Interview with Polanski



Natalia Maria Wojciechowska: What prompted you to direct The Fearless Vampire Killers? Is it just an elaborate joke about a vampire-Jew or perhaps a fascination with vampires?

Roman Polanski: Humor is just one of the elements of the film and the musical, it is not the foundation. In actual fact, it all began a long time ago, right after Knife in the Water when I left Poland and before my first attempt to amke a movie in France. At the time, I was working with my friend and screenwriter Gerard Barch on the screenplay Cul-de-Sac, but we didn't really believe that a movie would ever see the light of day. I look back at this period with great nostalgia-it was one of the most interesting and carefree times in my life. Gerard (co-writer of the screenplay for The Fearless Vampire Killers) and I would go to every movie theater around the Sorbonne where we spent many happy nights watching various films, mostly horror movies. I watched the other movie-goers and I noticed that the bloodier the scene, the more amused the audience seemed to be at what was being shown on the screen. It was then that I came up with the idea to make a pastiche of a horror movie in a light comedy tone. I wasn't thinking of a particular project, just a general idea which became imbedded in my subconscious. After directing Repulsion, I left for a winter holiday in Austria with my friends. The idea to amke a film about vampires returned one day when high in the mountains, I watched the sun set delicately on snowy mountain tops. I decided that if the opportunity came up after Cul-de-Sac, I would make a film about vampires "on snow". I wanted it to be a satire of the genre through the visual effect of contrasting the vampire world with the specific climate of the scenery I had seen in Austria. Blood and snow come to form a visually beautiful contrast.

NMW: In the movie, and later in the musical, you created a very specific image and definition of a vampire. What was your inspiration?

RP: The portrayed image of the vampire was largely imposed by the screenplay of the film. I also relied on mythological knowledge about those creatures, the common associations made with vampires and how various nations' beliefs were shaped through generations by films and literature. While researching vampire legends and superstitions, I reached for Bram Stoker's 19th century novel (1867) Dracula and the classic movie Nosferatu of 1927.

NMW: Were you tempted after all those years to introduce any major changes to the staging from the musical's premiere (preview in Vienna, 1997)?

RP: The show grew on me. There isn't much that I would like to change. Obviously, we had to introduce some modifications for the Polish production, but most of them were technical rather than staging changes.

NMW: Did you have any specific expectations when casting actors for the leading vampire roles?

RP: The stereotype image of the vampire-tall,'s difficult to imagine a short and chubby vampire... I always look out for this indescrible "something" which-together with the way the actor moves and his vocal skills-creates a whole. During an audition, the actor is viewed from a distance, there are no close-ups like in a film, and that changes a lot. We tried to deliver a certain dose of simplicity and freshness to the production.

NMW: What should be the viewer's immediate reaction to the Dance of the Vampires?

RP: The show was made in a traditional "vampire" style, but it is only a satire of the genre...a pastiche of horror shows. The thrill should obviously be there, but above all, it's a comedy-so we want our viewers to laugh and be amused... The audience could have some philosophical reflections, but if they appear in the show itself, they were imposed by our screenwriter Michael Kunze.

NMW: Your work, including this musical, is marked by many fairy-tales, mystical symbols and signs. Is this "language" a specific code that needs to be decrypted?

RP: If it really is a code, then it's the viewer's task to read it...

NMW: Do you really believe in vampires?

RP: Of course I do!! They are horrible creatures that rise from the grave and suck our blood!




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