Charli XCX In A Black Leather Catsuit -- Hot Or Not?

'Speed Racer' Star Christian Oliver Talks About Playing Snake Oiler, His Off Screen Work & More

May 5th, 2008 8:45am EDT
Christian OliverHe may be viewed as a fresh face, but Christian Oliver is more than qualified to become Hollywood's next "It" boy. The German native has quite an impressive resume to back the title and continues to race his way up the Hollywood ladder. He's appeared in "The Good German" alongside Cate Blanchett and George Clooney and currently runs his own production company. Starpulse had a chance to speak with the charming and humble actor as he discussed his role on screen in the new movie "Speed Racer" (in theaters May 9) and off screen as a writer and producer.

You're starring in the new movie "Speed Racer," which comes out on May 9. That must be so exciting for you.
Oh absolutely! I'm absolutely excited. I can't wait to see it myself. I haven't seen it, but it was amazing shooting in Berlin and there was a great bunch of people to work with.

Now, you play Snake Oiler. Tell me a little bit more about your character.
Snake Oiler. His name says it all! He's one of those not-so-nice-guys. I love him. Snake Oiler's the man! He is one of the racers, and his whole life all he's been dreaming of is going to the Grand Prix, winning the Grand Prix, and racing in the Grand Prix. Racing is his life. He will do anything and won't let anyone get in his way to be the best that he can be. Except he goes a little coo-coo. He loses his composure and goes a little crazy.

Snake Oiler

I had a great time playing him. You know it's like you think of what you want to do and how you want to play the character, especially when you hear the name Snake Oiler, and then it's amazing when that character comes to life. Suddenly you're in the trailer and you have this amazing hair that they're putting on you and wardrobe - you have these crazy outfits and you see the car he's driving and it's all made out of snake leather. His clothes are all snake leather and then you become this guy that is just nuts!

Christian OliverThat's awesome. Now is it fun playing a bad guy?
I love it! I love it! I mean this is the first time I really got to play one of those cartoon-ish bad guys, crazy guys out there. It was amazing. I had a great time. We obviously shot this differently than anything I've ever done before. All green screen. So all day long, you work by yourself in this remote control car that gets pushed back and forth. It's kind of like driving on a non-existing autobahn.

It was just nuts because all day long you're all by yourself screaming at the top of your lungs and acting with yourself and you're doing scenes with Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci and none of them are there. I haven't even seen any of the other racers. It's really weird. You see them in morning at base camp and trailer row and everybody goes off to do their thing. It's different from anything I've ever experienced.

Even though the movie is mostly CG and special effects, did you ever do any race car training before or have you ever been in one?
Oh yeah, I have. I did a show in Germany for two years, like about four years ago. That was all on the Autobahn; it was all about racing cars. I actually played a cop, so I was the good guy and we were chasing all the bad guys on the Autobahn. It was all about fast cars and I love cars. I'm all about cars. I'm actually going to the Long Beach Grand Prix in a couple of weeks. I'm mean I love that stuff. Formula One is my ultimate car fix.

You were previously in "The Good German" with Cate Blanchett and George Clooney. Now in "Speed Racer" you're with Emile, Christina, Susan Sarandon, and John Goodman. What's it like to be a part of a movie with an all-star cast?
Oh, it was absolutely amazing. These guys are so sweet. Literally. We were in Berlin, so everybody's kind of in my home turf. So it was kind of fun to be back home and then being able to go out with them. It was fun, they were very nice people. Like I said, I didn't get to hang out with them everyday since we didn't get to see each other that much. But when we got to see each other, it was quite nice and Susan Sarandon is one of the sweetest and obviously one of the most talented women around, as well as Christina Ricci. Same goes for Ms. Cate Blanchett. All my scenes were with her and I was with her everyday, so it was just amazing to be in another nice movie like that.

Christian Oliver & Cate Blanchett in The Good German

It's becoming a big trend today to do movies based on comic books and cartoons. Now with "Speed Racer", there's a big die-hard fan base and a lot of them are anticipating the outcome of this movie. The fans are always the ones with the highest expectations. Do you think the film stays true to the "Speed Racer" cartoons?
I think that everyone who grew up on "Speed Racer" will be in for a nice ride, for sure. I can't include myself in that because I never heard of "Speed Racer" before. Which all the hard core fans are going to be like 'What?!' Growing up in Germany, it was never aired. It was taken off the air after two episodes I guess because it was a little too controversial in the 70s. But I, of course, when I heard about the project, did my research. I jumped right into it and watched every episode and obviously saw the episodes with Snake Oiler in them and I love it.

It's so amazing and I cannot imagine any kid wouldn't love to watch this stuff. It's so made for kids. And it's the same way with this "Speed Racer." It's just a fun ride for the whole family, and it just takes it a notch up. Well, actually I say a couple hundred notches. If you liked what they did back in the day, you're going to be thrilled and blown away with what Andy and Larry Wachowski did. I mean it's a whole different world they created. I still haven't seen it. I've seen bits and pieces and from what I've seen is just mind blowing. So I can't wait to see it myself. I'm as excited as every fan out there.


What are some of your favorite cartoon or comic book based movies? Is there one in particular that hasn't been adapted to a film that you would like to see happen?
Oh wow! That's a good question. (Laughs) Now I really got to dig deep. I think most of the ones I've grown up with have been made into movies already. I think it's always fun to have a cartoon or a comic character to have something to work off and take it to another level. I think it's great. Like you said, it's a trend that's going on right now. It the beautiful thing, as you mentioned, you have that fan base built in and obviously it's hard to fulfill their expectation of what should be done with the movie. The Wachowskis- who did The Matrix and took that to a whole new level, I think they're taking "Speed Racer" to a whole new level and re-inventing the whole cartoon world as it is.

I've been told that they've just made Legos based off of "Speed Racer." Now that's pretty cool! How does it feel to have a Lego made based off of your character?
When I heard, I was very excited. I just saw it for the first time online and it looks amazing. Now, I was a huge Lego fan growing up. When I go home to my parents' house, somewhere in our attic is a whole box of Legos. I'm going to pass that on to my kids someday. Now I can pass on the little Snake Oiler figure. My nephew's excited that this up-coming Christmas he'll be playing with a Snake Oiler Lego figure and race around the living room. It's really cool. I don't know if my sister's going to be happy with that (Laughs), but I'm just going to wrap it up.

You also run your own production company. You've just made a film called "Ready or Not," which you starred in, wrote and produced. What's it like wearing all those hats and playing all those roles all together?
Well, the whole producing thing obviously is new and very exciting for me. I started a couple years ago with a movie called "Subject Two." It's a small small movie that I made with the director (Philip Chidel) and the other actor (Dean Stapleton). We were really good friends and met in acting class. We decided to make a movie outside the whole Hollywood system and just go out there and shoot it. That whole guerilla filmmaking approach of just going out there and doing it was amazing, enlightening, and fun. And working with people you hang out with 24/7 and making this small little film, that suddenly got attention because it got into the Sundance Film Festival. It couldn't have been any better. It was while I was shooting "The Good German", so I figured it was great to have those two worlds.

To do big Hollywood movies, honestly I love that. Who wouldn't want that? But also to stay in touch with the true nature of making movies that are very small level and independent. It's wearing many hats, like you said. There's the producer hat. And it's not only that, you do the catering...you do everything you can. You're like part of a team. That means picking up the trash after you've shot everything. So, it's a whole new world for me and "Ready or Not" was just the extension. We just took it up another notch. We got very lucky and found some investors and made a small little movie that is in the next step.

Now we're trying to sell it. It's a whole new hat that I'm wearing and I'm very excited because you get to learn a lot. I get to learn how lucky and how hard it is to make a good movie or to just really make a movie. But "Ready or Not" I'm very proud of it, and I can't wait for it to come out. Right now we're trying to find a home for it with a distribution company and I'm sure we're going to find a good home for it and everybody will be able to see it soon.

What inspired you to make "Ready or Not?" It's based on what goes on the last days before a man gets married. Do you think a lot of women are going to like it and want to really know what's going on through a man's head before marriage?
I think it's going to be very informative. Girls who have read the script loved it, and the girls who have seen it loved it. It's like that phenomenon with "Sex and the City." It was just a girls show but you had all those closet guys watching because we all wanted to know what these girls were talking about. It's exactly the same thing. It's a buddy movie, but every girl wants to know or should want to know what "Ready or Not" is really about. It's a movie about relationships. It's about friendships. It's about true love and the extent of what we're willing to go through to find true love. So, it's definitely a boys and girls movie. It's coming-of-age, it's what we all go through.

You've acted on stage along with television and movies. What's it like to have that wide range of experience? You've been all around. Some actors don't have that much variety.
I like to mix it up. I just did stage. A couple years ago I did an opera. I've never been in an opera. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to be in an opera and be on stage with wonderful and talented opera singers. I got lucky. "The Abduction from the Seraglio", it's a Mozart piece and one of the most beautiful pieces, where there is only one role that speaks and I got to speak in German. It was an amazing experience in Chicago, about 1500 people every night. It's just one of those things I wouldn't give up, the ability to do as many things as possible.

I just did a move for the AFI; it was a student film about Uganda. It's about the genocide and the abduction of 20,000 children in the last 15-20 years. There's a war going on there that nobody pays attention to. It's all these little things that you do off the radar and you totally do them for yourself as well as for growing as a person, not only as an actor. I love these things and I will keep doing things that are off the radar, like stage. It just helps me find my sanity in all this craziness. (Laughs)

Now what's next for you after "Speed Racer"? You've got a couple projects coming up.
Yes. There's a bunch I've already filmed. I was very lucky to be in Dublin over Christmas and New Year's to do movie for the BBC. I'm developing some more scripts for myself. I have two movies that are ready to go. One is a comedy and the other is a psychological thriller. Those are projects that a very hard to get off the ground. It's tough to make those things real because up until the last minute, you need money and you're raise money. It's amazing to see how many things fall into place and what it great team sport it is really to make a little movie that is entertaining at the end of the day and that people like. It really means a lot when a movie finds its audience and that is loved or liked, because usually you never know how much work and how many people have worked at it. I'm trying to get a couple more movies off the ground.

Angelica Castillo
Interview by Angelica Castillo

Starpulse contributing writer


Sign up for our daily newsletter with great stories like this and more!