Dick Maas is a Dutch director who has worked on music videos (for Golden Earring) to worldwide hit movies (Amsterdamned). In a career spanning nearly four decades he has become an icon of cinema in the Netherlands. With it being thirty years since the release of the ‘first Dutch horror film’ De Lift and August being UKHS ‘Foreign Language Month’ it was only right to talk with the man himself about his exploits. James Simpson spoke with Maas in an exclusive interview…
UKHS: De Lift has recently been reviewed on our site: how did you come up with the idea of an ‘evil’ elevator?
DM: The idea for The Lift, was inspired by a short story of Stephen King titled The Mangler. I always thought it was very strange that nobody had ever made a movie or wrote a story about a killer elevator. It would have been a perfect subject for Stephen King himself. So I thought the idea was brilliant. I copied the dramatic structure of Jaws and it worked. The Lift is considered the first Dutch horror movie.
UKHS: You did not have much time or resources to make De Lift, was that a challenge you enjoyed?
DM: The budget was around 300.000 Euro’s. We had a hectic 5 week schedule, no stunt people, and all the special effects we did ourselves. The whole post production was done in six weeks and I also did the score in that time.
UKHS: The film would be a hit in several countries, did this surprise you?
DM: I knew I had made a good movie. When we took the film to Cannes, everyone wanted to buy it. The Lift did very well in Holland and it was the first Dutch movie that got a worldwide release through Warner Brothers.
UKHS: You would go on to use star Huub Stapel for some of your other movies: could you tell us your thoughts on Huub?
DM: Well he’s a very good actor and a friend. I more or less discovered him for The Lift, that was his first big movie and we did a few other movies together. Among them the Flodder series and Amsterdamned.
For a long time we didn’t work together. Our collaboration ended when he didn’t want to do the television spinoff of Flodder. And I didn’t have any parts that were suitable for him. When Sint came up I immediately thought of Huub. He had grown older, he was in his fifties, so he could play the older figure very well.
I have worked with Huub in five films. He’s a friend and when I have a part for him and he likes it we will work together.
UKHS: Why did you decide to remake De Lift in 2001?
DM: Immediately after I took the movie to Cannes, everybody wanted me to do an English remake. But I was busy on other movies at that time, like Flodder and Amsterdamned, so I didn’t see the point in making my movie all over again.
In the nineties I was approached again by Warner to do a remake and at that time I was open to it. I thought I could make the movie even more exciting than the original. Also the progress in VFX technology was a factor. So I could really make it bigger and better.
UKHS: Was it difficult having to alter your own work for a different audience?
DM: The script was totally re-written and you can consider Down more a sequel then a remake.
UKHS: A UK Horror Scene favourite is Amsterdamned. The idea, a killer hiding in the canals, is a brilliant way of using a location as an asset. Did you have to get various filming permissions from local authorities?
DM: We had a very good cooperation with the Amsterdam authorities. It took us almost a year of planning and getting permissions, especially the boat chase through the canals.
UKHS: The speed boat chase is exhilarating and a stand out moment of the film. As a director how was it for you to create that scene?
DM: I consider it one of my best action sequences and one of the best boat chases ever filmed. We were allowed to go full speed with the speedboats in certain canals. I think we spend two weeks shooting the sequence. We had a very good stunt team. Stunt coordinator Dickey Beer did an outstanding job. Also, a nice to know fact, veteran stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong doubles for the diver at the beginning of the chase.
UKHS: Any plans to remake Amsterdamned, perhaps set elsewhere, like you did with De Lift?
DM: I’ve just been to Berlin and I thought that that would be a perfect city for a killer in the canals movie.
UKHS: You directed Sint in 2010. The film attracted some controversy due to its use of a killer Santa. How did you come up with an idea knowing it could upset so many people?
DM: I always wanted to do something with this cult figure. In Holland the St. Nicholas celebration is every year on December 5th and is the biggest yearly celebration. St. Nicholas is more popular than our king. He is always portrayed as a nice, child-loving guy, and I wanted to show his ‘dark side’. I started to work on the script about ten years ago and it went through several drafts before it hit its final form.
UKHS: You were taken to court due to the movies ‘scary for kids’ poster. What were your thoughts on such an overreaction?
DM: I thought it was very silly. In Holland and Belgium there are the Saint Nicholas societies and their aim is to protect the celebration of St. Nicolas and to promote it. They were protesting against the movie even before we started shooting because they didn’t want to confront the children with this evil character. There was also some commotion in Bari, Italy, where the relics of St. Nicolas are buried.
When we made the poster, a silhouetted St. Nicolas on his horse on the rooftops of Amsterdam, they went to court to prevent us from putting it up across Holland. They even tried to prevent us from showing the movie in theatres. They warned parents not to go, or to boycott the cinemas who showed Sint. Luckily they lost in court. All the turmoil was a great promotion for the movie of course, so I was very happy.
UKHS: Despite the public outcry are you glad you made Sint?
DM: Of course, it was a great succes all over the world. I’m penning a sequel right now.
UKHS: You are currently making Prey, could you tell us a little about the movie?
DM: Prey is about an escaped lion roaming the streets of Amsterdam. It’s violent, brutal, but also funny. I hope to shoot it next year and the movie is scheduled for a Christmas 2014 release.
UKHS: Finally, which movie of yours do you recommend to our UK readers who may have never seen a Dick Maas film?
DM: Start with Amsterdamned. Follow that with Saint. Then try to get your hands on the Flodder Trilogy. Top that with The Lift.
One of the movies I consider my best, is Killer Babes (Moordwijven), a very funny black comedy. It’s a pity it hasn’t been released outside Holland. But maybe there is a clever distributor who reads this and is willing to give it a try!