Til Schweiger takes flight in 'The Red Baron'

An interview with one of the stars from the WWI-set action film

Supplied publicity photo
Til Schweiger in 'The Red Baron' Supplied publicity photo

The Red Baron chronicles the WWI heroics of Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, the infamous “Red Baron.” Directed by German Nikolai Muellerschoen and filmed in English, the Red Baron opens in Toronto March 12th. I recently caught up with one of the movie’s stars, Til Schweiger, who we recently saw playing the good German in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds.

I’d like to get your take on the fact that The Red Baron, a German film about a German WWI hero, was filmed in English.
Since I wasn’t a producer on the film – I was only an actor – I think they shot the film in English with the hopes of reaching a wider market.

I guess working on Inglourious Basterds with Quentin Tarantino would have given you a different perspective on how realistic characters can be portrayed. For example, authenticity in the languages used by the characters.
I think now, this is now a new time – after Inglourious Basterds I can’t imagine people going back to where everybody speaks one language in a film. And I think he did something a little revolutionary. He said before shooting –(paraphrase) “ I hope that I can help change the way people make movies in the future – where Italians speak Italian, Brits speak British and American speak American. Unless they talk to each other and they both know a common language i.e. English. But among themselves, they should talk in their native language.” I think now, if you do this, like in the olden days (all characters speaking with bad English accents), it will seem stupid.

What was it like shooting this movie? I mean the visual effects are stunning and the planes were just beautiful.
I have to think back because I made this movie about three years ago. Yeah, well shooting the fighting scenes in the plane was a big drag because we shot it green screen and it was the hottest week of the year – it was like 35 celsius in Czech Republic and we were wearing all of this winter gear – the big thick coats and scarves – and we were all sweating to death.

The outfits were great though. You all looked pretty hot in them.
Yeah I agree. The producers had to go for an authentic look and I think they pulled it off.

How did you prepare for your role?
I read a little bit about that time and about the character. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any footage (old movies, news reels), so I read about the time period, I learned my lines and then jumped right in.

Moving away from the war movies you’ve made, I’d like to ask you a little bit about the movies you have directed. Particularly the recent well-received romantic comedy you filmed in Germany.
Well I directed my first film in 1996, but it was uncredited. My first credited film was in 1998. So this recent film is not a new experience for me. When it comes to directing, I love it. I really do love it and it is something completely different than acting. Time wise, you have to dedicate at least 12 months to the project whereas an actor can complete their work in as little as a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Way more time consuming, way more responsibility, but way more fun because it is way more creative.

Your romantic comedy was very successful in Germany – are there any plans to do an American adaptation?
Yes. In fact we’ve just signed a deal with some American producers and we’re going to try to do a co-production and we want to shoot the film in English.

With English actors?
Yes, well I have a few people in mind way up high on the wish list to play the lead. Gerard Butler, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds – they are on my wish list, but at the end of the day we have to find someone who loves the script, loves the part and who’s available.

Sounds exciting. Any other projects planned or in development?
I’m prepping my next directing job for the summer. It’s a German comedy/drama about a man who finds out suddenly that he is the father of an eight-year-old child. This comes as a surprise to him as no one has made mention of this to him until now. We get to see how he deals with the news.

The Red Baron opens Friday March 12th at the AMC Yonge & Dundas in Toronto.