There was a point while filming Netflix In the west, nothing is new when Felix Kammerer began to question his life choices.
“We were in a field, knee-deep in mud, and it was pouring rain,” recalls the young Austrian actor, recounting his experience on Edward Berger’s First World War drama, an adaptation of the anti -Erich Maria Remarque’s classic war from 1928, which is the German nominee for the Best International Film Oscar. “We had these suits, these woolen uniforms, which just sucked in the moisture. After the day’s shoot, we weighed them in and they weighed 100 pounds! Running in the mud, 14 hours a day, with 100 pounds on your back. Again and again and again.”
Every night, he said, he would collapse in bed, sleep for four hours, and wake up sore and sore. Only getting up at 3 a.m. to start all over again. “It was three and a half months of the most intense and physically demanding work I have ever done.”
Kammerer is no rookie: He has spent his career on stage, most recently as a member of the ensemble at Vienna’s famed Burgtheater. “The theater is my home,” he says. “My parents are both opera singers, so I basically grew up under the lights.”
But before it’s thrown away Everyone is silent To play enthusiastic rookie Paul Bäumer, whose romantic ideas about war do not survive life in the trenches, the 27-year-old had never set foot in front of a camera. He landed the role after Everyone is silent Producer Malte Grunert followed the advice of his partner, a playwright at the Burgtheater, to discover this young Austrian who was all about Vienna. Over the course of the film, Kammerer transforms Bäumer from a fresh-faced naive to a battle-hardened cynic, unable to deny the brutal reality of war and its utter senselessness.
“I think a lot of people today don’t remember what World War I really was,” he says. “The Second World War is much more present, especially in films. But World War I is more relevant than ever, because it was the first war fought by machines. The first time they used tanks, flamethrowers, gas, machine guns. It was the first time that the killing had adopted near-factory mechanics, with people truly being thrown through the meat grinder.
Adjusting to the mechanics of film production was a challenge. “In theater you tell a story from beginning to end, you always know where you are in the story arc,” he notes. “The film is all cut out: you shoot the end of a scene and three weeks later, you start again. I was terrified that my performance, when put together, wouldn’t make sense. For the shoot, Kammerer came up with his own battle plan in the form of an Excel spreadsheet that tracked and assigned an “energy level” to each scene.
“It looks like a tax return with a cost-benefit calculation,” he laughs. “But it really helps me because I can say, ‘On the stage we’re doing tomorrow, I have to be at 75 energy and up, the next stage will be 112 and then down to 26.’ It’s much easier to adjust my performance.
But even as her film career takes off, Kammerer has no plans to quit acting. “Making movies made me realize how comfortable I feel on stage,” he says. “No matter how intense things are on stage, an hour later you’re outside again and it’s hot and dry.”
This story first appeared in a standalone November issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.