Udo Kier

Active - 1961 - Present  |   Born - Oct 14, 1944 in Lindenthal, Cologne, Germany  |   Genres - Drama, Horror, Comedy, Action, Thriller

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Possessing a pair of the most elegantly piercing steel blue eyes ever to be captured on celluloid, German cult actor Udo Kier has made a distinct mark for himself in the world of cinema with roles in everything from obscure European exploitation films to the most mainstream of Hollywood fare. Though as an actor Kier has made a name for himself by essaying frequently bizarre and sometimes sadistic film roles, the man himself is almost the complete opposite of the characters he portrays onscreen, exuding a flamboyant and personable earthy elegance that stands in stark contrast to his unforgettably cold, vampiric screen presence.

Born in October of 1944 in Cologne, Germany, it may come as no surprise that Kier's incredibly dramatic birth would easily rival the intensity of any of the future actor's film roles. As war raged outside the serene confines of the hospital, Kier's mother requested a few moments alone with her newborn son immediately following his birth. Moments later the hospital was bombed and Kier's mother began the grueling task of digging herself and her son from out of the rubble. His father absent for much of his youth, Kier had a chance encounter with an aspiring young filmmaker named Rainer Werner Fassbinder before moving to Britain at the age of 18 to study English and acting. Shortly after Kier's arrival, director Mike Sarne offered him the role of a gigolo in The Road to St. Tropez (1966), and with that film the young actor made his screen debut. Though Kier would appear in a few films rounding out the 1960s, it was his part in the controversial 1970 film The Mark of the Devil that would truly set his career path in motion. His role as a witch hunter apprentice who meets a gruesome demise horrified audiences, and the film was subsequently banned in many areas of the world.

Increasingly prolific in the following years, it was a pair of Paul Morrissey films from the mid-'70s that would leave an indelible impression on not only European audiences, but American audiences as well. It was while on a flight from Rome to Munich that Kier made the acquaintance of director Morrissey, and shortly thereafter Kier was cast in the role of Baron Frankenstein in Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (aka Flesh for Frankenstein). Filled to the brim with satirical gore and graphic violence, the notorious film immediately garnered an X-rating though it would become a hit with strong-stomached audiences who could appreciate its dark humor. Released that same year, Andy Warhol's Dracula (aka Blood for Dracula) once again found Kier relishing in gore-drenched satire. In 1977 Kier would appear before old friend Fassbinder's lens in the television drama The Stationmaster's Wife and play a small role in Italian horror director Dario Argento's Suspiria. The remainder of the 1970s as well as the majority of the 1980s, found Kier appearing frequently in European exploitation films with such lurid titles as G.I. Bro (1977) and Prison Camp Girls, Jailed for Love (1982). Though sharp-eyed American audiences could catch glimpses of Kier in such films as Moscow on the Hudson (1984) (in which he appeared uncredited), it was during this period that Kier would work almost exclusively in Europe. Though American audiences didn't necessarily bear witness to most of Kier's work in the 1980s, his career continued to flourish overseas and the actor began to develop a strong personal and professional relationship with director Lars von Trier. Following his appearance in von Trier's Medea (1987), Kier would not only appear in all of the director future films, but also become the godfather of von Trier's daughter Agnes as well.

It was Kier's role in director Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991) that brought the actor back to stateside audiences, and following his memorable appearance in the film, Kier would appear in such big-budget American films as Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Armageddon (1998), and Blade (also 1998). Despite appearances in such mainstream comedies as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Kier would remain true to his European roots by simultaneously appearing in numerous foreign films such as von Trier's Europa (1991) and the gleefully amoral Terror 2000 (1992). With the millennial turnover bringing Kier more stateside exposure than ever, following a memorable turn in Shadow of the Vampire (2000), the tireless actor would appear in no less than eight films in 2001 alone, including Werner Herzog's Invincible and the apocalyptic thriller Meggido: The Omega Code 2. His feature career continuing to flourish, Kier could now be considered a full-fledged star, as appearances in numerous commercials and music videos by such popular acts as Korn virtually guaranteed that while he might not necessarily be a household name, his face would be instantly recognizable by virtually anyone. Though he continued to appear in numerous mainstream films, his experimental side could be evidenced with his participation in director von Trier's film Dimension. The production of the film would span 30 years, following the actors (without makeup) as they aged. The actors and director got together once a year to shoot a scene. Spending much of his free time in nature, Kier enjoys gardening, enjoying the company of his dog, and working on his home in California.

Movie Highlights

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  • The hospital in which he was born was bombed shortly after his birth, during world War II, and he and his mother had to be rescued from underneath the rubble.
  • Moved to Palm Springs, California in 1991.
  • Has appeared in a number of music video including Madonna's "Deeper and Deeper," Eve's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" and Korn's "Make Me Bad."
  • ICH-UDO...der Schauspieler Udo Kier (ME-Udo...the actor Udo Kier), a documentary on his life and career was produced for the French-German culture channel ARTE in 2012 and went on to win the New York Festival Finalist certificate.
  • Frequently works with controversial film director Lars von Trier, having appeared in nearly all of his films since 1987's Epidemic.