In "Wanted," the new action film based on the Top Cow graphic novel by Mark Millar and JG Jones, actor Thomas Kretschmann plays the elusive Cross, the best assassin in the world and the target star James McAvoy must track down and kill. The enigmatic sharp-shooter says little in the film, allowing his fearsome presence and acumen with a weapon to speak for him. For the German born Kretschmann, the silence of his character was a bonus. "I like not to talk actually in films," he told CBR News. "For an actor, I think it's more interesting to express yourself without talking. I personally like that. I also like in regular scripts, where I have like normal [amounts of] dialogue, to cut out as much as I can. Everything, basically what I can play, I don't like to say. And if a director knows what he's doing, they get along with that. They seem to like it."
Kretschmann's Cross is also one of the few characters to have a complete picture of events in "Wanted," which Kretschmann also enjoyed. "I know what's gong on in the end so I don't have to play the mystery, right, I just play what I'm playing," he said.
The actor was amazed by the final result of his and his collaborator's toiling. "You have an idea, and you always have an idea, right? But mostly, your idea is more glorious than the result," said Kretschmann. "And this time, it was the other way around. It was the first time I walked out of a film and thought, 'Wow I didn't expect that.'" Amplifying his remark, Kretschmann compared watching "Wanted" to watching "King Kong," in which he also appeared. "I think ['King Kong'] is a great film and I loved the film, but I can see the [filmmaking] stitches because I was there, you know? But [with 'Wanted,'] I don't see the stitches.
Kretschmann began his career as a swimmer in East Germany, training for the Olympic games. "They were asking me, do you want to be a world champion? And I said, yeah! And from that point I was part of the machinery," he explained. "So from ten to eighteen I've been swimming twenty kilometers (15 miles) a day." Kretschmann quit at eighteen because the political situations of the Olympics in 1980, held in Moscow, and 1984, in Los Angeles, made for what he called "totally useless Olympic Games. Twice." The United States and the Soviet Union boycotted the respective games, making those years lop-sided in favor of the host country.
Following that, Kretschmann wanted to be a designer. "That was my biggest passion, or is still," he said. This idea fell away when a friend said to him, "You want to be a designer in East Germany, are you stupid? What the fuck do you want to design here?" It was then that Kretschmann took up acting. "I started the audition at the Acting School in East Germany, and that's actually the best German speaking acting school in East Germany. They had like one thousand two hundred [apply] and they took six or so, and they took me.
It was at that point that the political reality of the time intruded again on Kretschmann's plans. "In the early '80s, you have this suit, this Stazi guy, right, and he goes, 'So Thomas, out of your own free will do you want to do three years army instead of just one and a half?'" Kretschmann explained this "voluntary" extension of compulsory military service was the only way he would actually be allowed to attend the Acting School. "'If you say no, the next untalented guy who says, 'Yes, I'm going to do it,' gets your spot.'" Kretschmann agreed to serve and then fled East Germany. "I packed my stuff and I run over the border and escaped to West Germany. It sounds funny and sounds easy, [but] it was actually like they could have shot me, they could have killed me."
After that, Kretschmann worked in West German theatre until he got his first film role. He said escaping the Communist Bloc gave him perspective. "People come to me with like big dramas and I go like, 'What do you want to do, do you want to shoot me you can, so get lost, right?'"
Up next for Kretschmann is "Eichmann." He is very proud of the film, even though it is not an easy sell. "It's not like a big colorful, big budget action fun film like this one," he said. "It's more or less a history lesson, you know, but a good one," he said. Also upcoming is "Grimm Love." "There were two guys in Germany, it's a true story, and one ate the other guy. It's a cannibal film. You know, he started with the dick, and then he worked his way towards through the rest of the body."
Currently, Thomas Kretschmann is shooting "The Sea Wolf" in Germany. The film is based on a 1904 Jack London novel about which the actor said, "In Germany, my generation grew up with 'The Sea Wolf;' it was like the biggest thing."
Kretschmann also confirmed he is not appearing in a film called "High Midnight." Despite Internet claims, he explained, "They had been asking me two years ago if I wanted that film and I said if you get the script right, I'd like to. And that was the last time I heard from them, except people asking me how my 'High Midnight' is going to be."
The actor will also appear in Bryan Singer's World War II film, "Valkyrie." In that movie, Kretschmann plays Otto Ernst Remer, opposite Tom Cruise. "It was a big film. The pressure was on for [Singer and Cruise], because they shot a Hollywood film in Germany and the Germans were not so happy with that in the beginning, you know?" Kretschmann thinks Germans were worried how history would be portrayed in the film. "I think it was a trust matter. They didn't know how and to which extent their history was going to be used for a Hollywood blockbuster. But the intentions were very serious from the [production], and they wanted to do an honest film, and I think that is what they did." Asked if he had seen any part of "Valkyrie," which is still shooting, Kretschmann joked, "No, no actor [in the film] has seen it. Will Smith has seen it, ask him. He likes it."
Now discuss this story in CBR's TV/Film forum.