One of the more outrageous figures in the low-budget filmmaking scene of the early 21st century, Uwe Boll was a German-born director, producer and screenwriter who turned out several movie versions of popular video games, including "House of the Dead" (2003), "Alone in the Dark" (2005), and "Bloodrayne" (2005). While technically competent, these pictures were largely uninspired grindhouse-type efforts, and fared modestly at the box office. Boll's movies were also a favorite target for critics - especially those working for Internet sites - who spared no quarter in detailing their failings. Boll responded by personally attacking writers and sites who had besmirched his work - even challenging several to a public boxing match in 2006.
Born June 22, 1965 in Wermelskirchen, Germany, Boll developed an interest in filmmaking as a boy after seeing the 1962 version of "Mutiny of the Bounty" with Marlon Brando. Like many aspiring filmmakers, he directed his share of short epics on Super 8 and video before attending university in Munich and Vienna to study film. He also studied economics at the University of Cologne, and graduated with a doctorate in literature in 1995.
Boll's first effort as director was "German Fried Movie" (1991) - with which he shared directorial credit with Frank Lustig - a tribute to John Landis' "Kentucky Fried Movie" (1979). Several more German-language features followed, including "Barschel - Mord in Gent" (1993), a conspiracy thriller about the real-life murder of German politician Uwe Barschel, and a horror film, "Amoklauf" (1994). In 2000, he directed his first English-language production, "Sanctimony," about a rock star (Casper Van Dien)-turned-serial killer. The picture essentially established Boll's approach to moviemaking - a "high concept" story told at a breathless pace with little regard for logic and soaked with sex and violence. While no one's idea of a classic, "Sanctimony" was an entertaining slice of camp aimed at exploitation fans, who responded with howls of derision in magazines and on the Internet.
Boll followed "Sanctimony" with several other low budget thrillers, including "Angels Don't Sleep Here" (2001) as executive producer, "Blackwoods" (2002) and "Heart of America" (2003). In tried-and-true exploitation fashion, he enlivened these projects by corralling a "name" cast from low budget habitués - including such B-listers as Michael Pare, Patrick Muldoon, Clint Howard - or established actors in between Hollywood features, like Robert Patrick, Roy Scheider and Jurgen Prochnow to attract American DVD renters or cable viewers.
In 2003, Boll secured the rights to a film version of the popular video game "House of the Dead" and raised the funds to write and direct the feature through a tax law in Germany which allowed investors in German-made features to write off 100 percent of their investment. Though the film tanked at the box office and received blistering reviews from the critics, it did establish Boll as a low budget director who could deliver a competently made - if not written or acted - genre film for international audiences. Boll was soon acquiring the rights to several other video games in order to adapt them to feature films. As before, he was able to land American talent to fill out his casts, including such surprises as Christian Slater (in "Alone in the Dark"), Sir Ben Kingsley (in "Bloodrayne"), Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds ("In the Name of the King") and Seymour Cassel ("Postal").
Boll's pugilistic relationship with the critics developed after the release of "House of the Dead," which concerned teen partygoers who encountered zombies on a remote island. Bemused and appalled by the movie's flimsy plot, leaden dialogue and performances, and the jaw-dropping use of actual footage from the game, sent writers into a feeding frenzy of negative press over Boll - especially after he filed a lawsuit against its distributor, whom he blamed for its poor box office returns. The monster movie "Alone in the Dark" was greeted with even more brutal reviews - many of which centered on the casting of Tara Reid as a museum curator - and Boll responded with obscenity-laden tirades against several online reviewers, most notably Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News and Wired magazine. Such rants only encouraged writers to slam Boll's work even further, in the hopes of inspiring another outburst from the director. Surprisingly, the critical dismissal and box office failure of "House" and "Alone" failed to halt Boll in his tracks, and he returned with an even bigger-budgeted videogame adaptation, "Bloodrayne." The film centered on a sword-wielding, half-vampire warrior who battles medieval bloodsuckers, and this time, came with an impressive cast that included Kristanna Loken, Michael Madsen, and Sir Ben Kingsley, of all people.
In 2006, Boll stepped beyond what many considered the bounds of good taste by publicly challenging five of his harshest critics to a 10-round boxing match, with invitations also extended to Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary. The event, which took place in Malaga, Spain and Vancouver, was sponsored by the online gambling house Golden Palace, and pitted Boll against writers from the horror magazine Rue Morgue, Ain't It Cool News, and other online pop culture sites. All five contestants took on Boll in back-to-back bouts - and lost. But instead of solidifying Boll's status as a maverick willing to defend his work to the bitter end, the fights simply confirmed what many felt about the man and his work - he was crazy.
Boll emerged from the ring in 2007 with no less than four features - "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale," which featured his most impressive cast to date (in addition to Liotta and Reynolds, the sword-and-sorcery adventure also starred Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies and a scene-stealing Matthew Lillard), "Postal" (a kitchen-sink-style comedy with Dave Foley, J.K. Simmons, Seymour Cassel and Verne Troyer), and "Seed," a revenge-oriented action flick which drew criticism for using footage of animal cruelty in its opening credits. Boll also oversaw "Bloodrayne II: Deliverance," which transported its heroine to the 19th century American West, of all places. Only "In the Name of the King" received a limited theatrical release; the rest went directly to DVD.
Undaunted by his critics, Boll forged ahead with no less than five features for 2008, including "Bloodrayne 3" and adaptations of the games "Sabotage 1943" and "Far Cry," with many of his regular players, including Michael Pare, German bodybuilder/actor Ralf Moeller, Chris Coppola, and cult favorite Udo Kier. In addition to his ceaseless film career, Boll was also the author of two books, How a Movie Has to Be Made in Germany and the TV tome Series and their Genres.