Julia Dietze: A true chameleon, of the special kind
Text: Nane Steinhoff I Cover Photo © Oliver Wand
J ulia Dietze, a German actress with French roots has been seen in many genres, films and series. Best-known for appearances in Plan B – Scheiß auf Plan A, Fack ju Göhte 3 or Beck is back!, the actress has recently been seen in the hit film Iron Sky: The Coming Race (which is available on DVD and Blu-ray from 27 September 2019). She speaks to Discover Germany about the special appeal of this science fiction format and more.
After planet earth was destroyed by a nuclear war, the former Nazi moon base has become the last refuge of mankind. But buried deep beneath the wasteland of the earth lies a power that could save the last of humanity – or destroy it. This gripping storyline is from the action-filled fantasy and sci-fi film Iron Sky: The Coming Race. German actress Julia Dietze plays the fascinating role of Renate Richter in this Hollywood blockbuster, and recounts: “Iron Sky: The Coming Race is a fulminant visual explosion which reminds one of the Marvel movies – the dinosaurs and aliens are creatively stunning and the story is based on the biggest conspiracy theory that ever existed: that aliens infiltrated the highest echelons of our society and enslaved the human race. A love story and some pretty dark jokes round off the breathtaking plot.”
On simple acting tricks
Playing the role of Renate Richter in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, Dietze had the privilege of slipping into a character that changes her age. She smiles: “For my personal experience as an actor, the best part was the huge transformation of playing a character with an age range from 24 years old to 85 years old. To prepare for this, I spent two months in a senior’s home to study the body language and physicality of the elderly. It was a really humbling experience as I came to realise how time transforms life. The wild child in me was of course excited to do all the stunts using the wire system, like fighting Hitler on a dinosaur with a kung-fu kick – it’s not your average everyday job as an actor.”
Playing such an extraordinary role also calls for extraordinary preparation measures. Dietze recalls: “My preparation on set was to pull all my focus together and imagine an ’iron claw‘ in my neck, that limits my neck flexibility and which led to a very uncomfortable, blocked body language, as a metaphor for how blocked and limited Renate feels on the moonbase and, of course, according to her age. I further imagined dense fog around my eyes, that gave me a very distant resigned view on life and made my eyes look less young and awake. And to change the tone of my voice, I imagined dry autumn leaves in my throat, so that a much deeper, broken, older voice would be the outcome. Simple little acting tricks!”
In Iron Sky, Dietze plays alongside Udo Kier and Tom Green, amongst other high-profile actors and actresses. Speaking about her close friend Udo Kier, with whom she already worked together for the Warner Bros film 1 1/2 Knights – In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde in 2008 with Til Schweiger, Dietze says: “He is phenomenal, has such a unique, interesting personality and constantly challenges me in the best artistic way. As an actor, he is highly intelligent and sensitive. To me, he is one of the living legends of cinema, as he has the courage to choose the most obscure underground movies, and he works with the best directors in cinema. So his choice is about the art and circle of people he surrounds himself with, and that is what I learned from him too.”
The power of fans
One of the reasons the Iron Sky films are such big hits with fanbases all over the world is that fans get directly involved in the production of the films. For example, The Coming Race has largely been funded by crowdfunding. “The outcome is a very passionate fan community,” Dietze smiles, and adds: “The fans visit us on set and even play extras in big scenes. We have the opportunity to talk on set and the interaction between the filmmakers and the fan community is very active. They see spaceship designs before they get built, are invited to the premiere and get specially filmed personal messages from the actors. In May, I was at ‘Fantasy Basel – The Swiss Comic Con’ and I could feel the bond and the huge appreciation from the fans. They are also very creative and love to participate in the filmmaking process. For example, in the opening scene, when the human refugees land on the moon, a lot of them were actually fans in costumes. Timo Vuorensola, our director, always gave a beautiful speech in the morning when we had huge scenes with many fans and investors on set. He really took them by the hand and guided them into our Iron Sky universe. I could literally observe how they transformed in front of me, from fan into a ‘Mooncivilian’, and that was fascinating to watch! Timo is such a great director.”
Just like a chameleon
Before playing in Iron Sky, Dietze had been seen in numerous high-profile series, films and TV films. For example, she plays an attorney in the German dramedy series Beck is back!, was seen in the film Feierabendbier alongside Christian Tramitz and Tilman Strauß, got roles in Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken with Daniel Brühl and the hit cinema series Fack ju Göhte 3, and was part of the series Das geheime Leben der Spielerfrauen. Just like a chameleon of acting, Dietze is able to play the most diverse roles in a multitude of genres and, thereby, delights viewers with her talent and adaptability.
“Every role, every character, every shoot and even every director and colleague are unique, and they all leave an imprint on you. It’s like you transform into a character and when the movie is wrapped, you travel on to the next set, the next character, but you always take something with you. Each character you play, transforms you a little and enriches your experience. Fantasy and passion are my compass, the script the map and the director the ship.” explains Dietze, and adds: “One of the most exciting preparations I ever had was for the 20th Century Fox movie Plan B: Scheiß auf Plan A, for which stuntmen trained me for three months in martial arts to play the lead female assassin.”
About the past, present and future
But how did it all start? The Berliner-by-choice answers: “Acting has always been my passion. I started to play theatre and dressed up in bizarre costumes as a little toddler until my father, who himself is an artist, a painter and illustrator, noticed my passion and let me to go to a theatre school. So I practically grew up with the theatre and then filmed my first cinema movie in 2001. For me, acting is like time travel and the character is the gateway to the world. The genres are just the different dimensions that coexist and to pick just one genre would make me very very sad. It’s like picking one fruit out of all food or having only one emotion.“
For the future, more interesting projects are planned. “For example, right now I’m playing a veterinarian who joins illegal organ trafficking. It’s a very interesting character,” she says. When asked about which role she would love to play at some point in her life, Dietze answers: “The female Wolverine or Catwoman. I am a huge Michelle Pfeiffer and Batman fan! I’ve always been attracted to complex female characters who are fighting for the greater good but who have to deal with inner or outer battles which eventually transform them into something more powerful. Basically, characters who undergo a transformation in any sort of way. I love being a chameleon which dives into different times and personalities. Overall, I like telling stories which uplift and inspire. Stories that connect with the heart. Sometimes, the magic is in the silence.“
And what other dreams and wishes does she still have? Dietze smiles: “There are still many places in the world I would like to see,” and concludes: “And I’m looking forward to playing in more exciting films and roles. I hope that I will be able to do it like my idols Cate Blanchett, Jessica Lange, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. Their talents mature like good wine.”
If you want to see Dietze on TV, you’ve got the chance this month – the comedy Einmal Hans mit Scharfer Soße will be aired on WDR in June and so too will Plan B – Scheiß auf Plan A, on Sky Cinema Comedy.
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