Talking Mad Heidi with Alice Lucy and Casper Van Dien!

Courtesy of Swissploitation Films and Justin Cook PR

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alice Lucy and Casper Van Dien, stars of emerging cult favorite and world’s first Swissploitation film Mad Heidi, arriving in theaters for a special one-night-only event on June 21st. I had a wonderful time talking with them about the making of the film, and our conversation touched on just about everything: Kill Bill, Stanislavski’s The Actor’s Handbook, crowdfunding a movie, and what amount of sniffing is too much for a particular scene. (Video of the full interview is embedded below; the transcript has been edited for length and clarity.)

Tim Glaraton: So when the script made its way to you, what was something about the film that had you going “I’m in, I want this role, I have to be a part of this”?

Alice Lucy: I think everything, to be honest, like you know, Heidi as a package. You know, you read the synopsis now, and actually, that’s the synopsis that Casper and I also got, and it’s just nuts. When I try and describe to my friends or my family, you know the plot, there is just smiles and laughter and “Hang on what are you talking about?” And I think for me, being part of something so nuts that so many people put so much love into was something I wanted immediately to jump to. Also, the way that they’re trying to break the mold of how films are made in Switzerland, I think it’s really exciting because it’s the first of its kind, and I think that, you know, we can talk about and I often talk about the story being what leads it, and it does, and the genre and the belief that they had in it. But also, they got turned down by so many people to make this, they got turned down, red lights everywhere and got told to change it and do this, that, and the other, and actually, they persevered and they pushed forward and they found a way to make the film that they wanted to make, that they knew fans would want them to make, and for me, having that persistence and ambition and drive to just keep pushing forward, I wanted to join them in that journey.

Casper Van Dein: It’s incredible how they put all this together, and their attention to detail on the phone and everything. When I read the script, my agent was like “This is wild and crazy,” I read it and I’m going “This is awesome,” and I loved the Starship Troopers references, and I loved the over-the-topness of it, and then when you get on set it’s just all done by people who wanted to make a film, like Alice is saying, it’s all people that love it and wanted to be there. It’s all crowdfunded, and they were all the ones that were making it, so they put their own money in this, and it’s all the fans that were extras and actors and directors and people on it, they were all people who helped raise the money for this, and so there’s a lot of love for this movie being made, and there’s a lot of attention to details, and it was just an amazing project to be involved with.

Heidi, carrying a Swiss flag
Courtesy of Swissploitation Films and Justin Cook PR

Tim: Well don’t hurt me, but I’ve never actually seen Starship Troopers, so I’ll have to go watch it now to pick up on those references!

Casper: Yeah you’ll have to see that, if you haven’t seen Starship Troopers you won’t know what I’m talking about, but it did have them and they were huge fans of that, they also had Verhoven, who was the director of Starship Troopers and Robocop and a lot of other great movies, and Rodriguez and Tarantino and Argento, and they even put Carl Schenkel, who was a Swiss-German director who directed me in Tarzan and is no longer with us, they put their names on the nametags of the guards. So there was a thought process for things you hardly even see in the film, but it’s still there, and I think that when you have that kind of attention to detail put into your film, that gives you more of an opportunity to have something of quality, and that’s what this felt like to me.

Tim: Awesome. So you both touched on this already, but was there much of a difference with the film being entirely crowdfunded?

Alice: Well, this was my first experience on a feature film, so I didn’t necessarily know any different, but I could definitely tell that there was a lot of heart and a lot of the extras were also investors, and they were coming to make sure that they did their part, to make sure that they were present and that they were involved and there was that opportunity for the investors to be as involved as they wanted to be. Not every investor was an extra, but that’s because they chose not to be. I think it demystified the film industry for a lot of people, and it allowed fans to understand how movies are made when you love it. But yeah, having not been in a big studio film yet, I just rolled with the punches and went with the flow!

Casper: It was awesome to be on the set with Alice, this being her first lead in a movie, she was amazing. She’s a real martial artist, but she is also just an incredible human being with a lot of heart and a lot of love, and she was just there and present for everybody and made them feel special, and when you have that kind of quality in your lead, it helps for the film to be better. It’s one of the things that I’ve always said that Stanislavski says in The Actor’s Handbook as well: everybody’s got to do their part, but especially when you’re the lead in the film and the director and the producer, those are the three main people that have to hold it together and make sure everyone else is on board as well, and they all were. When you have your lead doing that, it was surprising that it was her first because she was so dang good!

President Meili sitting in the gladiator pit
Courtesy of Swissploitation Films and Justin Cook PR

Tim: Well, they definitely held it together! So, getting somewhat into the nitty gritty details, how did each of you get into the mindsets of your respective characters? Like Casper, how hard was it to get into the mindset of a flamboyant Swiss dictator or is that just like your natural state?

Casper: It’s my natural state, it’s what I really am! People think I’m an American but really I’m a Swiss-German President/Dictator. I had been doing research, working with a dialect coach for a German film that I was going to do a German accent in, that film got pushed and this one came in so I had to switch it to Swiss-German, so I started working with him for a couple of months, and then I just went with the character, and I was just trying to figure it out. I would do things and I would say something, and one time he would say something like “Oh you sound like Tommy Wiseau and you don’t want him to sound like that,” and I go “Maybe I do…”, and this one was Arnold Schwarzenegger and maybe that’s what I’m going for, and it just came like that through the process of trying to speak with an accent, and then be over the top and crazy and insane with it and have so much fun and be believable, and that’s all I wanted to do. I had a lot of fun creating Meili, I mean he was already written for me, but creating him in my head, making those words become mine, and the reactions I would do and how I would deliver a line. I didn’t think he would just play it straightforward, like in some places where you’re not as emotional, this one I just wanted to be like “WHAT!?!?!”, and it felt right for me.

Tim: Yeah, and you can tell when someone is having a good time with a role and it really does make a big difference. How about you, Alice?

Alice: I think for me, I had done a lot of theater before now, and obviously when you’re rehearsing a show you normally would rehearse in chronological order, and then every night you perform in chronological order. We did not shoot in any kind of chronological order whatsoever, we were shooting at random points in the film on different days in the morning and the afternoon. I wanted to make—this is such a nerdy answer by the way, I’m really sorry—but basically, I would make sure that for every scene, I would wake up in the morning and go “What scenes have I got today?” and I would make sure I knew what Heidi knew that day or in that scene. I could have shot the last scene of the film and then the next day I’m shooting the second scene of the film, and Heidi doesn’t know the ending, Heidi doesn’t know about Helvetia, and she hasn’t met Meili or Knorr, so I did a lot of theory stuff from that perspective, and people like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and Lena Heady in The Sarah Conner Chronicles were big inspirations for me because I’m a massive fan of those two, and actually being able to take a role where she is the heroine but she’s not a superhero, she doesn’t have any powers, she is just who she is and it’s about finding that strength, and for me looking at Kill Bill and The Sarah Conner Chronicles, both of those women do that so I looked at those two for sure.

Tim: (jokingly) Kill Bill, never would have guessed it! Any moment that was a personal favorite to film?

Alice: There were quite a few, Casper and I definitely had fun shooting together in the cell where Casper sniffed me. That was fun and it was very surreal for me, especially because they added it last minute and they didn’t tell me, but they put that chain around my neck that says “I smell so good,” because they cut this moment where the lovely Katja, who plays Rottweiler, she goes to sniff me and goes “ugh,” that’s why they put that on me and they cut her sniff out because they thought there were too many sniffs in the scene!

Casper: Oh wow, I didn’t know that they cut it out, but yeah I loved doing that scene with her, I loved working with her, I loved watching her in her full mastery and seeing a young actress come in and play a role and be so into it, it was so much fun for me. I loved all the Swiss actors I got to work with, the Swiss-German actors, so many talented people. I loved going into Knorr’s office and giving him crap, that was fun for me, especially with my poster in the background of me fighting the bear that they painted of me. I thought it was awesome and I wish I had gotten it!

Tim: That’s a shame! Alright, last question, this is the biggie: Heidi and Klara (the sequel teased at the end in proper grindhouse fashion), when can I get to see it?

Alice: I think if we all make enough noise about it, it will come quicker! I think this year is going to be very much a “let’s get Mad Heidi out into the world and let’s get people talking about her” year, and then next year conversations will properly kick off, but there’s definitely something in the works at the moment.

Casper: Yeah, and we’ve got this Fathom event going at the moment, if that does very well, that’s all positive towards a second one, that’s what I would guess.

Tim: Hell yeah, if they crowdfund it again I would definitely throw in a few bucks of my own because it sounds great. Alright, that’s all the time I have, lovely talking to you!

Casper: Lovely talking to you too!

Alice: Nice to talk to you, Tim!

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Written by Timothy Glaraton

College graduate. Horror enthusiast. Writer of things.

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