Gerard Rudolf is an intelligent, honest, soulful and funny South African actor, poet and photographer, who gained notoriety as a gutsy actor and outspoken opponent of the Apartheid regime. He was born in Pretoria and after high school, a year drifting in the United States and two years in military service, he graduated from the Drama school at the University of Pretoria in 1989.
Rudolf went on to join CAPAB, performing in Shakespeare plays before starting his own theatre company, Makeshift Moon in 1991. In this year, he also developed an interest in film, working with Dennis Hopper, Peter Weller and Bryan Brown with roles in Paljas, Styx, Dust and The Piano Player over the next decade.
In 1998, he founded a professional acting school in Cape Town and by 2002 it was time for a change of scenery. He started writing to orientate himself and in 2009, published his first poetry collection, Orphaned Latitudes, which renowned poet Anthony Joseph described as "masterful, mesmerising and controversial" and received high praise from peers and readers.
More recently, Rudolf has returned to the screen appearing in Wolwedans in die Skemer, Layla Fourie, Jimmy in Pienk and Chander Pahar. The man's full of wit and an absolute character, which made getting his Top Ten Movies interview an absolute pleasure...
"The first Lord of the Rings made me sob
because it was so eye-wateringly crap..."
I can't watch movies without...
- ...a clear mind. It has been years since I’ve watched movies purely for the sake of ‘entertainment’. I’m rarely interested in movies as entertainment. I want a movie to confront me with something; a new way of seeing an aspect of life, something mysterious and perhaps even a bit profound.
And because movies form a huge part my life I sometimes see a movie for its technical aspects or because it is by a favourite director or because it was photographed by a favourite DP. Having said all that, I must confess to a weakness for Steven Segal movies. Hilarious stuff!
Which famous people share your birthday?
- Napoleon and Adolf Hitler. (20 April)
What is the first film you remember watching?
- I’ve had a few arguments with myself over this one. I remember two films vividly. I seem to recall being about three years old and seeing Camelot with my mother at a morning show in Pretoria. What I recall clearly from the experience was being petrified at Merlin, the dark scenes, the castle’s corridors. I couldn’t cope!
The other film that is lodged in my early memory is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Sergio Leone. I remember feeling utterly transported by the surreal landscapes, the dust, that eerie soundtrack by Ennio Morriconi I think it was. And I remember feeling completely exhilarated by the entire experience. I think that was the film that got me hooked and set me on this precarious path. The first record I owned was an album of Morricone’s music from all those spaghetti westerns. I was four. Wore the grooves out.
What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
-There are so many. Most musicals. But I am going with the one that pops into my mind right off the bat: Love, Actually. Actually I can’t bloody stand any of Richard Curtis’ films. They are tacky, obvious, oh-so-witty, perfectly crafted, ham acted, sentimental, irritatingly formulaic, shallow, cynically commercial British drivel. Expensive Mills & Boon. Saw it in London on Leicester Square on one of those giant screens. I was in a shit mood for about three days afterwards.
In fact hate all those cutesy British films with cute old people and boys in depressing Northern towns who want to become ballet dancers or male strippers. They bore the crap out of me. The Crying Game was another bad one. How anybody couldn’t see that the ‘girl’ was a guy right from the start is beyond me. Oh, and Yentl for more or less the same reasons.
Which movies have made you tearful?
- The Champ. No contest. I was a boy. John Voight dies. I cried like a little girl. But as I said previously, I don’t really watch films for entertainment and thus I don’t usually get suckered by them. Another one that stands out in my mind is The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988), a film by Ermanno Olmi with Rutger Hauer at the top of his game. Something about that film still haunts me. And the first Lord of the Rings made me sob because it was so eyewateringly crap.
Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?
- Because of my job I’ve met and worked with a few of them. I guess I’d go for the late Dennis Hopper. I worked with him on a movie called The Piano Player, a B-Grade American thing that was shot down in Cape Town around 2001. I could choose between two small parts. One would mean I’d have to spend a day or two acting opposite Christopher (Highlander) Lambert, or one entire day on set opposite Hopper. No contest.
Hopper has always been one of my movie heroes. I mean, who can forget Easy Rider? Anyway, I was nervous as hell because of his mad man rep. But when I arrived on set he walked up to me, grabbed my hand and said: “Hi. I’m Dennis. Great to meet you. Let’s go to work.” That energy, man. And we worked and improvised, and he’d drag me off to the monitor after each take and laugh his head off at what we were doing.
It was a great day and I am incredibly lucky for having met him. Just watching him operate on set taught me so much about films in general and film acting specifically. He was a rock star. He was film to the marrow! I loved him as an artist and as a director. He was a great photographer too. A true American original. Sadly they don’t make them like that anymore.
What's your favourite movie line?
- I’m a word man, so it is a hard one to answer. Maybe I shouldn’t go ‘full retard’ on this, so I’ll keep it light. “Charlie don’t surf!”, Robert Duvall’s line from Apocalypse Now is up there. Or Michael Caine in Get Carter when a heavy Geordie gets in his way: “You're a big man but you're in bad shape. For me it's a full-time job. Now behave yourself.” Or Caine again in The Italian Job going: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Eastwood as Dirty Harry going: “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one”.
Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?
- Biopics seldom work as far as I’m concerned. But if I have to answer: Jim Carrey maybe. I don’t know why. We don’t even look alike. But I really love him as an actor. There is a darkness to him, a fragility, a sense of sadness and melancholy I can’t quite put my finger on. I really like that about him. He’s not quite of this world. And if Jim won’t do it then maybe a young Bruce Dern, one of the most underrated actors of our time.
And if Bruce can’t then I’d settle for Roberto Benigni or Pee-wee Herman. Shit, I don’t know. It will be short and boring movie no matter who plays me. It will go straight to DVD and then into that Sale bin at Pick ‘n Pay where it will remain unsold and eventually end up as a beer coaster somewhere. My life as a beer coaster...
If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?
- A BIG question. As I said, I like films that move me, leave me changed somehow, make me see life differently, teach me something, stays with me long after the end credits stopped rolling. Like good novels. It doesn’t have to be serious and dark because some of the most profound movies I have seen are pretty hilarious. So it would have to be a film by one of my favourite directors I suppose.
In past lives (if those are permitted here) I might have wanted to produce something like Fellini’s 8 1⁄2 , Malick’s Badlands or Days of Heaven, Allen’s Manhattan, Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens, Godard’s A Bout de Souffle, any of Antonioni’s films, the Three Colours Trilogy, Chinatown, Mike Leigh’s Naked... something that might become a classic in future. That would be nice.
Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...
It obviously changes all the time. I have favourite films from different eras, different regions of the world, different genres.
And there are the obvious big ones: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon, The Great Dictator... So, to save myself days of agonising I’m going to give you the first ten films that pop into my head and leave it at that.
In no particular order:
- BADLANDS (1973), Terrence Malick. (USA). With Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Because it is a masterpiece of American cinema and because it is the original Natural Born Killers. Breathtaking American landscapes.
- FIVE EASY PIECES (1970), Bob Rafelson. (USA) With Jack Nicholson, Karin Black. I love everything about this film. The powerful scene where Nicholson’s character talks to his wheelchair ridden father, the hilarious scene where Nicholson tries to order a chicken salad sandwich in a diner and losing it completely...Tragic. Great ending.
- THE MIRROR (1974), Andrei Tarkovsky. (RUSSIA). Vast. Poetic. I love all his films but this is the one I come back to every few years.
- WITHNAIL AND I (1987), Bruce Robinson. (UK). Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant. A low-budget gem with a cracking script. Hilarious, cruel, absurd, bleak and tragic all at the same time.
- SHOTDOWN (1988), Andrew Worsdale. (SA). Robert Colman, Danny Keogh, James Phillips, Irene Stephanou, John Ledwaba, et al. The energy and passion in this film always astounds me and it is a great portrait of Joburg during the darkest days of Apartheid. Politically loaded and a big fuck you to PW’s regime. Low budget (is there any other kind of South African film?), passionate, insane. This film deserves a re-release.
- UNA PURA FORMALITA (1994), Giuseppe Tornatore. (Italy/France). Gérard Depardieu, Roman Polanski. Because the film has Polanski as an overworked French detective trying to solve a mystery over the course of one rain soaked night out in the French sticks somewhere. Surreal thriller with a wonderful script and with great cinematography by Blasco Giurato. Watched it about a dozen times.
- DEAD MAN (1995), Jim Jarmusch. (USA). Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum, Christian Farmer, Crispin Glover. I like all Jarmusch’s films. This is a beautiful, slow black and white film set in the old West of a man’s crazy journey to the afterlife. Christian Farmer’s overweight Native American spirit guide looking at a wounded Johnny Depp and saying: “Stupid fucking white man”. Intense score by Neil Young. The great Robby Müller shot it. One of Jarmusch’s masterpieces.
- LA HAINE (1995), (France). Mathieu Kassovitz. (France). Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui. The sheer energy of this brilliant black and white film simply bounced off the screen and hit me like a ton of bricks. A story of racial tension in Paris. Intelligent, visceral. Everything Reservoir Dogs never was or could be. Brilliant direction and brilliant performances. Worth seeing the scene where Vincent Cassel stands in front of a mirror and does the “Are you lookin’ at me” thing...in French.
- A PROPHET (2009), (France). Jaques Audiard. The film follows the trajectory of a young man through the ranks of the Paris underworld. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Two things about this film: 1. If you haven’t seen it, see it. 2. Tahar Rahim in the lead is simply astonishing. He should have won all the Best Actor awards that year. Period.
- PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002), (USA). Paul Thomas Anderson. Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I like Anderson’s films but this one hit me hard. Cinematography by Robert Elswit (Google him!). A love story done in the right way. To put Sandler in the lead was a stroke of brilliance on Anderson’s part. And of coarse Hoffman being a fat slimeball just works. A gem of a film. Fantastic script too.
Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.