Interview: Christopher Kirby (Iron Sky)

Interview: Christopher Kirby (Iron Sky). By Simon Miraudo.

It may not be exactly what Pink Floyd or Michael Bay predicted, but there is something looming on the Dark Side of the Moon: Nazis! That is, if Timo Vuorensola‘s new fan-funded film Iron Sky is to be believed. Having waited there patiently since the mid-40s, the Nazis plan their revenge on Earth. But first, they take hostage black astronaut James Washington – played by American born and Australian based actor Christopher Kirby – and “albanise” him. We spoke to Christopher about signing on for a movie about space Nazis, dealing with the obsessive fans, the inspirational message of Blazing Saddles, racism in America, and the complex make-up job that turned him white… kind of.

Check out our review of Iron Sky here.

Also, read our interview with Christopher’s co-star Peta Sergeant.

SM: Iron Sky is one of the few films that had its teaser trailer released several years before the movie actually began production. When did you first become aware of this film about “Nazis on the moon?”

CK: I only became aware of it when they approached me to do the role. I had no idea. Because there’s so much stuff in the internet universe, that to really actually stay abreast of it all is almost impossible. So when it became clear in my consciousness what it was about, then I started to do a little research. But that wasn’t until I read the script and then I met the directors, and all that stuff.

SM: When you first became aware of it, before you did the research, did you take much convincing that, no, this movie wasn’t a joke? It was in fact a fairly thoughtful political satire.

CK: The thing is, I’ve been running with this for a while. Literally, when my agent actually called me and said… It happened on a Friday. She said, “Somebody wants to see you for a movie.” And I said, “OK, what’s it about?” “It’s about Nazis on the moon.” [Long pause] It literally went like that; I’m waiting for her to laugh or do something – nothing. I’m like, “Nah, nah, what’s it really about?” “Nazis on the moon.” I’m like, “Are you serious?” And she says, “Yeah. Are you interested?” That’s how she put it. I said, “Yeah, sure, send me the script.” So she sent me the script and I read it, and I kind of went, “Did I just read that?” I read it about a total of ten times, and each time I started to see the layers unfold. By the fourth reading, I thought, “If these guys have the balls to make this movie, I’m in.”

SM: That’s something you want to be a part of.

CK: Obviously, it’s not your everyday average film. It’s not typical. It’s something a little bit left of centre. At the same time, even before I met the director and producer, I wanted to make sure… you know, first of all you don’t want to be promoting something that is in any way, shape, or form anti-human. Period. I wanted to make sure these guys were above board. I decided it would be quite interesting really. Just the whole concept. That’s when I thought, “Wow.” It was an idea that was so far out there, I just thought, “OK, let’s go with it. Let’s see what you guys got.”

SM: Speaking of it being atypical, not only in the concept but in the execution as well, it’s been partially funded by fans, and they even had a hand in developing the story, and working on the script over a number of years. Was that an intimidating prospect? To have thousands of rabid fans who depended heavily on the final product.

CK: Obviously there were certain aspects that they took from the fans, but at the end of the day you’ve really got to start to funnel. When you’re making a cake, you’re putting all sorts of ingredients in, you know what I mean? But then again, you can’t put too much salt in or it’s not going to taste good? Or you can’t put too much baking soda in or it’s not going to taste right. In that concept, I was a little bit weary. I was kind of like, “Wait a minute, now they’re asking fans’ opinions on this?” But the thing is too, I think that’s been the whole beautiful journey of this; it has felt like a community. It’s been a journey that you couldn’t do on your own. You needed people around you to help this thing happen.

SM: Have you been able to interact with the fans much? What has the experience been like dealing with them?

CK: Oh yeah, yeah. I’ve been to the Berlin premiere, and I went to the Gold Coast premiere here, and things like that. When we were in Berlin, we were like the most talked about film at Berlinale, which I found quite surprising, and a bit daunting really. Because you’re dealing with the subject of Nazis in Germany. How are they going to react to that? But people loved it. I was walking down the street, and people were going, “Iron Sky! Iron Sky! Can I have a photo with you?” All our showings were sold out. I think that’s a little bit of a testament to it too. The fans have been fantastic. They’ve been following us since way back when. I think there’s a certain anticipation for this film, because it’s been such a long journey to get it not only written, but up and made and now released. The fans have been very, very loyal. And the thing is too, that’s who basically keeps us employed is the fans. I’ll always have time for them.

SM: The movie certainly trades in a lot of archetypes, and spoofs a lot of films. You even get to have a little Dr. Strangelove moment in a wheelchair. Were you looking to any particular films or characters for your character James Washington?

CK: You know, not really. But, one of my favourite films [laughs] – I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite film of all time – one of my favourite films growing up was Blazing Saddles. It’s one of those films where [Mel Brooks] basically spoofs everyone. The beauty of it is he takes every stereotype and every prejudice that human beings have and he just lays it on the table. And you just kind of realise, “Wow, at the end of it all, we’re all the same.” It has that spirit behind it. And I think Iron Sky has that same sort of spirit. I guess, always, your fear when you do a film is that your film might get misinterpreted, but there’s a certain spirit that runs through Iron Sky that the audience grabs a hold of and is like, “Oh, is that what that was?” So as far as my character, was I channelling anyone? Not necessarily. I could only go through what I was going through and go after what I wanted. It’s not like every day I was calling up on experiences and going, “Huh, let me see? What would I do if I was captured by Nazis?” That’s not something that happens every day.

SM: That well of experience is hard to draw from.

CK: Yeah, you know? I mean, I could draw from certain experience, and Lord knows I did. But other times, it’s like, “You guys are having a costume party.” It’s just a constant questioning. “OK, what’s going on here? When are the cameras coming out?” It seems like such a farfetched thing to do anyway; to actually have Nazis on the moon. I just basically tried to play into each situation as it came along.

SM: I think Blazing Saddles is a fairly apt comparison. That film deals heavily with race; it’s obviously a very funny movie, but it does deal with race. You play the first black astronaut on the moon, a male model, who, once captured by the Nazis, gets “albanised.” Your hair is bleached blonde, and your skin is bleached white. How was that make up job?

CK: [Laughs] It was long. But every day, it was something a little different. Because Bliss Macgillicuddy, who was our makeup artist on it, was trying different ways to get skin tone right. You have to really take away everything that is me, and then add tones back. And finally, we didn’t really see the finished product until the first day of shooting as a white man. So, I’m sitting in the makeup chair looking at myself thinking, “OK, that’s me, but it’s not me.” Certain emotions started coming up, and I was like, “Wow, alright.” Mind you, out of all that, the worst thing was probably the contacts, because I don’t wear contacts. So, obviously, I’m going to be a bit squeamish about taking something and shoving it in my eye. Then you have to make sure the contact is straight too, because it has to line up with your pupil. But outside of that, to tell you the truth, I give all credit to Bliss, because it was her creation. The only thing I had to do really was sit there. The only thing I needed to do is have patience.

SM: You share your time between America and Australia. When you go back to America, do you find the political elements spoofed in Iron Sky ring true?

CK: I think they do. I think any spoof, really, fits in a certain time. The fact is, too, you’re dealing with people who went to the moon in 1945; they’re still viewing things back in those times. Now, how many things have changed in our lifetimes since 1945? We’ve had the civil rights movements, we’ve actually had people land on the moon. Borders have changed; attitudes have changed. I think that’s the whole thing of, “Huh, if we actually make him white, then basically he’ll be better.” It’s that whole thing. To tell you the truth, in a lot of way, it’s still prevalent today. I’m not saying everyone wants to turn me white, but certain things still ring true. You know, how a lot of people are actually controlled by fear no matter what. Even though we have a President of the United States who’s African American, there’s still people who basically don’t like black people. Just because something happens doesn’t necessarily change what’s in people’s hearts. I think for a lot of the political spoofs, I think they do ring true.

SM: What’s next for you?

CK: There’s a movie called Movie 43 – I take that back, it’s been renamed; it’s actually called Red Band. And what it is, is a bunch of skits. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the old Kentucky Fried Movie, or National Lampoon’s?

SM: Of course.

CK It’s basically an ode to those movies, but it’s been brought to modern times. It’s a bunch of different skits brought together to make one film. Kentucky Fried Movie, I remember watching that, and that is just a classic. It’s just funny. I can only speak for my skit, but if the rest of the movie is anywhere near my skit, this movie is going to be hilarious.

Iron Sky arrives in Australian cinemas May 10, 2012.

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