Here we are yet again and the forefront of something wonderful… Namely another celebrity interview! This time with the talented, alluring and legendary Action Queen of the 80’s Sybil Danning!
Before we dive into the awesomeness though, I will recap, for those who still may not be in the know after my exhaustive build up to this event, (of which there WAS going to be yet another post yesterday, but couldn’t for the life of me get it to work, anywho):
Sybil Danning is a gorgeous, leggy, buxom, glamazonian, by way of Austria, warrior queen, who also happens to be one of the most brightly shining stars of films of the “B” variety. From Roger Corman’s infamous Star Wars knock off (with special effects work by a pre-fame James Cameron) Battle Beyond the Stars, to the Women in Prison Classics Chained Heat and Reform School Girls, to classier efforts like the Richard Burton starring Bluebeard and trashier epics like Lou Ferrigno’s live action Hercules, Sybil Danning has been bringing her voluminous talents and mega watt screen presence to a wide array of Cinematic Cheese Fests for over 40 years and she’s still going strong. (For yet more info than this check out my Sybil Danning Double Feature articles, here, here and here.)
So, with out further ado, lets get to know her better!
11 Questions, and 11 Questions Only.
This interview took place via email between myself and Ms. Danning’s representative over the course of last month.
As per the format of ’11 Questions’ I submitted my questions cold and let the interviewee do the answering. Any “conversational awkwardness” is because of this and is unintentional.
(The interview has not been edited in any way (for grammar, spelling or otherwise) to make either of us look better.)
DS- I know you started off your professional life in the field of dentistry, what drew you away from that and into acting?
SD- I loved working in the field of Dentistry for my Uncle in Austria and then later in
Dental Surgery for one of the most famous Doctor/Professor/Dental Surgeons in the
European Industry in the top Hospital in Salzburg, Austria. My work in the hospital was 6 day weeks with very low income and long hours. When given the opportunity to work for the Professor in his private practice, working less hours with more pay, I took it. That translated into less but later hours into the evening, never ending before 10-11PM—and sometimes 12 Midnight. I could never go to a dinner, movie, concert or plan anything evenings, so I finally decide to exit a profession I very much liked but not willing to sacrifice a private life for it. I studied, facial treatments, decorative make-up, manicure/pedicure, body massage and received a Diploma in Cosmetology. That led to me working as comestician, running the Cosmetic School which was also a modeling school which I led. Soon I was booking myself as model. One day a photographer called me and told me a movie director was in his office, saw my pictures and I ended up playing my first movie role. It was by mistake, not my planning or even my wish.
DS- An early “big break” for you as an actress was being cast in the extremely off kilter Richard Burton starring Dark-Comedy/Nazisploitation film Bluebeard, in 1972. I’m a huge fan of Richard Burton, his commanding voice and presence have always thrilled me to no end, even in his lesser works. Was it intimidating for a young actress, somewhat new to the industry to be in the presence of such an icon, or were you as confident and strong willed then as you are now?
SD– Richard Burton was also one of my favorite actors. His looks, voice, magnetism was absolutely as strong and mesmerizing in person as it was on screen. I had done quite a few films, before, modeled in various countries and traveled from Asia to Africa with never having a problem with cultures or people. Meeting Richard was not intimidating to me and looked forward to it because I had read one of his books and knew much about him. When I met him, did however, feel flush. He invited me to his trailer at the end of the day where we spent hours talking and drinking vodka. We’ve lost a great actor and an even greater man.
DS- Your first major role as an actress was in Menahem Golan’s Academy Award nominated 1977 release Operation Thunderbolt. In it you performed along side the legendary Klaus Kinski, as a sadistic terrorist. What was it like working with the notoriously fiery Kinski and do you think this role set the standard for your later career as the action queen of the 80s?
SD– I’m very proud of that movie. First, because we were nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, aka MIVTSA JONATAN, the Israeli title. Second, because Menachem Golan came to Munich, Germany where I was living, told me we are going to do this movie although 2 others were already in the making and I am going to play the role of the German Terrorist, former member of the Baader Meinhoff Group, Gabrielle Tiedemann. Menachem told me we need the money and who can we cast as my partner in crime, Wilfried Boese? I called Paris, France, convinced Klaus Kinski to play the role as well as a German investor/distributor to fund the entire movie. Unfortunately, I was not given a credit or producing fee which is standard in the business. Because I was not aware at that time, this would be owed me, so I did not ask and I did not get it. I fought the distributor too who did not want Klaus but I put my hand in the fire for him and let him know. He behaved very well and as I knew he would, was magnificent in the movie. The LA TIMES gave us both excellent reviews along with the movie. Mission Accomplished.
DS- The first movie I saw you in was 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars, Roger Corman’s infamous “Seven Samurai in Space.” Despite the staggering cast of epic scenery chewers (Robert Vaughn, John Saxon, George Peppard) you sort of steal the movie in your small, but very memorable role as the “extraterrestrial Valkyrie” Saint-Exim. Was this your intention, or were you just having a blast with such an outrageous role (and costume)?
SD– When I do a movie I never intend or try to outdo anyone or overdo my character. I see everyone as a team and the actors/crews/directors become your family for the short while you work, eat and have fun together. On some movies, it’s very hard and sad to leave the people you enjoyed being with. So, no intention to steal, I admit to your second question. Yes, I was just having great fun flying a spaceship ending as hero jamming John Saxon’s stellar converter and wearing two great costumes. My fans know and love that I always have great costumes. My famous, outrageous Valkyrie outfit was fun but the breast piece cumbersome to keep in place. The battle or “dart” (named after my spaceship) costume took 10 fittings to properly sew the dart shaped holes and secure them with
buttons. Despite all that work, NBC when airing on TV, still rotoscoped over my entire chest in the spaceship of my hara kiri scene! And so everyone had fun, on and off that movie, except NBC, who said my costume in that scene was too dangerous for airing! What can I tell you, I guess sometimes I’m just a dangerous kind o gal.
DS- My favorite of the films you’ve starred in is 1983’s Women-In-Prison classic, Chained Heat. I’ve long heard it was a difficult movie and shoot for some of the other actresses, especially Linda Blair, to endure, but you seem to carry your role (and most of your roles) with a winking sense of humor that I love. Have you ever worked on a film, or been placed in a role that was out of your comfort zone?
SD– Excellent question, actually I think, never asked before! And I really have to give it a moment’s thought! I’m thinking! OK, I went away from this question and now back with the same result– I cannot remember a movie role I did out of my comfort zone. Reason being, I would never take on a role I can’t do justice to. I either like it or don’t do it. Certainly I’ve been in movies where situations could have been better, but who hasn’t. A small example of uncomfortable scenes/situations; My first movie COME MY DEAR LITTLE BIRD, the German fable of “Loreley”, sitting 2 days long on the icy cold November, barren real Rhine river cliff 130 meters high clothed only in long blonde tresses ala “Lady Godiva” freezing to return to Austria with dangerously high fever – my arm scorched by fire burning down my ranch in ALBINO while being raped in a scene we could only shoot once. I still have the scar.
DS- Also in 1983 you were in the running to land the title role of Octopussy, in Roger Moore’s sixth outing as James Bond. The part of course ended up going to another Model/Actress, Maud Adams. With your strength and tongue in cheek sensibility I think you could have done the part ten times more memorably than Ms. Adams and probably fit in with Moore’s more humorous Bond style a lot more comfortably. Why didn’t you get the part, just one of those things, or did something else happen behind the scenes?
SD– Thank you, another great question. I know Maud personally and love her. I think role in a James Bond movie. It’s all straight forward, no secrets. I met with Cubby Broccoli for the role. It was a very pleasant meeting, I really liked him and I felt the feeling was mutual. When I got home my agent called to tell me I did not get the role. Though Cubby liked me, he felt my personality was too strong and they needed to go a different way. Some time thereafter, I met Roger Moore in the celebrity hot-spot, Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, had laughs a drink and got along very well. I was thinking, how great our “on screen” chemistry could have been. That’s Hollywood!
DS- 1985’s The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, is most remembered for three things these days, Your stunning performance as “Stirba- She Bitch”, a slumming Christopher Lee and being incredibly bad. Was it surreal working along side someone like Christopher Lee AND participating in the infamous “Werewolf Transformation-Menage a Troi”?
SD– I’ve done 5 movies with Christopher Lee and I still love him very much which says everything. I did ALBINO, just mentioned above, THREE AND FOUR MUSKETEERS, THE SALAMANDER and lastly, THE HOWLING II. I learned from Christopher, no matter what the character or scene or role you, and only you decide to do, do it well, be true to your character. He does that and I believe I’ve also been true to my characters, in turn, tru to my fans. If I don’t take my characters serious, how can I expect my fans to take them serious? It’s as simple as that, even when you’re, as you mentioned, nude, covered in very fine hair from top to bottom as the only time I become the full fledged werewolf “Queen Stirba” in THE HOWLING II. We all three had fun with that scene and when it was over, I had more black hair than blonde on me. Philippe Mora, the director gave the movie and especially that scene a beautiful atmosphere and so we were quite into it. It also helped the mood shooting in a real castle behind the then, Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, now Czech Republic in Eastern Europe.
DS- You Wrote and Produced 1989’s L.A. Bounty. In it you play a sort of Steven Seagalesque character named Ruger, an ex-cop, turned bounty hunter on the trail of a crazed killer. Unlike Seagal who wrote, produced and directed himself in a number of egocentric vanity projects, your role in the film is very subdued, practically wordless. Was this intentional, or did you just want to play the strong silent type, a sort of “woman with no name”?
SD– I just like that character very much and saw her as a “Dirty Harry type” which I
loved. My fans can go to my website www.sybildanning.com to my Newsroom, scroll down to my pic and the link to the music video called “Bullet From a Gun.” My partner Les Thomas who was named “analyst and producer” in the global Video Game Industry by Cloud Computing Journal, and I have a RUGER™ first person shooter Video Game in development. We are also in negotiations with an artist for a RUGER™ comic book, parallel to the game. A completed script is with a powerhouse company under consideration to come in on a RUGER™ movie as well. Fans can go to our new www.sybildanningsruger.com site.
DS- In the late 80’s, around the time of Sybil Danning’s Adventure Video Series (of which I still own the Ninja Warriors release) you suffered some major health issues while rehearsing a stunt, and were put out of commission for a long, painful, amount of time. What was that time like for you?
SD– As we must always do in life, I made lemon juice out of lemons given me. I was in a wheel chair, watched the entire gulf war from my hospital bed, had four epidural blocks and ultimately back surgery. While on my back I decided to be creative, wrote a screenplay and did a lot of reading. In the end it gives you even more appreciation for life which can change in a heartbeat. Like a good man, you can only keep a good woman down for a certain amount of time, then we’re back, never looking back.
DS- There have been very few female action stars of any sort of lasting caliber, but you’re still going strong (and looking timelessly gorgeous as always) to this day. I’d say, at the moment, the only other lady action hero to come close to Sybil Danning is Milla Jovovich. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of her work, but if you have I’d love to know how you think she stacks up? (I’d also love to see you both team up on a project, maybe a mother-daughter sort of thing. Hell, I’d love to write it!)
SD– Thank you for the compliment, I too love her, in particular THE FIFTH ELEMENT, with one of my favorite directors Luc Besson. I’m always happy to see women in action and strong roles. I could see us teaming in a sister-older-sister action movie. Yes, please write it, we need good female actions scripts!
DS- After such a long, intriguing and exciting career and life, what could the future possibly hold for Sybil Danning that she hasn’t already conquered?
SD– Oh NO! Damien, you make it sound like I’ve done it all and can quietly go away! I never feel I’ve achieved even closely what I should have or would like to have achieved. You’re very good, but now you’re slipping! Didn’t you see the UK’s #1 horror/sci-fi/fantasy film magazine THE DARK SIDE with me featured on the cover and 4pgs inside with headline “The Bitch is Back,” or recent FANGORIA cover and 4pg feature of me? I feel I have much more to give and the best is yet to come. I am busier than ever, co-writing, producing and preparing to direct my first feature. I’ve directed before but never a feature.
I just produced and starred in my 1st Music Video, single THE OTHER SIDE, for Chad
Cherry and THE LAST VEGAS , a rock/heavy metal band just back on tour in Europe and currently touring with Guns & Roses in the US.
I’ll be directing their next Video and look forward to it. I’m directing and co-producing with Herb Linsey a women in prison movie in preproduction, I will play a role in. The best since CHAINED HEAT! Funny because I was mentioned by guest Dennis Miller on OReilly March 21 for, Chained Heat and Reform School Girls. I thanked Dennis for his mention and am invited to his show – soon!
I’m in development on BLOOD RELATIONS, a Vampire movie I’m co-directing, coproducing with Neil Johnson and starring in. On a very serious side, I’m in discussion with Bill Chartoff, producer of ROCKY, RAGING BULL, THE RIGHT STUFF and THE MECHANIC with Jason Statham to coproduce SOLIDARITY with me. It’s a political-love story feature film written by the late Daniel Taradash, Academy Award winner best screenplay (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY,) based on LECH WALESA – Leader of Solidarity instigator of Democracy in Europe, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and proud father of 7. I will play a role as well.
I’m writing my “Picture Book” to be published when done and parallel my “Memoire” to be published when the ending is right. I’m very proud to say, my editor in chief and dear friend, renowned Author Marshall Terrill, of books such as “Elvis Presley: Still Taking Care of Business” which he’s currently producing the movie titled FAME AND FORTUNE. He also wrote “Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon” also being adopted for the big screen with Jeremy Renner.
As of recent I rep gorgeous “Dzmitry Samal’s pixelated hand made designer glasses from Paris, France” go to www.samaldesign.com Please follow me; www.twitter.com/sybildanning , www.myfacebook.com/sybildanning,
Thank you Damien. I feel better than ever, more in control of what I want to do than ever, and until my fans tell me to go away, – The Bitch is Back!
What did I tell you guys? Wonderful, yes?
She’s a force of nature, and she’s here to be reckoned with! And, as the near end of the interview implied I may be working with Ms. Danning on something, possibly, maybe, sorta kinda in the not too distant future, of the film variety (maybe more than one if everybody is lucky, hehe.) Can’t say for sure on anything, but if our world’s do collide it’s gonna be one hell of a cinematic explosion!
To be of note the gorgeous headliner photo of Sybil in front of the portrait of Richard Burton (by the way, whoever has that painting needs to get it to me stat, I NEED it) is something Ms. Danning shared with me personally, from her own collection, just based on our mutual affection for Mr. Burton. It was taken during the making of Bluebeard by Elizabeth Taylor’s (at the time Ms. Richard Burton) personal photographer Gianni Bozzacchi.
And, I’ll leave you all with this lovely image to linger on… It is Ms. Danning in her natural habitat, looking gorgeous and holding a gun… also, it’s personally autographed to me as only Ms. Danning can do.