Interview: Actresses Anna Fischer & Jennifer Ulrich on ‘We Are The Night’
Interview conducted by Ben Bussey
If there’s one breed of movie monster that’s never going anywhere, it’s the vampire. That time-honoured balance of sex and death has long kept them popular both within and without horror fandom, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. One of the most recent fang-flicks to reach the UK is We Are The Night, a German production from director Dennis Gansel which follows the nocturnal adventures of four bloodthirsty beauties in Berlin. It’s an unrepentantly glossy, populist take on the undead, but it packs just enough bite to keep the horror faithful happy. Well, it worked for me, in any case. (Read my full review here.)
While for the most part We Are The Night centres on Karoline Herfurth’s newbie nosferatu Lena and Nina Hoss’s empress of the undead Louise, the other half of the team are also very interesting in their own right. Jennifer Ulrich plays Charlotte (pictured above right), a disillusioned one-time silent movie star turned by Louise back in the 1920s, whilst Anna Fischer plays Nora (above left), a wild child clubber who took to permanent nightlife in the 90s. I got the chance to fire a few questions to these two fine actresses on the eve of We Are The Night’s region 2 DVD release.
BAH: Hello Jennifer and Anna, thanks for talking to us at Brutal As Hell. Congratulations on We Are The Night; it’s a film I really enjoyed, and in many ways it really feels like a vampire fan’s dream come true. Were you fans of vampires or horror films in general beforehand?
Anna Fischer: Well I am a great movie fan in general and horror is with its elements of suspense, thrill and gore definitely one of my favourite ones. As for vampires, they fascinate me. They incorporate human’s most ancient dreams: immortality, unseen beauty and eternal youth.
Jennifer Ulrich: I really like vampire and horror films but I’m not easy to scare. I like vampires in the old fashioned way. Supernatural, blood hungry creatures, symbolizing also a forbidden sexual longing, only possible to kill by sunlight or driving a stake in their heart. All these interpretations of vampires like in the Twilight Saga for example are too romanticized in my point of view but that’s only my personal taste. I love films like Interview with a Vampire, Blade, Underworld, Nosferatu, From Dusk till Dawn, Lost Boys etc.
BAH: One of the things that’s nice about the film is that, whilst Charlotte and Nora are both essentially supporting characters, we get a sense of a rich history behind each of them. Were you provided with a detailed backstory, or asked to write their backstories yourselves? (Or neither?)
Anna: This depends highly on the script. When no backstory is defined it is usually up to the actress/actor to introduce story elements to give her/his character more credibility. In the case of We are the Night my backstory was set by the script, but in the evolving process of making the movie it occurred that we gave advice or proposals to the character story.
Jennifer: I talked a lot about Charlotte’s backstory with the director. We were having long talks about several points in her life that made her become the character she finally is in the movie. For example that she wanted to be bitten in the 20ies and then chasing her family every once in a while because she was missing them. It was very important for me to create a very detailed backstory to fill Charlotte with as much “life” as possible.
BAH: Charlotte and Nora are very distinct characters who stand apart. Did you model your performances on any particular people?
Anna: In no way. Nora is not a stereotypical vampire as seen in past movies of this genre.
Jennifer: Well, I did a lot of research about the 20s and found a woman called Asta Nielsen. Her life story has some parallels to my interpretation of Charlotte that I really liked. Then I also watched many vampire and action movies and started to study Angelina Jolie a little bit. Her performance in Wanted gave me the perfect idea of how Charlotte could move physically. She has an amazing and impressive body control that inspired me a lot. She has that incredible presence I wanted Charlotte to have too. There also is a black and white campaign of St. John with Jolie that gave us the a very good idea of style we wanted to create for Charlotte.
BAH: How was it working with director Dennis Gansel and co-stars Nina Hoss and Karoline Herfurth?
Anna: Working with Dennis Gansel was very enriching as he succeeded in creating an unseen theme so far in the German movie productions. I have the highest respect for Nina Hoss, her acting and career process; it was a pleasure working at her side on a daily basis, her natural and not demanding way made the long during hours of work pass like a second. Karoline Herfurth is a self conscious and highly talented actress that walks along the track. I had a great time with all of them.
Jennifer: Dennis is a young, creative director with a great sensibility to work with his actors. We worked together on The Wave before and I was very happy to work with him again. He’s always open to new ideas, willing to try things out and pushing you in the right way. Working with the other women was much fun too. To share this experience of a complete different genre was great. We had an intense shooting time together.
BAH: Since Twilight, audiences have been very divided over the new face of vampire movies; many horror fans find them too tame and cute, preferring the gorier, sexier vampire films of the past. Your film does a good job of appealing to both sides. Which kind of vampire film do you think We Are The Night has the most in common with; the modern ‘paranormal romance’ variety, or the old fashioned, blood-soaked scary variety?
Anna: Twilight has got nothing in common with We are the Night except the vampire theme. For sure I do prefer blood orgies, gore and sexy tease to cutie metro sexual vampires with subliminal messages.
Jennifer: Well, as you already said We are the Night is a great mixture of both. On the one hand Dennis Gansel comes back to the old fashioned kind of vampires that are driven by thirst with their typical supernatural powers and the typical ways of killing them. And on the other hand he shows modern women in our money-driven society being free and independent but longing for love. Kind of Lost Boys meets Sex and the City.
BAH: Finally, any plans to work in the horror genre again?
Anna: Anytime with a good script! It is so much fun working in this genre with all its fascinating props, cars, blood, gore and great visual effects.
Jennifer: Right after the shoot of We are the Night I did a horror film called 205 – Room of Fear which is coming out in Germany in January 2013. I think it’s much fun to shoot genre movies because you get this rarely chance of playing with different extremes that you usually don’t get in contact with in common dramas. It’s a very physical and intense work that I like very much. So I’m open to everything.
We Are The Night is out now on Region 2 DVD from Momentum.