Director Phil Blattenberger Hunts Nazis in Condor’s Nest
Feb 3, 2023
Director/writer Phil Blattenberger hunts villainous Nazis in South America after World War II. Condor’s Nest follows an American veteran on a quest for vengeance. Jacob Keohane stars as Will Spalding, a radioman shot down with his B-17 crew over France in 1944. They survive the crash but are found by the Nazi SS. Colonel Martin Bach (Arnold Vosloo) methodically kills Spalding’s compatriots while he hides in an attic. Years later, a hardened Spalding has tracked escaped Germans to Buenos Aires, Argentina. His brutal interrogation methods reveal a lair of Nazis hidden in the Bolivian jungle. He allies with an Israeli Mossad agent (Corinne Britti) and duplicitous nuclear scientist (Al Pagano) to find his hated target. They discover Bach and even more sinister adversary with diabolical plans for a Nazi resurgence.
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Condor’s Nest has a recognizable supporting cast of veteran Hollywood character actors. Bruce Davison, Michael Ironside, Jorge Garcia, and Jackson Rathbone join Vosloo as co-stars in the spirited adventure. Blattenberger discussed assembling an ensemble that would give the film an “80s pastiche.” His Nazi antagonists didn’t speak a word of German and had to learn for their scenes, some of which are quite humorous. Blattenberger wanted to mock their twisted ideology by showing its fanatical idiocy.
The filmmaker went to great lengths to ensure realism. The props, costumes, and sets successfully portray the genocidal killers. Condor’s Nest does have a serious note after its completion. The Texas Raiders B-17 bomber and pilots used in the opening act were tragically killed during a midair collision on November 12, 2022. Blattenberger pays tribute to those brave men. Condor’s Nest immortalizes their historical preservation efforts.
A Spy Thriller
MovieWeb: Your first film, Point Man, was a war film in Vietnam. Now you’re tackling the Nazis. Why stay in the genre?
Phil Blattenberger: It’s a common question that gets asked. Point Man was a crime drama that was set with the Vietnam War as a backdrop. It was sort of the framing device. In a lot of ways, Condor’s Nest is the same thing. It’s got obviously the first 20 minutes in World War II. You’ve got a bomber in a field in eastern France, but this isn’t a war movie. It’s a spy thriller. It’s a revenge story. World War II is our opener, it’s our framing device. It’s our backdrop for the story. Those sort of constituent threads get drawn throughout the narrative. You’ve got Nazis in South America. You’ve got an American war veteran that’s going to hunt a particular guy down. You’ve got a Mossad agent. We learn through the story that he has connections to trauma. And then certainly, Hitler’s chief atomic scientist is involved here. It’s war-themed, but not a war movie.
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MW: Talk about the old-school cast you have—Bruce Davison, Michael Ironside, and Arnold Vosloo. There are many character actors that audiences are going to recognize.
Blattenberger: We said let’s go for a sort of ’80s and ’90s pastiche. Whether it’s the war movie, or the thriller, we wanted to create one of these old-school popcorn movies where everybody is somebody that you know. You have talented actors, certainly character actors, that can handle the machinations of speaking German. Being able to layer on to what could easily be one-note villainous characters. Arnold Vosloo, who was just an unbelievably talented actor, brings a lot of gravitas for the role of Colonel Bach. We also got Lost actor, Jorge Garcia, who has done Hawaii 5-0 and a million other things. Then you get a frickin’ Bond villain. You’ve got Michael Ironside, Tom Cruise’s instructor in Top Gun, an absolute legend. And Jackson Rathbone, the Twilight star comes in as this interrogating German. There’s just so many fun additions to this thing that really infused life and a lot of color into the performances.
MW: There’s one scene, in particular, I found hilarious. It’s where the Nazis are talking about Aryan supremacy. It has this Inglorious Basterds dark humor. Was that done on purpose to show these guys are racist fools and clowns?
Blattenberger: They really are. I’ll be honest. That’s my favorite scene in the entire movie. It almost felt indulgent to write. I wondered if I should cut it. We’re full tilt the entire movie. And all of a sudden, we go from Utah, we shot in Utah, to the Bolivian desert for our film. We’re highlighting the absurdity of what’s happening. It’s hard to believe anyone’s taking any of this seriously. And it’s all based in historical Nazi archeology. This whole Atlantis theory was actually accepted at the time among Nazis. There’s Bruce Davison’s kind of ridiculous senile character calling into question all this. It was a chance to layer some oddly humorous beadwork into a really awful concept, which is Nazis restarting a political movement in South America. So it was an opportunity to introduce some contextual levity to the audience. It served a lot of functions. And honestly, it was a lot of fun. None of them spoke a word of German prior to accepting these roles.
Learning to Speak German
MW: They pull off a great scene.
Blattenberger: Arnold [Vosloo] talks about how he’d be walking down on Santa Monica Boulevard, just reading the script, reciting, and scaring the hell out of people at 7:30 in the morning. There’s really a huge challenge. None of them speak German, and then doing an entire scene solely in German. It’s really a trip. It’s pretty damn entertaining and funny.
MW: There’s all this realistic Nazi imagery. Talk about the props and the costumes. Where do you get 50 Nazi uniforms?
Blattenberger: I don’t know how many FBI watch lists I’m on (laughs). My living room looked really weird for a while. I had to watch out if the cable guy knocked on the door. A lot of European countries have prop and costume shops that make this stuff. There’s a big market for it. We reenacted everything. We were able to rely on some reenactors locally to play Germans. The uniforms are relatively easy to get. But when you’re large-format printing German maps of South America with strategic notations on them, and ordering a portrait of Adolf Hitler, it’s a little weird. This is a movie. We’re not Nazis (laughs).
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MW: What’s the best and worst day filming Condor’s Nest?
Blattenberger: I’ll start with the worst day. We had a night shooting a chase scene in the jungles of Bolivia down a dirt road. The cars constantly crapped out. We drive down the road and lose a clip or an anchor. It was just an absolute disaster. It was the end of week two, and we’d been absolutely plowing along. Filming during Covid still being very much an issue. I’m dealing with those protocols. It was utterly exhausting. Those are the times you find out if you built a good team or not. That’s when everybody takes a deep breath, sucks up, and pushes through. We found that to be the case. It turned out to be a great scene.
The Texas Raiders B-17 Tragedy
Blattenberger: As far as the best time on set, I hate to pick favorites. But shooting out in Utah, those scenes that take place in Bolivia, of the airplane landing in the desert, were absolutely stellar. It was just one of the most logistically difficult things I’ve ever done, but an absolute joy to shoot. The opening scene, the interior is actually the B-17. We filmed that a little over a year ago. It tragically crashed with all hands on board a couple of months ago in an air show in Houston.
MW: That’s awful. I remember seeing that on the news.
Blattenberger: Yeah, it was an absolute tragedy. So the pilots who are flying at the time, Len and Terry, were actually our pilots during filming. To my knowledge, this was the last time the Texas Raiders B-17 will be seen on camera. Obviously hats off to those guys. They dedicated their lives to bring the memory of these aircraft and heritage. It’s sort of enshrined permanently in Condor’s Nest. I think it is a beautiful thing amid a tremendous tragedy.
Condor’s Nest is currently in theaters, on digital, and On Demand from Paramount Pictures and Saban Films.
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