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No More Mr. Nice Guy

September 28, 1986|Pat H. Broeske

In Empire Pictures' "Crawlspace," Klaus Kinski plays a mad doctor who, uh, practices without a license in the crawlspace of his attic--much to the horror of his patients (following in the footsteps of his not-so-dear old dad, who designed instruments of torture for the Nazis).

To hear writer-director David Schmeller tell it, Kinski was perfect: "He behaved like a madman during filming." Schmeller said the troubles began the first day on the set, at Empire's Rome studio. "Klaus came up to me and said, 'Listen, David Lean didn't direct me (in "Doctor Zhivago") and you aren't going to direct me.'

"He doesn't make any secret of the fact that he's openly hostile to directors. In one interview he gave in Rome, he said he wished they'd sell cans of poison gas to give to directors. . . .

"We were doing this one scene in the crawlspace--so it was uncomfortable for everyone. I asked for a second take and Klaus shot out like a bullet, running toward me--as if he were going to attack me. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, 'I am not a hamburger! I am Klaus Kinski!' "

Not that Schmeller didn't appreciate the acting--given the film's $1-million budget: "I know I was lucky to have an actor of his caliber. You know, Kinski can be very shrewd. He's been an actor forever. So he can be quite charming--that's part of his style.

"Now that I've seen his performance, I don't know if all his antics were intentional or not. I mean, he was playing a madman."

We weren't able to reach Kinski, who's in Italy filming "Nosferatu in Venice" in Italy. Probably not a comic version.

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