LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Sybil Danning, Star of Howling II
By James Whittington, Wednesday 15th August 2007 Sybil Danning is one of the most respected genre artists working today. Many of her movies have gained cult status and one of her best, Howling II is being shown at the moment here on Zone Horror. We caught up with this busy lady to bring you this exclusive interview.
ZONE HORROR: You grew up on various Army bases, what was this nomadic style life like for you?
SYBIL DANNING: I actually enjoyed it. I loved seeing new places, meeting new people. Still today, I love travelling. I’ve been in many countries and while I love coming home to what I call my home now, Los Angeles, I always look forward to packing up and experiencing a new town, state or country. I think it has to do with being able to “adapt” which I learned early on. I see every “move” in life as an adventure. Maybe that’s why I call my company “Adventuress Productions.”
ZONE HORROR: You left school aged 14 to help support you family. How much stress did this put upon on you?
SYBIL DANNING: At the time I did not see this as stress. It was something that needed to be done and you just did it. I was raised to be responsible and this was something I felt I was responsible for. Maybe in hindsight I could say I might have missed some opportunities that most teens have at that age, but I was very mature and being there for my family came natural. I continued to work hard all my life and nothing ever came easy to me. I contribute that experience as a learning time to prepare for life.
ZONE HORROR: Is it true you wanted to open your own beauty parlour?
SYBIL DANNING: Yes, I went to Cosmetology School in Salzburg, Austria where I learned facial treatments, decorative makeup, body massage, manicure and pedicure and got my Diploma. I got an extra Diploma in Beauty Care for Germaine Monteil, a leading French Cosmetic Line of products because I planned to open my own Salon and with a Diploma from Germaine Monteil, I already had their support and products for such. I applied with the Government and was told, 5 leading Salons in the city were enough and I was denied a license. That’s Socialism! It was not for me and at that time I had already made up my mind, I was going to leave my beloved Austria!
ZONE HORROR: So when did you decide that you wanted to be an actress?
SYBIL DANNING: One year after the first movie I did, COME MY DEAR LITTLE BIRD, where I played the famous German Legend, “Loreley,” Stern one of the leading magazines in Germany, brought me across two pages sitting atop a cliff on the Rhine River, my body covered only in long blond locks. We shot in November, I got terribly sick, had a high fever and went back home on a train, not a plane! That spread got me so much publicity; I had Agents, Directors and Producers calling me. At that point I decided to take this business, you call show business, serious! I got another movie offer immediately, and the rest is History!
ZONE HORROR: What was it like being on a movie set for the first time?
SYBIL DANNING: I was a model in Europe and Asia before I did my first movie. The change over was not difficult at all. At the beginning, I made more money as a model so doing movies was another “adventure” for me! Being on a set came natural and certainly being before a camera was easy. The fact that I sat in front of all the crew and camera without clothes, only long hair covering me, did not bother me either. In Europe women are topless in almost every public swimming pool, lakes and the sea. On the Island of Sylt off of Hamburg, everyone goes totally nude. Europeans have a different relationship with “nudity” than Americans. I guess once you’ve acted in a movie, quasi nude, nothing is difficult after that.
ZONE HORROR: For your first few movies directors seemed to concentrate on your looks and figure rather than your acting ability, was this frustrating?
SYBIL DANNING: Not at the time I just took it for granted and accepted those roles. Many of the movies of that time were very sexy and I fit into that mold. I’m sure if you ask Brigitte Bardot or other actors of that time if they minded and they would say no. It was the time! Certainly there were serious movies too, but I was always considered too beautiful and too sexy and did not get the chance to prove otherwise.
ZONE HORROR: Eventually did being multi-lingual make you more appealing to directors?
SYBIL DANNING: Yes, definitely in Europe because financing a movie was usually necessary to be done between 2-3, sometimes 4 countries. It helped if you could speak Italian, French, or Spanish besides German. Though I remember shooting on a movie in Italy where the director told me I can say my lines in any language I want, so I did in German, the male lead in Italian, another in French and another in Spanish! That’s a challenge! The best way around that is you have to memorize not only your dialogue but everyone else’s too.
ZONE HORROR: We’re showing Howling II at the moment on Zone Horror, what was it like working on this movie?
SYBIL DANNING: THE HOWLING II was extremely successful worldwide at its original release and has another entire life now on DVD, which I understand has made huge sales for MGM worldwide. I loved working on this movie. We shot it in the Czech Republic, which at the time was still considered “behind the iron curtain!” It sure was! We shot outside of Prague and every night in the restaurant of our Hotel, in the same corner of the same table a little guy with glasses and what looked like a dead squirrel on his head, kept an eye out on us! We were sure he was KGB and found him hilarious! It was great working on location in that old castle and location shooting is always fun because it sets you immediately into the mood of your surroundings. Shooting with Philippe was great because he has such a wonderful sense of atmosphere and humor!
ZONE HORROR: The film has a great cast including Patrick Macnee, what was the atmosphere like on set and what attracted you to the script?
SYBIL DANNING: The fact that I could be the first blonde Werewolf ever, was intriguing to me. I loved the script; I thought it was very interesting and fun! I loved the opportunity to work with Christopher again and I loved the idea of going to a country I’d never been to before! I absolutely loved my costume designer, Peter Mitchell. He designed the wonderful outfits for the MAD MAX trilogy! He is the man behind my fabulous real leather and brass costumes, which I still have today!
ZONE HORROR: What was it like working alongside Christopher Lee again as you appeared with him a few years earlier in Whispering Death (also known as Albino) and The Four Musketeers?
SYBIL DANNING: I love Christopher. I also did the wonderful movie THE SALAMANDER, based on the book by Morris West (Shoes of the Fisherman,) that I starred in with Anthony Quinn, Franco Nero, etc with Christopher, which makes 4 or 5 movies if you count Musketeers as 2 movies. He is the epitome of professionalism and I’ve learned much from him. His multiple stories are intriguing and he is just getting better with age, a class act! Philippe and I with Gary Brander (HOWLING BOOKS author) are partnered in a new franchise and I want to call Christopher when we are ready!
ZONE HORROR: What was it like working on this project seeing as though it was a sequel to a very successful movie?
SYBIL DANNING: I saw The HOWLING and I love Joe Dante. I would love to work with him again. Our paths have crossed before; we also have AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON in common. It’s always hard to do justice in a sequel because you have to be better or bigger, or-or! Anyhow, despite the fact we did not have Rob Bottin on our movie, I think HII was a very fun, most popular and commercially successful movie and stood on it’s own merits.
ZONE HORROR: Is it difficult working on a movie that relies so heavily on Special Effects?
SYBIL DANNING: No. It appeals to my fantasy and sense of adventure. I’ve been a tomboy since I was very young, at 5 pretending to racecars in a junkyard with my little 6-year-old boy friend riding shotgun! Flying a space ship in BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, or climbing trees with the boys, which gave me a birds, eye view and another sense of escapism and adventure. It goes with the territory!
ZONE HORROR: Are you a big fan of horror movies?
SYBIL DANNING: I think when you are out there in an adult world as a child, doing adult work, that’s pretty scary thinking about it today with all that goes on! I was so down to earth and serious, as I had to be working for my Dentist Uncle where I started at 14, that I had no time and little money left over to go to the movies. They were never escapism for me like for many youngsters. The first movie I ever remember seeing was the musical “Oklahoma” and I loved it. It appealed to my love of nature and the land! I was not a fan of horror until I got to the US in the 80’s. I do love Rob Zombie’s movies and feel he has a very distinct style and enormous creativity. I’ll let him know that and it allowed me to be in his HALLOWEEN, coming out in the US on August 31.
ZONE HORROR: Does it bother you that some critics regard you as a B-Movie star? Does it seem derogatory at all?
SYBIL DANNING: Hell no! I am a pioneer in my own right with the “action”, “Sci-Fi” and even “Horror” movies I did wherein my roles were all strong women’s roles! In the 80’s when I came to Hollywood, Ronald Reagan was President and the movies reflected those politics. Hollywood was macho, making movies like RAMBO and COMMANDO and movies like GLORIA came out, as the last of it’s kind for a while, in 1980. The opportunity to stay true to my strong female characters was with the so called B movies or “lower budget” movies like with Corman in BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, for which I toured in Europe to promote for Warner Brothers! The ONLY difference between A and B movies is the budget. Today, the studios are doing B movies with an A budget! I’m happy to see women like Angelina Jolie and others continue in this path of strong females!
ZONE HORROR: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions, acting or otherwise?
SYBIL DANNING: I still have time to go for an Oscar. That is the ultimate! I have the patience. It took time for Clint Eastwood to achieve that! Meanwhile, I have my loyal fans and I am very thankful for their loyalty! It is their inspiration that has caused me to make a comeback! As long as they want to see me on the screen I will do my damndest to make that happen, no matter how hard it is to fight a Hollywood that forgets fast, but I’ve always been a fighter!
ZONE HORROR: So what’s next for you?
SYBIL DANNING: I don’t like to talk too much about projects in the making because so much can go wrong before you succeed. I mentioned the “new franchise,” There is a horror movie in the planning where I would play a “Demon” for the first time. A few other projects in the Sci-Fi - Horror genre. I am also producing a movie called MAJESTY, “Elisabeth,” Empress of Austria with the director Joshua Sinclair with whom I did the movie JUMP with Patrick Swayze. I have an erotic-thriller I am working on. I will have a role in the movies I am producing. I also have a “Women in Prison” script I like very much that will be my movie directing debut and I will play the warden! After CHAINED HEAT and REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS, which have become cult classics, who, better to direct the next one but Sybil Danning! Danning’s back with a vengeance!
ZONE HORROR: Sybil Danning, thank you very much.
SYBIL DANNING: Thank you! I enjoyed your intelligent questions!
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