Wolf Kähler (Raiders of the Lost Ark )

Wolf Kähler
Colonel Dietrich  (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
Interview: Fall 2006

In the Fall of 2006 German actor Wolf Kähler attended the Dutch Star Con event in Berkel-Enschot, the Netherlands. I was lucky enough to do a private interview with him. Of course, the main subject was the part he’s best known for: the Nazi colonel Dietrich in the first Indiana Jones movie.

The power of your role in Raiders of the Lost Ark was the fact that you played Colonel Dietrich in a very serious way, while often Nazis are being portrayed as caricatures. Did you do this on purpose? And where did you get your inspiration?

Even though it takes place before the second World War and Hitler is around I do not think my character is specifically a Nazi. I played it as an officer who had a job to do and happens to be German. I know what I want, the Ark, and I do my best to get it. And yes, I do it ruthlessly, but with less violence as our hero: Harrison Ford. Do you see me kill people? You probably know the movie better than I do! (laughs)

Well, in the scene where you are sitting in the car at the marketplace you throw a melon and we hear a dog squeek.

No, there was no dog. Some vendor handed me the melon and I didn’t know what to do with it!

They may have added that sound in then.

Yes, you see? They make me look bad?

Well, what is one dog compared with a load of dead Nazis?

Yes, it is all in the mind of people and the way the movie is edited.

Still, the fact that everyone thinks that you may have done some killings is the power of your performance. Just as your obsession with the Ark.

Like everybody else was obsessed!

Can you tell anything about the making of the movie and the atmosphere on the set?

One of the producers, Robert Watts, who did Star Wars as well, was so caring about the actors. I remember that when I came from the submarine he was making sure that I came safely from the boat. Generally the atmosphere was fantastic. In every department there were the best people, like Steven Spielberg.

How was he to work with? He is often considered to be the best director ever.

Visually yes. I have no complaints. He saw the character slightly different. He wanted more on the edge. We talked about it on the plane and he was ok with the way I played the role. He told me he was pleased with my performance on the last day of shooting.

You also had some scenes with Harrison Ford. How was he?

He was very good, rocksteady. Very much out of reality in every scene, that was very good. George Lucas, who sees everything on the set, was there when a scene with Harrison and a horse was filmed. It was beautiful and looked like magic when we saw it on the screen.

What was your initial feeling when you got cast?

It was great since a lot of people wanted to be a part of it. I was nervous because you never know what they want. Spielberg had a very good name, and he was nice when we first met. He told me he had seen me in Stanley Kubricks Barry Lyndon. I think it was that movie on which he had decided that he wanted me to play Colonel Dietrich. So, I never auditioned in the form of a reading or something like that.

What is your best memory regarding Raiders?

(Thinks for a very long time) It’s a very difficult question because everything is different and valuable. It’s on the television every Christmas. Well, not last Christmas, but the year before. It was a masterpiece, and everyone seems to love it.

Did you ever expect that Indiana Jones would become such an icon in the history of cinema?

I have met people that have seen Raiders no less than seventeen times in the cinema, but that was after the movie was shot of course. No, you do your job and don’t think about these things. It all felt like it was going to be a good movie. The cast and crew was good and you knew you were in good hands.