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Lindsay Hollister: How I became Blubberella

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When Lindsay Hollister saw the trailer for her new movie Blubberella on the Internet last November, she was horrified. In fact, the actress, 33, was so taken aback by the clip that she e-mailed a complaint to the movie’s director, notorious German auteur Uwe Boll. ”I said, ‘You have shown nothing but the food stuff,”’ she recalls. ”He pretty much made it all about the eating.”

Hollister had a point. Blubberella is an R-rated superhero-movie spoof set during the Second World War that stars Hollister as an overweight dhampir, or half vampire. In the clip, the plus-size Hollister is shown chowing down on a variety of edibles — cotton candy, a pot of stew, a big hunk of roasted meat — and at one point kills a German soldier for his sandwich. In another sequence, she is described as resembling a rhino, albeit one that hasn’t been fed in weeks. Hollister’s character takes this as a compliment and replies simply, ”Pilates.”

The trailer inspired an Internet brouhaha and an avalanche of negative commentary. ”Honestly, I want the Nazis to win,” declared one YouTube visitor. In her Los Angeles home, an aghast Hollister read such comments until finally she could bear no more. ”People said, ‘This burns my eyes,”’ she says. ”I had to stop reading at a certain point.”

The fact that Hollister took such a role in the first place may seem surprising. Over the past decade, the actress has become something of an icon within the plus-size community — a group she now risks alienating with a movie whose very title many will regard as offensive. Yet Hollister insists she has no regrets about signing on for the film, which will be released on DVD in early summer. ”I’m not ashamed of Blubberella,” she says. ”Of course there’s fat jokes in the film. If they put another salami sandwich in my hand, I was going to start killing the crew. But I want people to know we weren’t setting out to hate fat people. It’s important for me that people know the true story.”

Lindsay Hollister has always struggled with her weight — and struggled because of it. ”I have been fat my entire life,” says the actress, who was raised in Pickerington, Ohio. ”I was made fun of all through high school.” It was at school that Hollister found her calling when she appeared in the Neil Simon play Rumors during sophomore year. ”After I stepped on that stage for the first time, it was like, ‘I’m going to be an actor,”’ she says. Hollister studied drama at Ohio’s Miami University and relocated to Los Angeles in 1999. Over the next few years, she secured guest spots on a number of TV shows such as Scrubs, Big Love, and My Name Is Earl. However, the actress found it hard to get work in an industry that seems to value svelteness above all else, at least outside reality TV. Hollister discovered she was considered too overweight even for many ”fat” parts. ”You can only be so fat for some roles,” she says. ”I have been told I am too fat to play ‘the fat sister.”’ Still, Hollister always tried to play parts that portrayed overweight people in a positive light. ”I don’t believe a person’s worth is equated to a number on a scale,” she says. ”My motto has always been: Even if it’s rough for a character along the way, at least in the end she wins a little.”

Hollister first entered the world of Uwe Boll in 2006 when she was cast in the director’s movie Postal, a berserk comedy that attempted to mine laughs from 9/11, among other subjects. ”My agents called and said, ‘Uwe Boll,”’ recalls the actress. ”I said, ‘Why does that name sound familiar?’ ‘Because you read about some of the infamy.”’

By then, Uwe Boll was indeed one of the most infamous directors in the world. The auteur’s first major U.S. release was 2003’s zombie bloodbath and videogame adaptation House of the Dead. ”I’d call this lazy filmmaking,” wrote EW’s Scott Brown in his review, ”but that would imply the existence of filmmaking here.” Boll followed House of the Dead with a clutch of other videogame adaptations, including 2005’s monster flick Alone in the Dark, 2006’s BloodRayne — in which Kristanna Loken played a half-human, half-vampire hottie named Rayne — and 2007’s straight-to-video BloodRayne: Deliverance. Critics remained unimpressed. Someone even set up a website where people could sign a petition demanding that Boll retire. (To date, the site has attracted 363,000 signatures.) ”[I’ve] said, ‘Uwe, spend more time on the material,”’ recalls actor Clint Howard, who has appeared in several Boll movies, including Blubberella. ”Certainly I wish he was a little better filmmaker. I wish I could hit a ball a little straighter. Life’s not perfect, but I like Uwe.” Boll admits some of his films have been poor, but he seems bewildered by the amount of hate leveled at him. ”I know what s— is,” says the director, 45. ”And I know that, for example, Alone in the Dark is technically better than 80 percent of the direct-to-DVD titles.”

In the summer of 2007, Hollister attended a screening of Postal in L.A. that was followed by a Q&A with Boll. At the end of the event, Hollister approached the director. ”I had said maybe three words to Uwe Boll in my life, and he’s surrounded by people,” she says. ”But he stops and goes, ‘I have an idea for BloodRayne! You play BloodRayne! And everybody may go, ”Ha-ha-ha!” but you kick ass!’ All I could say was ‘Well, call me!’ Because it was a fantastic idea: making fun of those kinds of movies by putting in a fat girl.”

In the two-year period after Postal, Boll cranked out another seven films. But he did not forget about Hollister, and in the summer of 2009 called her to ask if she was still interested in playing an overweight movie superhero. The filmmaker also suggested Hollister come up with some jokes based on the script for his then-in-the-pipeline third BloodRayne movie, BloodRayne: The Third Reich. The offer was timely. Following Postal, Hollister had filmed a plum cameo in the Steve Carell spy comedy Get Smart. But then the roles had dried up. ”It was the worst drought of my career,” she says. ”I had barely worked for a year when Uwe called.” Yet Hollister insists that her decision to take the role wasn’t based on money alone. ”This movie was made with the best intentions,” she says. ”I truly wanted to make a movie about a fat girl who could kick ass.”

There was a catch. Boll intended to make the spoof simultaneously with the $5 million-budgeted BloodRayne 3, using most of the same sets and cast. ”If you shot Blubberella alone, it would be at least $3.5 million,” says Boll. ”But if you put it into [Blood-Rayne 3], you can make that movie for five, six hundred thousand additional.” Yes, there was at least some method to Boll’s mad scheme. ”Uwe is not stupid,” says actor Michael Paré, another Boll vet who plays a Nazi officer in the two films. ”He’s just f—ing nuts.”

Hollister asked Boll to also cast her friend Willam Belli, a drag performer and actor who she hoped could help her come up with gags. ”He’s one of the funniest people I know,” she says. Belli was unaware of Boll’s reputation. ”I put his name on the Internet and my computer almost exploded with hate,” he says. ”I was like, ‘Oh. This. Will. Be. Fun.”’

Before writing the BloodRayne 3 parody, Belli and Hollister sat through the first movie and its sequel, in which actress Natassia Malthe had taken over the role of Rayne. ”We watched BloodRayne 2 and I was like, ‘Oh, this s— is unwatchable, I can’t get through this, girl,”’ recalls Belli. ”Lindsay was like, ‘Well, you’d better!”’ Hollister and Belli began to riff on BloodRayne 3, in which Rayne must foil a plot to turn Hitler into a vampire. The pair wanted to write zeitgeist-parodying pop culture gags, but that conflicted with Boll’s desire to keep costs to a minimum. ”He’d be like, ‘Stick to the script!”’ says Belli. ”We had to parody every scene in BloodRayne for Blubberella.” Another source of friction was the film’s name. ”Uwe came up with Blubberella,” says Hollister. ”I couldn’t sway him. I know the title’s horrible.”

Eventually Hollister and Belli penned enough material that met with Boll’s approval — and assumed it would be turned into an actual script by a seasoned writer. They realized their mistake in early 2010 when they arrived in Zagreb, Croatia, where Blubberella and BloodRayne 3 were to be shot. ”Our notes ended up being bound together and sent to everybody with the name of the production company stamped on the front,” laughs Hollister. ”I knew we were in trouble.” To make matters worse, the BloodRayne 3 cast was told only a week before landing in Zagreb that Boll intended to shoot two movies at once. ”We were very shocked when we found out,” says Malthe.

Hollister remembers the first day of shooting as being a debacle. ”They had a rough time getting into BloodRayne 3,” she says. ”Then we do the first Blubberella take from the notes we had written. Uwe stops us and starts giving us notes on how to improv.” The situation proved too much for actor Brendan Fletcher, who had been cast in both BloodRayne 3 and Blubberella. ”Only the best actors had a problem,” says Belli. ”And by that I mean Brendan Fletcher. Uwe was like, ‘Just go with it.’ And Brendan was like, ‘I have a career, I was just in The Pacific, produced by Tom Hanks, I don’t wanna f—ing tank my s—.”’ Eventually Fletcher returned to his hotel. According to Hollister, ”I turn to Uwe and I’m like, ‘Um, can we just try some stuff? Because we’ve got 30 Croatian actors in this bunker dressed as resistance fighters. So we need to be able to do something.’ We ended up improvving for two hours. It was incredibly surreal.”

And surreal it would remain. Every night, Hollister and Belli frantically rewrote — or, rather, wrote — the Blubberella script in the hope that it would please the bullish Boll. ”The only direction we got was ‘That was s—!’ or ‘Not fun-neee!”’ says Hollister. ”Or he would scream ‘Perfect!’ Then,” she jokes, ”we knew that we were going to get our passports back at the end of the trip and not be buried beneath the Zagreb soil. It became like Stockholm syndrome for us. I craved his approval. And I still do.” The good news was that Fletcher overcame his misgivings and joined in the Blubberella ”fun.” ”He was hilarious,” says Hollister.

The actress got some degree of revenge on Boll when he came to film his Blubberella cameo — as Hitler. ”Uwe could not improv for s—,” she recalls. ”He said random things in German and pointed at a map. I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s a little harder than you thought, huh?”’

Most directors would find overseeing two films a difficult enough task. Not Uwe Boll. Hollister was stunned to discover Boll planned to make a third film, a passion project called Auschwitz, which detailed a day in the life of the concentration camp. ”They started talking about ‘the Auschwitz movie,”’ says Hollister. ”I go, ‘When’s he filming that?’ And they go, ‘Next week.’ I literally looked at the producer and laughed out loud.” Amid all this mayhem, Hollister battled to ensure Blubberella would have a fat-positive message and not just be a collection of gags at the expense of her character. ”I really tried to keep the horrible stuff out of it,” she says. ”But when you show up and they’ve built an entire apartment with a walk-in refrigerator and haunches of meat as large as the grip standing next to it, what do you do?”

Belli and Hollister have seen a rough cut of the film, and both have mixed feelings. ”It’s not good, but it’s hilarious,” says Belli. ”It’s like watching a car accident with clowns. At some point you expect it to get funny. And it does.” Boll concedes the result is uneven — ”45 minutes are absolutely hilarious, the other 45 minutes are a disaster” — but is adamant the film has a positive message. ”It’s not a movie fat people [will] feel embarrassed to watch,” says the director. ”She kicks ass. And the other people are idiots.” Boll is also unrepentant about that trailer. ”People were like, ‘Ah, it’s only fat jokes,”’ he says. ”What do you do in a trailer? You have to put some gags in. But the movie has a good overall tone, and Lindsay is the hero, and we like her because she is a very likable person.”

Since wrapping Blubberella, Hollister has made a concerted effort to lose weight, so far dropping 45 pounds. ”The roles have really dried up for me,” she explains. ”And the ones that are available, like Blubberella, are offensive to people, so I feel like I never win.” The irony is that Hollister might have to regain the weight — or wear padding — if Blubberella proves successful enough to warrant another movie. That prospect isn’t so unlikely given the number of Boll’s movies that have spawned sequels. In addition to BloodRayne, both House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark inspired follow-up movies, and Boll has just finished shooting a sequel to his 2007 film In the Name of the King. He also has plans to make BloodRayne 4. Despite her concerns over Blubberella, Hollister says she would gladly appear in a sequel. ”As insane as it sounds, I’d do it all again,” she laughs. ”I get to have my own movie. I get to act. Uwe said, ‘Get ready for the worst reviews of your career.’ And I said, ‘Get ready to make a sequel!”’

Uwe Vs. EW
Director Uwe Boll responds to our harsh reviews of his films

House of the Dead (2003)
EW’s Review: ”To properly convey the jaw-dropping shoddiness of this videogame-based ‘horror’ ‘movie,’ one must approach what scientists call Absolute Stupid.”
Boll’s Response: ”Yeah, it is stupid. But what were they expecting from House of the Dead?”

Alone in the Dark (2005)
EW’S Review: ”The film on your teeth after a three-day drunk possesses more cinematic value.”
Boll’s Response:Alone in the Dark was not good. But what was Elektra? What was Daredevil?”

BloodRayne (2006)
EW’s Review: ”Ghastly-bad.”
Boll’s Response:BloodRayne is a good vampire movie. BloodRayne is better than Underworld. Kate Beckinsale would never show her breasts like Kristanna Loken.”

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