Classic Hollywood: Udo Kier Specializes in Villains

Udo Kier Biography
Udo Kier plays Konrad, Christoph Waltz plays Dusan and Matt Damon plays Paul in ‘Downsizing’ from Paramount Pictures.

European actor Udo Kier, now living in Palm Springs, has been terrorizing audiences in films since his starring role in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein in 1973. But that wasn’t his first film. Youngsters probably know him from Madonna’s music video of her song “Deeper and Deeper” from the 2009 album, Erotica.

Udo Kier began life on October 14, 1944 in Cologne, Germany before the end of World War II. That makes him both a Libra and a European by origin. His native language is, of course, German. By the time he was 18 he moved to London to learn English. Because of his piercing blue eyes and startling looks, it was suggested he study acting. He eventually enrolled in some drama classes in 1962 to see what it was all about.

Good luck followed him as he was cast by director Michael Sarne in Road to Saint Tropez in 1966. This was his first film. He picked up a few other films and then was cast in the sensational Mark of the Devil as Count Christian von Meruh in 1970. People ran screaming from the theater and were given vomit bags, like on a plane! The film was so violent and sexually explicit that it was banned from showing in more than 30 countries. Other European films came his way through the early 1970s.

By pure luck, Kier met cult film director Paul Morrissey during a plane flight. It was a fortunate meeting because Morrissey cast him in the horror classic Flesh for Frankenstein in 1973 in 3D. The film was so terrorizing that it got an “X” rating and became a sensation. It was followed by Blood of Dracula in 1974. Although sometimes known as “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Dracula,” he apparently had nothing to do with the films. Kier, himself, became a cult figure, mostly in Europe, and began being known for his horror pictures.

Kier worked extensively in Europe on such favorites as The Blood of Dr. Jekyll (1981), The Island of the Bloody Plantation (1983), and the Columbia Pictures comedy, Moscow on the Hudson (1984), starring Robin Williams.

After filming another 10 or so movies in Europe, he got his big American break in Gus Van Sant’s cult hit My Own Private Idaho (1991), starring Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. In 1993 he was again cast in a Van Sant film, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, starring Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves.

More American pictures came his way when he was featured with comic Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Johnny Mnemonic (1995) with Dolph Lundgren and Keanu Reeves, Barb Wire (1996) with Pamela Anderson, the box office blockbuster Armageddon (1998) with Ben Affleck, and End of Days (1999) with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the new decade of the 2000s, Udo Kier has appeared in more than 70 films, both in Europe and in the United States. He has worked with many of the top directors, such as Lars von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Dario Argento, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, to name only a few.

In recent years, he has had roles in Downsizing with Matt Damon and in Storm: A Star Wars Story. Released in 2018 were Daughter of Mine, Haymaker, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, Dragged Across Concrete, and The Painted Bird.

One of the most prolific actors in films, Udo Kier was most recently seen in the Joaquin Phoenix film, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.