, which was NOSFERATU IN VENICE.

Neither Kinski or I knew about this conflict.
I thought I was the director and so did he.

We knew Mario because we had
worked with him before.

He was a professional and a
good director. He knew his job.

He also knew that directing Kinski
wouldn't be an easy task.

He never could've imagined
just how hard it was going to be.

While we were waiting for Kinski to arrive,
Caminito made a deal with Berlusconi at Mediaset.

Berlusconi was starting as a producer. Up until
that time Berlusconi would buy movies cheaply,

but when the producers realized that they'd made
bad deals they started asking for a lot of money.

Berlusconi then said, “"Well, if I have
to pay so much for a movie,

it'd make more sense to co-produce
them and own them.”

So Caminito closed the first deal of that kind with
Berlusconi, and I remember it was a great deal,

everyone was happy about it.

So everything changed once again. The movie
had to be expensive and spectacular.

It had to be an international production
because they actually had money.

So the script was changed once again. This time
they went big. Caiano was happy about it, because

when you tell a director he has a bigger
budget than expected, he's happy.

Then Kinski arrived and he was like a hurricane, sweeping
everything away. He was at the height of his madness.

There were moments when he was sweet
and adorable, and then all of a sudden

he would start to yell like a
madman having a nervous breakdown.

He always had wild mood swings,
which were completely unexplainable.

When he was in a good mood, he was the most
adorable guy on earth. Nice and kind.

But when he had his outbursts of anger,
and it happened often, he was totally wild.

Kinski was grateful to Alfieri because he'd once had
to escape from Italy. It was on the set of a movie

where he'd had a fight with an assistant director
and he'd hurt him, so he was sentenced by a judge.

That's the reason Kinski
suddenly stopped making movies in Italy.

Alfieri took care of his legal woes and
he managed to get his sentence reversed,

allowing him to go back to Italy
without going to prison.

Kinski was very grateful to Alfieri. They had a
very good relationship, as he did with Caminito too.

Here's the first thing Kinski said when he came to the
office of Carlo Alberto Alfieri, in Piazza Verdi, in Rome,

while Caiano was there.

They showed him the bald cap he'd have to
wear since he was supposed to be Nosferatu,

big canines, long nails
and so on. He said,

"I had to go through hell to make
NOSFERATU.

There's no way I'm going through
that process again.”

We were all in shock, and he said,

“I'll do this movie with my own long hair, my face, my teeth,
my normal hands. I don't care about the previous movie.”

This scared all of us because, first of
all, all that footage shot with the double,

bald, with the big canines,
and long nails,

killing people in Venice,
would be unusable.

So they actually discarded it,
because the footage couldn't be used.

And then we were perplexed, because
if he looked like that in the film

people wouldn't associate him
with Nosferatu.

Yes, something
like that happened.

Kinski was a bit bald on the back of the head anyway, but
he didn't want to be shot from behind because of that.

Kinski didn't want to use the image of
Nosferatu by Herzog, which was very beautiful.

He wanted something different, but
the difference between him and Herzog

is like the difference between
Tanio Boccia and Ingmar Bergman.

During pre-production Kinski
was obsessed with one thing,

and I remember this
because it was totally crazy.

Carlo Alberto Alfieri had an old Ferrari which was still in
good condition, and Kinski wanted it as part of his payment.

They somehow made a deal
and he got this red Ferrari.

So the movie started, and
it started off with a bang.

The first day we shot in Tor Caldara, which
is a rocky place by the sea near Rome.

We had to shoot the scene where they find
Nosferatu's coffin after the shipwreck.

We had some extras in that scene.

We shot it. Caiano is very good,
so it was shot on schedule.

Kinski only had to be in the last
two shots of this first day.

I remember it was 5 PM
and almost sunset.

Kinski arrived in the afternoon. I set up a close-up
of his face, but I could see that he was ignoring me.

I said, “Action!” And he did
more or less what he had to do.

It was a silent close up.

I said, “"Cut!” But he kept on making
weird faces. “Hey, I said CUT!”

Caiano told Kinski what he was supposed
to do in the scene, and Kinski responded

in a very impolite way and he threw
his small mirror at him.

He always had that mirror in his pocket
to check his hair and make-up

before every scene. He insulted him
very badly, without any reason whatsoever.

It was a very normal scene,
nothing peculiar was happening.

Caminito came up to me and said, “Please, he asked us not
to say 'Cut' because he might do something after that.”

“No way. When I say 'Cut' he has to stop.
He has to do the things I ask him to do.”

“But you know, it's a
different situation...”

“Yes, sure, whatever, I got it. Goodbye.”
So I left and I sued him. And I won.

The movie stopped. The movie stopped
at the very first scene with Klaus Kinski.

They kept on shooting the movie between
bottles of champagne and snorts of cocaine,

and they ended up with that unwatchable
mess called NOSFERATU IN VENICE.

The first day on the set, in order to welcome
the crew, I brought a bottle of champagne.

They told me, "We had to move Kinski's
trailer so it's in the shade.”

"The Spanish extras will arrive soon.
And the director left the set.”

They used a certain tone of voice.
“He left?”

“Yes, because Kinski slapped him.”

Caiano touched his arm to instruct him where
to go and Kinski said, “You don't touch me.”

And he touched his arm like this.

So I was with the whole crew, the Spanish
dancers, and everyone ready to shoot.

I went to Kinski thinking: “This is the last
time I'll see him. This time I'll slap him.”

When he saw me he was all happy and said, “This is
great, we got rid of Caiano! You should be the director!”

That night I shot the scenes, somehow thinking
I would find another director the following day.

But it was August 25th, and no one was available.
Only one said yes, I think it was Giovanni Soldati,

but he asked me to postpone the shoot for
3 weeks so that he could prepare.

Three weeks later Kinski's contract
would have ended, so that couldn't happen.

My acting career, how did it start?

Well, it started with Kinski.
At that time I was already 18.

I want to say this because many
people have said that I was underage.

No, I was already 18, and since I was “legal,”
I was able to participate in a beauty contest

called “A New Face For Cinema,” which was a
side event of the Venice Film Festival.

I won that contest and I was celebrating this success
with my friends in a famous restaurant in Venice.

By chance, Kinski was sitting at the next table because
at that time he was shooting NOSFERATU IN VENICE.

He was there with
the crew and the director.

I didn't even know who he was because I was just 18
and I didn't have that kind of cinematic knowledge.

Back then I only knew Italian movies like
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS, and those kind of movies.

I didn't know important artists and actors.

Anyway, long story short,
I didn't know who he was.

He had a peculiar face, though, and I was attracted
to that kind of "mask” that was in front of me.

I couldn't help looking at him
because he was very peculiar, very strange.

It was like he was wearing a mask.

He was shooting NOSFERATU IN VENICE and
he had long hair with a particular color.

Well, I was very attracted by his figure,
which was certainly very, very charismatic.

The same thing with him,
for different reasons, of course,

so the owner of the
restaurant - who was his friend -

introduced me to him and
everything started there.

The following day he invited me to the set of NOSFERATU
IN VENICE because he thought that a young girl like me,

who had never been on a movie set before,
would be happy to be there,

and after that he invited me to dinner.

Being on that set was a real epiphany,
since I had never visited one before.

For the first few months it was more like
a friendship before he left for the States,

where he lived, in San Francisco,
and so we talked over the phone.

Then, little by little, it became a real
relationship which lasted 3 and a half years.

My acting career began with him.
I can say this honestly.

It started that day in that Venetian restaurant when we
met, and it was he who brought me into the world of cinema.

While shooting this movie I met two actors who I
already knew, and I was happy to see them again.

Firstly Donald Pleasence, whom I'd met
on the set of Argento's PHENOMENA.

Then there was Christopher Plummer,
who acted in my movie STARCRASH,

so my relationship with him
was even better.

We reunited on this movie
and we were happy about it.

It was nice to have them there because
the movie was utter chaos.

Every time Kinski was walking to set we
would hear him screaming from the canal,

then from the stairs, and
finally when he arrived on the set.

There was always a lot of confusion. But the funny
thing about Pleasence was that he couldn't care less.

The set was a mess. Kinski argued with everybody
from the still photographer to the camera guy,

the cinematographer... But Pleasence was
always sitting on the sofa reading a book,

waiting to be called to shoot.
He couldn't care less.

“Donald, are you ready?”
“"Ready!”

He came to the set, he shot his scene, and
then he went back to the sofa to read his book.

He was completely indifferent
to the chaos on the set.

Plummer had a different attitude.

At first he put a lot of effort into the
movie since he's a huge professional.

His first scenes were the ones of the duel
against Kinski, when Plummer shoots

and puts a hole in Kinski's stomach.
That was a blue screen effect I did.

I directly worked on that scene.

The surreal thing was that when
we did rehearsal for that scene,

Plummer started saying
his lines in front of Kinski.

Kinski looked at him in an indifferent way
because, as I said, he didn't want to rehearse.

Without saying anything, he took his mirror from his
pocket, the one he used every day to check his make-up,

took a comb, and started combing his hair while
Plummer was saying his lines in front of him.

And then he answered him while he was still
combing his hair, with the same indifferent look.

Plummer was flabbergasted
and then he burst into laughter.

From that moment on he treated the
set like a joke. He no longer cared.

One day I asked him, "How is it to
act with Kinski?” He said,

“"Well, they're paying me so
much money that I don't care."

Talking about Christopher Plummer,
I can quote Kinski.

I asked him, “What do you think of
Christopher Plummer? Is he a good actor?”

Kinski said, “"He's a great actor,
but he doesn't know it.”

But Plummer was a great
professional and great actor.

There was a scene with Barbara De Rossi
in which he raised hell.

Barbara De Rossi was to be in her bed sleeping,
and Kinski had to arrive at night and grab her.

The scene was to just be
close ups of the actors.

I was there to record sound.

The rest of the crew couldn't see the bodies
of the actors because I was in front of them,

and the camera was by my side.

While we were shooting this scene, I saw him pull
away the blanket and put his hands “in her nature.”

Let's call it that.

I was like, "What the hell is he doing?”
Because what he was doing was off-screen.

She didn't say anything,
poor girl, she was petrified.

When the director said,
“Cut!” She ran away crying.

Barbara De Rossi left the set crying and
Caminito and Alfieri tried to calm her down.

They finally agreed that Kinski
was not allowed to touch her anymore.

He couldn't do what he did
earlier when they'd shot the scene.

She was in bed and he had to caress her,
and maybe he was a little inappropriate

and she didn't like it, but nothing
more than that happened.

Since the others didn't see what happened,
because my body was covering it,

everyone asked, “What happened?”
And I told them what I saw.

So everyone went to Barbara
in order to console her.

A man, an actor who does something like
that... You can call it what you like...

He always had a passionate relationship
with women. Sometimes he was aggressive,

but he could also be nice and sweet.

There were no problems with
Barbara De Rossi. Everything went well.

We sold it pretty well all over the world.

I think the movie was
released 3 years later.

The relationship with Berlusconi
was excellent in the beginning,

but then it turned into a living hell
because he didn't like the movie.

While shooting the movie they were so thrilled
that they signed a contract with Kinski

to shoot his PAGANINI movie, then another
contract to shoot a movie in America.

They had big projects planned with Kinski, but everything
turned into dust because of NOSFERATU IN VENICE

and the beginning of the shoot of PAGANINI,
when Kinski's madness was uncontrollable.

Kinski said that he was
the reincarnation of Paganini,

because it was a movie he'd
wanted to do for many years.

He had that idea because
one day he was in Paris

and he saw a picture of Paganini
in a shop and it caught his attention.

From that moment on he started to study
his life in detail because,

I say it again, he was an incredible
perfectionist in this way.

And so he developed this movie
for years, especially his character.

He identified with Paganini.

He said he was his reincarnation.
The movie was to be called KINSKI PAGANINI,

because he did a sort of transfer with him.

Paganini too had quite a
debauched personal life,

and so, just like him,
he was “genius and disorder,”

and because of this they
were one and the same.

There are two kinds of scripts: The very
technical ones and the very descriptive ones.

When you read a very technical one
you can “see” the movie,

because you imagine the
camera movements and everything.

When they are descriptive
it's like reading a story.

This script was neither
one nor the other.

It wasn't technical.
There were no descriptions like,

“the camera goes here and there, then the
editing will show a detail of an eye...”

It was nothing like that. There were just
sentences giving some impressions or ideas.

It was like looking at a detail
of an Impressionist painting.

You can see the whole picture
only by looking at it in its entirety.

You can like it or not.

But if you just look ata 5 cm x 5 cm bit,
you only see some color blobs.

What was written in the script, in my very
humble opinion, was just color blobs, that's all.

He loved Rome a lot, and he especially
loved a villa on the Appia Antica street,

which he rented every time
he came to Rome.

We lived in that villa when
we were a couple.

It was a peculiar villa,
almost ghost-like.

It was haunted by ghosts and they sat well with
Kinski. It was a nice domestic partnership.

He loved that place a lot and we lived
there when he was preparing PAGANINI.

It was very funny because he would dress
like Paganini, even when he wasn't on set.

He asked me to do the same. He wanted
me to wear the 1800's period costumes,

because I'd never worn them before
and he wanted me to get used to them.

It was a very precise
and detailed method.

He was dressed in black with
his smoking jacket - or was it a waistcoat?

I don't remember - with his black hair, and he wandered
the villa with candles all around. It was striking.

Kinski was left handed, though, and
so he played the violin backwards.

I don't know how to say it,
I'm not an expert.

Anyway, in the movie the violin was
played by the great Salvatore Accardo,

who used his hands on the instrument.

When they had to edit the
movie they had problems,

because in one scene the violin was on the
right and in another one it was on the left.

In order to explain this he'd say,
“"Damn! Paganini was diabolical,

he could play with both hands!”

Okay then, perfect, problem solved.

That movie was a
reflection of life for him.

It was his redemption as a director,
since he'd always hated his directors.

He always had a difficult relationship with
them because he didn't like being directed,

so he had many conflicts.

This movie was his payback,
because he was the director

and no one could tell him what to do.

It was him who told us what to
do, because it was his movie.

It was him who brought
the money into the movie,

at least that's what he
believed, and how he behaved.

So he was the “owner”
of these movies.

And so everything he said, even the
stupidest things, had to be respected.

My first meeting with Kinski was
when he ended up in jail.

I started the job and they told me, “Tomorrow Kinski
has to inspect the location at Villa Pamphili."”

"The meeting is already scheduled,
be there and see what happens.”

I talked to the person who had
given us permission to go there,

and he talked to the office
of Villa Pamphili.

And they prepared a minivan
to visit the garden.

They provided it because, even in the 80s, it was
absolutely forbidden to drive your own car there.

Then I saw a Ferrari Testarossa
coming from Gianicolo,

heading full speed towards
Porta San Pancrazio.

It stopped in front
of the entrance.

The Ferrari had mirrored glass
so I couldn't see inside.

It was Klaus Kinski
and Debora Caprioglio.

He lowered the window
and I saw him with his white hair.

So I said, "Good morning, Mr. Kinski. I'm
Stefano Spadoni, unit manager of the movie."

"You can park your car here, the mini-van is
ready, and we can take you to see the location.”

Kinski said, "I won't go anywhere
in a shitty mini-van. I'll go in my car.”

He rolled up the window and took off
towards Villa Pamphili at 100 km/h.

I looked at the permits guy
and said, "I haven't seen you today.”

And he said, “I haven't seen
you either. Goodbye.”

Kinski was then arrested and
taken to the police station.

I came back to the production office and
after a while we were told he was arrested

for entering Villa Pamphili
at 100 km/h in his Ferrari Testarossa.

Altovito and Caminito asked me
what happened and I told them.

Their faces turned pale because they started
to realize who they were dealing with.

I remember a scene with the chariot and the
four horses. They had to turn in a small square.

He said, “"Shoot! Shoot!”
And then, of course, we told him,

“This is not a car, it has no steering
wheel! Four horses can't turn here!”

And so they had to remove two horses
in order to shoot that scene.

The whole movie was shot like this.
It was like a bet.

On the set Kinski had a very protective attitude
towards me because it was my first time on set.

So I probably had a different perspective
than that of a normal movie set.

He was very demanding with me as well,
and he didn't treat me differently.

When it was released I thought that
PAGANINI was a masterpiece.

The film that would shock
the international movie business.

Years later I consider it a very difficult movie,
not least from the point of view of its making.

It's almost a visionary movie, certainly not a
traditional movie, but it was very particular.

We arrived at the Cannes Festival
out of competition,

because the movie was rejected by the official
selection and Kinski was angry about that.

The movie was screened in
a different section of the festival.

We arrived in Cannes and he
called a press conference,

in which he said the worst things about
the organizers of the festival,

especially about the ones
who did not select his movie.

A very important and well-known journalist
told him that his movie was bad.

Of course she did it in a provocative way,
but Kinski lost it,

and he started insulting her,
and throwing things at her.

The photographers were incredibly happy
about it, because I remember

that they followed us across the Croisette
and we almost ended up in the water.

Everyone talked about it. I didn't realize
anything because I was 19, I was having fun.

I felt like laughing. I wasn't
aware of the media buzz.

He was very good at that, he was a
communicator. It was natural for him.

Anyway, this press conference created a
lot of hype. There are pictures and videos.

It was very funny. Well, it's funny to talk
about now, but maybe back then it wasn't.

The “private” Kinski wasn't very
different from the “public” one.

He acted only when he was shooting
movies, and I think he brought a lot

of his personality to the characters he played,
especially from a physical point of view because,

as I said before, he wore a “mask” and
he could be very beautiful or very ugly,

depending on what
character he was playing.

When he did NOSFERATU IN VENICE
he was Nosferatu,

in his face, it was the same thing
in the previous NOSFERATU movie,

which was more successful and
which is still popular today.

But he could be very beautiful as well,
as he was in many movies he did,

not only with Herzog but,
for example, 'IMPORTANCE D'AIMER.

He had a completely
plastic face.

In his private life he was exactly
how people saw him in public.

He was a very generous man,
very loving, very jealous, even too much.

He alternated moments of extreme
sweetness and calm with moments of rage.

When he saw something he didn't like,
like someone cutting him off in a car,

he became very, very irascible.

And he wasn't afraid of anything,
he never feared consequences.

In his private life, in his relationship with me,
he was very sweet because he wasn't irascible.

You would think that a man like him, with such
a peculiar nature, might have been different,

but he always had the greatest respect for our
relationship, and he was also very protective.

Probably he was way too jealous, and that
was the reason why our relationship ended.

His jealousy was obsessive and made our
relationship end. And other reasons too, of course.

Sometimes relationships end because
people want new experiences in life.

I was very young,
he wasn't, and so...

Anyway, in his private life he could be very
funny as well, because his outbursts of anger

only lasted 5 minutes and everyone knows that, even
the people around him, not only me, his girlfriend.

Even his collaborators knew that. Even his
maid Clara, who became my maid as well,

she knew that they lasted 5 or 10 minutes and then
they ended. But while they lasted they were tough.

He didn't have many friends. He had some friends in
Paris, but they were in the movie business as well.

Yeah, his friends were all more or
less from the movie business.

Kinski didn't like mankind much,
he often talked shit about it.

After many years I think that he was absolutely
right in some ways, but he wasn't a social person.

When he worked he loved to stay with
people, but he didn't have many friends.

He had a couple in Paris, but he had hardly
any friends in the US, if I remember correctly.

The place he loved most was certainly
his chalet in Lagunitas, California.

It was a fantastic place, completely
isolated, in the middle of the woods.

The first time I went there I was like, "Mamma
mia!” Because getting there was quite a trip.

You could only get there by jeep
because the road was so narrow and steep.

You had to pray you arrived home
safe and sound.

It was the place he loved most
and felt the most alive,

because he also had a
close relationship with nature.

This chalet was in the middle of the woods,
and they found him dead there.

At least I think,
because I lost all contact with him.