Malte Grunert interview: ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ producer
“It was very much unexpected on that scope,” says “All Quiet on the Western Front” producer Malte Grunert while describing his reaction to the Netflix film’s windfall of Academy Award nominations. “I had decided against watching the live stream [nominations announcement] just out of nervousness. But everybody else in my office basically forced me into the room where we watched.” Watch our video interview above.
Germany’s submission for Best International Feature has become an awards juggernaut, leading all BAFTA-nominated films with 14 bids and following it up with nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The epic war drama is based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque and directed by Edward Berger. It tells the story of a young German solider (played by Felix Kammerer) and his terrifying experience and distress during World War I.
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“It felt quite intimidating,” Grunert admits about making the film. The book is “a masterpiece. In Germany it is the definite novel about World War I. Obviously Lewis Milestone‘s beautiful film is another thing that basically intimidated us. So it felt special for us, but it didn’t feel special in the way of recognition or connection. You never know that going in.”
“Once we started premiering the film, and premiering it in Toronto at TIFF, and Zurich, in Europe and screenings, there was certainly a feeling that audiences connected and felt it contained relevant themes,” he reveals. “We had the feeling that we connected to audiences. Internationally, it’s much harder to gauge. We wanted to make a film from the German perspective, in the German language and contribute a German perspective to the discourse of war stories. But what international audiences, or every audience member, individually, connected to I couldn’t foresee nor explain.”
Grunert says he’s most proud at the “depth” of Oscar nominations the film received, recognizing so many departments and contributors to the movie. “It was a difficult production,” he says. “We shot the whole film in 52 days, which was a tight schedule. Coming onto our battlefield, it’s a little bit like opening Pandora’s box. It’s so much bigger than I thought it would be. Our DP, James Friend, said, ‘I’ve very rarely experienced a production where I felt everybody was actually making the same film.’ That’s what it felt like. Circumstances were difficult, but it was also very satisfying. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was a beautiful experience.”