Interview: Actress Sybil Danning to Introduce ‘Chained Heat’ in Chicago on Oct. 12, 2012

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CHICAGO – The characteristics of the classic B-movie during the 1970s and ‘80s usually required prisons, women and uniforms designed to easily tear away. The Music Box Theatre in Chicago will highlight that era on Friday, October 12, when they present “Chained Heat.” One of the co-stars of that essential women’s prison movie, Sybil Danning, will be at the theatre in person to introduce the film.

Born Sybilie Joanna Denninger in Weis, Austria, Danning was the daughter of a U.S. Army major, and spent time between the United States and Austria as she grew up. After trying out working in the dental field and cosmetology, she began modeling and acting in the early 1970s, making her debut in an Austrian film called “Komm nur, mein liebstes Vögelein.” After working her way through that film industry, she began her American career with “Bluebeard” (1972) and “The Three Musketeers” (1973), but was also doing such memorable B-movies as “Naughty Nymphs” (1972) and “Cat in a Cage” (1978).

Sybil Danning
Sybil Danning in Chicago, Sept. 8, 2012 at ‘The Hollywood Show’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Through the 1980s, her “tough babe” niche was established with the cult film “Battle Beyond the Stars” (1980), “Chained Heat” (1983) and “Howling II…Your Sister is a Werewolf” (1985). She even parodied her image in “Amazon Women on the Moon” (1987) and “Reform School Girls” (1986). Sybil Danning continues to act, including an appearance in the recent “Halloween” (2007) remake. interviewed her at “The Hollywood Show” in September. What do you think is the key difference between German, European and American cinema, since you’ve worked in all three?

Sybil Danning Number one, budget. I hate the designation of ‘A’ and ‘B’ movies because there is no difference except for budget. When I started out in Hollywood, I did ‘B’ movies, and I’ve been called ‘Queen of the B’s.’ I don’t shy away from that, I’m very proud of it, because when you have less of a budget and you make a good movie you’ve done your job.

Actors put their hearts and souls in these types of movies, and you see it in one of my films, ‘Battle Beyond the Stars,’ which was just released on Blu-ray. I did that one for Roger Corman. It was ‘The Seven Samurai’ in outer space. It’s become a cult classic. You moved to Hollywood in the late 1970s, leaving behind your early career. What was most frightening about taking on that move, and how did you eventually get over it?

Danning: I wasn’t scared at all, and if you see my movies, it proves that I’m not scared of much. [laughs] I came to Hollywood in 1979, and was told there were 5000 actors out of work. That didn’t bother me, if I couldn’t get through the door, I’d climb through the window, and if I get thrown out again I’ll climb through the chimney. That’s what you have to do in this business, you have to have a belief in yourself, and perseverance. That’s the advice I’d give for any actor in Hollywood. You have a profile as a sex symbol in many of your film roles. Does this make your personal life better or do you think people immediately misunderstand you when they meet you?

Danning: Oh no! First, I want to define the term ‘sex symbol.’ It’s a symbol, something of beauty that my fans love. It’s not a sex object. I’m not an object, that is the difference. The first time fans or people meet me they are actually a bit nervous, they don’t know if I’m going to chop their head off. [laughs] I’m always approached with respect, because unlike other sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Anita Ekberg, I have combined the beauty and sexuality with my action movies. That brings a little more respect than just the exterior.

Sybil Danning
Sybil Danning (as Ericka in the film) introduces ‘Chained Heat’ at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago
Photo credit: Synapse Films Since you had experience in the United States both as a young girl and as a woman, what still bugs you about this country, that you still kind of never gotten over?

Danning: You didn’t want to say it, you didn’t say it, so I’ll say it…getting older. I wasn’t going to say it. I meant since you were a girl here and later as a woman in Hollywood.

Danning: I think what bothers me since I’ve been in Hollywood, that like any immigrant, I came here to experience more freedom. And I think that is becoming less and less the case. America is becoming more of a police state, more even than Germany and Austria where I lived. That really bothers me because it’s become the opposite of why I came here. It’s uglier and uglier. Which role do you want to be remembered for and which role do you think the public remembers you for, and are those two roles different?

Danning: Yes they are. I was in a film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ [1977]. I played the terrorist in the film, opposite Klaus Kinski, and actually I convinced Kinski to do the film. I raised the money in Germany, and was a producer. It’s my favorite because I played a very sadistic character, which is a delicate balance between overplaying such a role, or underplaying it, which is boring. It wasn’t a sexy role, I was playing a character. We got great reviews in the States, but it didn’t have a wide release, because of the politics at the time.

As far as what the audience likes to remember me for, it’s ‘Battle Beyond the Stars,’ because even though I’m a sexy character, it is a family film, and I’m the only woman who fights alongside the men. That is a empowerment for women, and she’s the hero in the film, when she flies her spaceship into the interstellar converter. It’s a film that appeals to both men and women. Finally, Can you tell us something about Christopher Lee that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

Danning: We did five films together, so I knew him quite well. Christopher is a great singer, known in Germany with his baritone. He also doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble…all he is interested in is movies.

My first film with him was ‘Albino,’ [1976, AKA ‘The Night of the Askari’] and we shot it in Zimbabwe, which was then Rhodesia. His wife was a model in Paris, and usually did not accompany him, but there she was in dirty and dusty Rhodesia. When I asked her why, she said, ‘there are emerald mines, darling, so when Christopher is finished with this picture, I will get a emerald.’ [laughs]

“Chained Heat,” introduced by Sybil Danning, will be presented at Chicago’s The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, on October 12th, 2012, at 9:30pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2012 Patrick McDonald,

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