Marcelle Clements:
Is this man of strange and explosive power really the world's greatest actor?"

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"You have to protect yourself, your body, your being," he told me. "You cannot treat it badly; you have to keep it, not only to keep it but to make it sensitive, as sensitive as possible. Since I was born I have been like this, till today. Nothing changed. Even more, even worse. Once, about 25 years ago, I was in an apartment or somebody gave me a room to live in, I don't know what, and next door, they put on the radio, so I struck the wall with my fist, but they did not put the radio down, so I took a tool and banged and banged until I made a hole through the wall." Kinski suddenly laughs. "It was like a comedy movie," he says. Then, as suddenly, he becomes stern again. "I didn't laugh then," he says. "And then I left, of course, the apartment, because they didn't let me live there anymore. When I come back here from the airport... most of the time, when I travel, I leave my car at the airport, even some weeks it costs me some hundreds of dollars; I don't care. But once, I took a taxi. I hate those, what do you call them, limousines. They stink and their drivers have been driving dead people to the cemeteries. I hate those. OK, I took a taxi, and now this guy had a radio on. First of all, he had this thing EE-AAAH-UGGHH-ACHHHHHHGGG - these machines, how can somebody all day long hear this? He must be already deaf. I don't know what. And then I say, ,Do you need this?' I say, ,this machine?' And he looked at me, like maybe I am crazy or whatever. I say, ,I just come from Tokyo, Hong Kong, long flight, I am exhausted.' I said, ,Look, just half an hour. Do I have to listen to that crap? Can you turn the radio off?.' And he was even willing. He turned around, and he said, ,But it's the news.' I say, ,I don't need this.' I say, ,I don't want to, I have never listened to it, never in my life.' I said, ,OK? I am almost on the border. I need to stop. I have to get out of your car.' And he switched it off, but saying, as though really surprised and almost sorry for me, ,How can you know what's going on?' There, you see: THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I DON'T WANT TO KNOW!" I came to appreciate Kinski's explosions of anger at the media, at the entertainment industry, at the girl behind the McDonald's counter who says, "Next!" and expects you to respond in the same rhythm ("I will NEVER be ,next'!"), at sluggish telephone operators, at governments, at lines in the bank, at traffic signs ("There is a sign that says, RIGHT LANE MUST EXIT. Right lane MUST exit! MUST! And I say to myself, ,MUST? Fuck YOU!'"), at all the words and structures of our society that limit and regiment the individual. In fact, I found that no matter what mood I'd been in when I began talking with him, I always felt much better afterward. It wasn't just the words or the examples he used, though these were often colorful; it was his conviction, his tone and his delivery, his projection. And it happened every time, whether I expected it or not, whether I was prepared to analyze it or not. It was a visceral reaction to the preternatural expression of his power and his rage. This, too, was for me an important lesson about what it is the "actor" does.
Of course, I had no control over these conversations, which Kinski conducted entirely according to his fancy. It is out of the question for him to be controlled by anyone, let alone a journalist. One of he conditions of our meeting had been my promise that our talks would be unstructured and could ramble freely, but I had underestimated Klaus Kinski's disregard - indeed, unawareness - of structures and conventions, journalistic or otherwise. He followed none of he rules of the interview situation - not one, not even the most basic. "I don't want to talk too much about myself," he would suddenly declare - notwithstanding the fact that I'd come several thousand miles to hear him talk about himself - and would launch into an anecdote about Eleonora Duse or Van Gogh or Paganini, a synopsis of a Dostoievsky short story or a long disquisition about a Holbein painting or about Jesus Christ in his grave, which he had for his own reasons decided was germane to our discussion. He refused to sit in a quiet room with a tape recorder; all of our conversations took place in cars, at the beach, in noisy restaurants. But, to be precise, he didn't refuse anything: I never had a chance to ask him. He would simply announce our schedule for the day. On some days, he would call me at my motel room to tell me that he couldn't talk at all, that it was impossible for him to see me. He'd been tortured through the night by insomnia or by one of his terrible nightmares. "I am completely destroyed," he would tell me. And I soon realized that it was almost always hopeless to ask him any direct questions; if he didn't interrupt them, he argued with their wording or with their relevance, or would simply digress to another topic. Then, suddenly, he would pause, perhaps because he had come to a natural lull in his own discourse:
"You," he would say, "you don't talk," and he would request a question. But usually, before I'd gotten a sentence out, he'd be off again, because a single word in some dependent clause had reminded him of an idea he wanted to explore or dispute.

© 1985 by Marcelle Clements and Playboy Enterprises Inc.

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