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- Star Crash 1979

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An Interview with Katja Bienert, Actress, Writer, Filmmaker ... and former Sex Star

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2008

Films starring Katja Bienert on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Many actresses got their start in erotic films in the early 1980's and have since completely vanished - but you are one of the few who is still around. How did you do it and what are you working on these days?

 

I think to stay in business is like staying alive: Always curious and a moving target.

As I realized that Lolita-time is over and nonita-time is looking round the corner, I decided to transform into a self-made bussiness-woman, dealing with art: I work as a writer, a dubber, an actress, showmaster, painter, goldsmith and singer. At the moment I'll get ready to play theatre again: I'll be on stage the upcoming year with actor Claus Wilcke in a play by Moliere. Also I do rehearsals now with the Herb-Runge-Band and Canadian singer Ilan Green as we appear in several clubs in Berlin in springtime. I am also writing the synopsis for a documentary My Friend Pablo about migration and mondialism (I don't like to call it globalization). In private life I am also a happy person, having a nice son named Alan Leon and a balanced surrounding that makes all my activities possible.

 

Let's go back to the beginning of your career: How did you get started in films?

 

I grew up surrounded by artists: My Granny Anneliese was  running a school for acting and dancing in Vienna, my mum Evelyn worked as a songwriter (running the Messengers together with composer Bernhard Jobski), as an actress and also as the very first German stuntwoman - so I had no choice with all these influences. My Dad Frank worked as a teacher of economics, but somehow at the age of ten or eleven, meeting people like Claude Chabrol and photographers like Jim Rakete or Austrian producer Carl Spiehs [of Lisa Film - the Lisa Film story - click here], I decided to work in the more glittering business. And as it is only glittering on the surface, I always thought of the future and enjoyed learning a lot of things beside. Stepping into business was easy: With sexy photos done by famous photographers the production companies started to notice me, the magazines Cinema and Stern started to write about my Lolita-image almost the same time as they wrote about Nasti Kinski.

 


What can you tell us about your first film, Die Schulmädchen vom Bahnhof Zoo (1979, Walter Boos)?

 

My mother Evelyn, who did my management, arranged a meeting with production-assistant Otto Retzer in the Kempinski in Berlin: The famous producer Carl Spiehs was hiding behind a newspaper taking a glance at me and decided without casting to give me the responsible main part Petra - when we where shooting in summer 1978 I was 11 years old, looking like a sixteen-year-old - which made the harmless nude scenes delicate. Months later I was asked to be cast for Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo/Christiane F. (1981, Uli Edel) but when the production-company heard I had already been in a similiar film about drugs and the experience of first love they were not amused. I was to be directed by Uli Edel in that movie - he later moved to LA to do Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989). I met him just some months ago in Munich, when he edited his film Baader-Meinhoff-Komplex - strange to meet up after thirty years - but we're still standing! (Schulmädchen vom Treffpunkt Zoo's working title was Unter den Brücken and it was directed by Walter Boos.)

 


You also pretty soon after that got a role in Schulmädchen Report 13 (1980, Walter Boos). A few words about that experience, and did anyone at all back then expect the series to become a sort-of cult item over the years?

 

This was an outstanding experience, cause the stuff was already cult when we worked on No 13: All the later well-known actors denied later on in their careers that they worked in those reports that were based on real schoolgirls' (and -boys') experiences: Compared to nowadays charming, stupid and harmless. I enjoyed working with the production and playing a Greek schoolgirl with a religious background and her own thoughts on strict virginity was fun. I looked great in those days and I remember whenever I had to shoot a love scene the producer Wolf C.Hartwig showed up on the set ...
A friend of mine, well-known writer in Munich, just gave the DVD of Schulmädchen Report 13 to me - I watched it a few days ago, and I guess, although the kids nowadays act cool, they  are as innocent as in the Eigthies.

 


Flix.com


Flix.com

From 1980 onwards, you starred in a string of films directed by cult director Jess Franco. What can you tell us about working with that man?

 

Somehow I bumped into Jess: We met in Alicante in one big filmstudio, but I was on the set of Kalt wie Eis and he was working next door. But as I have this mediterranian look he soon overtook me into his Spanish crew - Antonio Mayans, Lola Gayos, all those great characters, who more or less played themselves ... so authentic, that I feel working with Germans or Americans is very, very different. Mostly we had great food, fun and hotels and beside this we did a nice film (mostly he made three out of one) and he has a great ability to make the experience very entertaining, giving all the actors the freedom they wanted, cause mostly there was no script, but a treatment. As he also did the film music, being deep involved with Jazz-music, he is a real multitalented artist: Some call him the King of Trash, but I call it art.

 


Flix.com


One of my favourites of your Franco-movies is Diamonds of Kilimandjaro (1983). What's it like to make a jungle film the Jess Franco-way?

 

At first I must confess, playing Liane in Diamonds of Kilimandjaro was quite an act, cause I am far away from being sportive. Mostly I was frightened acting like being a female Tarzan, so I was thankful that he added some scence where I looked seductive or was fighting with my hunters - anything, but my feet on the ground. We shot on the Canary Islands in a natural resort and I enjoyed being in the nature, having a comfortable hotel nearby. Mostly we shot during the summer-holidays, cause Jess always respected me being a schoolgirl.

 

Katja Bienert and Jess Franco

Lilian (la Virgen Pervertida)/Lilian the Perverted Virign  (1984, Jess Franco) has gained some notoriety for being the first Spanish hardcore porn film. You didn't take part in any of the explicit sex scenes though, right?

 

If you consider my age those days [Katja Bienert was merely 16 or 17 when filming this movie] ... the producers would have risked to go to jail - especially in a catholic country like Spain.

 

Does it bother you at all to be associated with a pornmovie?

 

As I am a shy person it bothers me a little. I must admit though that I like to watch some kinky stuff - so somebody has to be in those movies ...

 



In 2002, 15 years after your last film with Franco, you starred in another of his films, Killer Barbys vs Dracula. What was that reunion like?

 

Like a big fiesta, party - however: when Jess Franco is coming back to your life it's always pleasure. Andreas Bethmann and Carsten Frank were part of the reunion, and Jess was surprised that I hadn't changed much after all those years. He invited me to Killer Barbys vs Dracula playing a journalist - something that I worked as on Zeitzeugen/Spiegel-TV in real life. So he always chose the characters close to their natures. I also met Dan van Husen again who worked with my mum several years ago on Tinto Brass' Salon Kitty (1976).

 

In 1991, you starred in the erotic comedy series Schloss Pompom Rouge, a series that it's nowadays hard to even find information about. Would you at all care to say a few things about it?

 

Pompom Rouge was done by Michael Zens, who is still directing comedy stuff: The main part was played by wonderful Elisabeth Volkmann and I  - as usual - played the mistress of her husband: all the series was shot in the big studios of Tempelhof, Oberlandstrasse and the company run by Gabriele Walther put a lot of money into it, millions over millions - they built a Rokoko-castle-set, hired the best technicians and well-known German actors, the best make-up specialist (Hasso von Hugo, who did all the make-up for Der Namen der Rose/The Name of the Rose [1986, Jean-Jacques Annaud]) ... - but somehow it was no big success: I guess the time was not right for Germany to mix history, erotic tales and comedy,  it was just too much, even for RTL ...

 

You did your first nude scenes when you were still very young. Did it ever bother you to take off your cloths in front of a camera, and can you still remember your first nude scene?

 

As I looked like a grown-up already at the age of eleven, taking off the cloths was like a freeing theraphy: I was full of complexes over my voluptuos body ... but I've been prepared, cause before I've been already posing for photographer Lutz "Lucky" Stark and Jim Rakete, so I could see that men were somehow attracted to me - so it wass all about flirting, feeling sexy and attractive.

On a film set - which was Schulmädchen vom Bahnhof Zoo - it was a far away from feeling comfortable, cause in the most intimate moments you are surrounded by the crew. If you'd already worked together for some weeks, it's less difficult to ignore them. It will get more difficult if you're only able to undress and get stimulated IN CASE a filmcrew is around (ha,ha!).

 

Would you consider undress on camera nowadays and on what conditions?

 

If it makes sense and is part of the story and someone sets up gentle lights ... as I do a lot of sports, I still fit into the shoes of a sex-symbol.

 

As a change of pace (in more ways than one) you also had a guest role on the immensely popular daily soap Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten. How would you compare doing daily soaps to making films?

 

The more people are involved without a passion for filmmaking but thinking on their paycheck, the less exciting the whole thing gets: You can do daily soaps only for quick money and calmer living conditions ... it is far away from theatre work or great movies or Jess-Franco experiences.

By the way: One of my uncles in Australia was in that scriptwriters' pool of The Restless Years, where Kilye Minogue started her career. I used to dub part of the series, which was at first copied as a licenced production in Holland (Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden). Somehow somebody from the Grundy/UFA realized that dubbing the series was more expensive than redoing the whole soap, and then the county of Berlin also gave some extra money - so that is how it all started, with mostly unknown, unexperienced young actors ...

 

Katja Bienert in an episode of

Unhappy End

In the 1990's, you started your association with the Gator Group and their Unhappy End series. How did this come into being and what can you tell us about the series?

 

I met producer/cameraman Michael Huck (of Gator Group) [Michael Huck interview - click here] after he had sent me a strange, interesting treatment, and I worked with him on a short movie - and soon we became cooperative partners. So on one hand, I'm still working as an actress for Gator Group (see www.gatorgroup.de or youtube: MrAlGator or www.myspace.com/MrAlGator), but also as an executive producer.

Although I always try to get Michael away from his bondage-trip, we managed to start a succesful business - just started selling Unhappy End in Japan and America. And most of the actresses/actors we have cast went on to be famous afterwards.

 

Still from Full Moon

Within Unhappy End, you also made your directorial debut, Immer Vollmond/Full Moon. A few words about that one and what's it like to (also) work behind the camera for a change?

 

I love to compose, write and analyze people. Somehow if I have a strange encounter with other artistic people, I like to write down my experience. Immer Vollmond is such a story: When I fell in love with a painter, who used to run around as a beggar but was quite a wealthy man with flat sin Berlin and New York, my relationship with a longterm friend was in question. So one person influenced my balance to free me from this unhappy (!) situation; I'd started to write a script, using all the dialogues and funny situations I got into - I misused the reality (maybe I don't have a lot of imagination...).

I did my very first comedy cause of longing for my lost love; but also to give Michael Huck another view on filmmaking. We hired a lot of wellknown actors, I was responsible for the story, the set, the make-up, the food, playing the main part and directing, so I had to be busy. It was a kind of catharsis, but I loved it.

And with the elements of the comedy, on which more than 32 people worked on, I felt like conducting an orchestra: as I am a very strict, demanding person, directing is perfect for me.
 

Directors who have influenced you as a filmmaker?

 

Bigas Luna, Tinto Brass, Jess Franco, Tarantino ... I seem to be more into Spanish/Italian/American artists ...

 

Would you ever consider directing something else?

 

Indeed. I enjoy being demanding and I did another documentary called Bonjour, Benin! about Westafrica.

 


In 2000, you had a role in German exploitation director Andreas Bethmann's film Dämonenbrut - Insel der Dämonen 2. A few words about that film and its director?

 

We shot that movie around the Lago di Garda - very close to Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, but far away from this rosy mood: I coulnd't have visualized myself as a female devil/evil - with my friendly face and personality - but with the help of a great young make-up artists and all those special effects I'd looked quite scary. Bethmann is driven by strange fantasies and I didn't want him to add some nude scenes that didn't show my beautiful body ... but anyhow, he did the same that Jess did - who will actually get the GOYA 2008 upcoming February in Madrid -, and finally Bethmann was also responsible for the reunion with Jess Franco.

 

Besides acting in movies, you can also be seen on stage every now and again. What can you tell us about that aspect of your career and which sort of acting do you enjoy more?

 

Being on stage is a totaly different feeling, you're so close to the audience you can feel their expectations and get a more immediate respond about your performance: You can physically feel if they like or dislike your character. During X-mas time I'll do some rehearsals of The Hypochondriac by Moliere, with actor Claus Wilcke playing the role of the hypochondriac. We'll be on tour in springtime, visiting all Germany - although I would rather like to visit my friends at Leonard Cohen's tour in Australia, which is the home country of my mother Evelyne.

 

Apart from that, you are also an occasional writer ...

 

I wrote a lot for youth-magazines, that were edited by Alfons Schnarrenberger, the husband of our former minister of law, Mrs. Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger - unfortunately that sweet personality died two years ago. We irst met fto do advertising for the famous Hollywood-Star-Diet with the Golden Pineapple, and I still keep parts ot the diet to stay slim. In Schnarris surrounding were people like Will Tremper, who used to write, but he also directed films. 

Also people like documentarist/writer George Stefan Troller impressed and influenced my life: I write treatments, scripts, poetry, everything about my documentaries (Bonjour, Benin!, Passionate People etc).And all the curious questions to the people on Zeitzeugen I developed myself. Also my srapbooks are available on www.katjabienert.de.

 

Some actresses (or actors, in fact) who have really inspired you?

 

The young Brooke Shields I liked to watch cause of her beauty, and once I met her in Spain, I guess it was in Palma de Mallorca, she was tall, impressive. Otherwise I like George Clooney making fun about his characters, and Omar Sharif made me cry in the film based on the book 20,000 Leagues under the Sea... I guess they all caught my attention for being attractive, but not so as great actors. I get inspired by real life and average people, never copied somebody.

 

Are there directors you would really love to work with, and why?

 

Once more with Jess Franco, cause he is going to receive the Spanish Goya award 2008 in February 2009 in Madrid - I am very proud! And also with Lloyd Kauffman of Troma, cause he seems to be a strange, funny fellow; also with Oskar Roehler; I just saw the preview of Lulu & Jimi - marvellous!
And the Coen-brothers ... You see, there is a lot to do.

 

What kind of films do you like, and your all-time favourites?

 

Gandhi was amazing and Ratatouille, also Black Cat, White Cat. All kinds of films that give me new perspectives, make me laugh or cry.

 

Some films you really hated?

 

All American blockbusters, cause they don't have a soul.

 

Any future projects you would like to talk about?

 

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x-rated  find Katja Bienert at adultvideouniverse.com

The future is going to be bright. I just send some lines to the Peace Museum in Samarkand, they asked me to write something about how I figure out the world would be peaceful peace.museum.com. So I'll continue living in creativity ... One new project is called My Friend Pablo - a documentary about migration and mondialism, a nicer word for globalization. I just asked for some support by the culture ministry - if it works out, I'll start to film right after my theatre play of Moliere, which ends up in March 2009. Also I'll continue my work with Michael Huck and Gator Group.

 

Anything else you are dying to tell us and I've just forgotten to ask?

 


It seems that somehow my life and working plans go into the direction of the UK and Los Angeles, but not on purpose, only by accident. And singer Leonard Cohen - to whom I've listened sto ince forever - seems to be part of my destiny. I'm here today in Manchester at the MEN-Arena, listening once more to his seductive voice (I also love Carla Bruni as a singer), as I was invited also to London, Vienna, Berlin and Hamburg. And it only began cause I needed the permission to use his music for Rolf Eden performing his song First we take Manhattan ..., which we turned into Wir erobern Deine Schönheit, dann erobern wir Berlin (from the CD Tribute to a Playboy).

Life is a box of chocolate!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you for your sweet questions.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

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