Interview: Stephanie Paul

Nazis living on the dark side of the moon, ready to return to Earth and create the Fourth Reich. This is the basic premise for Iron Sky, the Finnish/Australian/German film released here last Thursday.  Yes, it is as crazy as it sounds, but oddly enough this satirical parody, partly in German, part English, works.  Playing a “Sarah Palinesque” President of the United States is kiwi Stephanie Paul, best known for her role in the New Zealand film Separation City.

Based in the States for 13 and a half years, Stephanie is back in NZ to catch up with friends and family.

Stephanie, someone described Iron Sky as History Channel meets Independence Day meets Star Wars, would you agree with that?

Ha! That’s probably quite true, although some of the political stuff is true and happened, but the Nazis certainly didn’t move to the moon, Argentina yes, but not the moon.  

How would you describe the movie?

It’s a witty look at what was a dark time.  It’s very cleverly done, we’re talking about Nazis here, but they make them look stupid. I think that’s just fantastic!

Nazis on the dark side of moon. It’s not your usual movie subject!

We’ve all tossed this around when we’ve been at premieres and screenings, and we all agree, no one could have done this but the Finns.  The Germans couldn’t have done it and the Americans certainly wouldn’t have touched it.  The Finns have a very dark and mischievous sense of humour when you get them talking.

Is it true this movie was conceived over a couple of beers in a sauna?

Absolutely true, and the director, lets everyone know that.

For the Finnish premiere we had a sauna with all of the press.  As they put everyone on the bus I was thinking “who are all these people?” I knew they weren’t cast or crew, and it turned out that it was all the media that had come to the premiere, so it was off to the sauna house.  It was very funny.

How did you become involved with Iron Sky?

The producers of Separation City, from Australian New Holland Pictures, were involved in Iron Sky. They said to Timo (Director Timo Vuorensola) that they should audition me, and that’s pretty much how it came about.

What did you think when you first read the script? You’re playing the President of the United States dealing with Nazis from the moon!

As a comedy writer myself, I’ve been doing standup for about 8 years and I ‘ve just finished writing and directing a sketch show in the States. I read a lot of comedy and see a lot of comedy and am always around comedy, and I know you don’t necessarily laugh at what everybody else is going to laugh at.  But reading the script I laughed out loud about 6 times, and thought, “this is going to be quite good, I’m really interested to see what the director does with it.”

Your character, the President of the United States of America, gets some of the zingiest, funniest liners.

I had so much fun playing that character, and it’s funny because I was actually asked to audition for 2 characters. I auditioned for both Vivian and the Prez.  Vivien was on screen more and of course you always want to have a bigger role, but as I was preparing for the audition, as I worked on it, I really had more fun with the president, there was just something that clicked with me and I thought she was fabulous, I just really enjoyed it.

Everyone describes the President as very “Sarah Palinesque.”  Is that how she’s meant to be?

Well she looks like Sarah Palin.  The Hollywood reporter wasn’t kind to me at all when the movie came out, they said I was nothing like Tina Fey. I wasn’t supposed to be like Tina Fey, or Sarah Palin. I specifically asked the director; “do I have to emulate her, do you want me to study her?” He said, “I want you to create Madam President.  We’re just going to make her look like Sarah Palin for fun.“

I actually studied more of George Bush. I thought he did a lot more silly, funny, zany things. I ended up channeling him more than her.

The movie has just been released in NZ, are you going to see it?

I am taking about 40 people to go and see it on Friday night, I’m just going to sit in the corner! I’ve seen it about 4 times, it’s interesting because different countries laugh at different things, it will be interesting to see what the New Zealand audience laugh at.  There are all sorts of nuances throughout the film that you don’t always get the first time.

It should be easy to go incognito, you look quite different when you’re not in your Madame President outfit.

Yes! I’ve had all of my hair cut off, and I wore a wig for the movie.  The wig was Russian hair and it was worth about 3500 euros, and it was a BEAUTIFUL wig and I’m still trying to get it – I keep asking if they’ll give it to me.

The movie was partially funded by fans, which is a good thing is that you don’t have to start your fan base from scratch.

It’s amazing how the fans were – I guess because it was crowd sourced and all that stuff.  They were just so delighted to meet us and talk to us, because they’d been waiting for 2 years for the film to come out, and they were all just so behind it. After the premiere in Finland they threw this huge party and all the fans were allowed to come to the party and there was one guy from Australia who’d saved all his holiday time so he could be there and he was just proud as punch to have us all sign his jacket.

So what’s next?

Right now I’m catching up with family, then back to the States to rewrite some sketches and shoot them. That’s a little project that I’m working on myself. There’s a couple of things in the pipeline that I’m talking to directors about, I’ve just finished shooting a national commercial in the States which goes live in a couple of weeks.  That’s for the political debate. It’s quite a funny piece…

I’m also writing a screenplay.  You know, keeping myself busy…

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