Even at the tender age of 10, Stefan Ruzowitzky, 55, was not a dreamer but a doer. After seeing his brother perform in the annual school play, he had already had his hopes set on directing the next one. When it was cancelled, he simply went ahead and organized a production of his own.
Ruzowitzky’s path to becoming a film director was paved with intentions made real. Instead of wasting time and money on film school, he began working straight after college, taking jobs in television and advertising and getting established in the industry.
His favorite part of the job is the actual shoot, working on the set – the most intensive and stressful phase of a film production. It’s the balance, he says, between being well prepared yet flexible that makes this high-adrenaline atmosphere so interesting.
Flexibility has also defined Ruzowitzky’s approach to the projects he chooses. After winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2008 for the gripping Holocaust drama The Counterfeiters, he took a complete 180-degree turn and directed a children’s story, Hexe Lilli, geared towards 10-year-old girls – his daughter’s age at the time. One of his latest films, Die Hölle, is what he calls the “first Austrian action thriller ever” – a bit of Hollywood Vienne.
The Oscar? It’s essentially “a marketing tool,” he said, “a door opener that allows you to play with the big boys in international filmmaking.” It has also allowed him to stay in Austria and still continue making films in both worlds.
Ruzowitzky doesn’t let success go to his head. “For every film I do, there are nine other projects that never came together. People only hear about the successes.”
Nevertheless, an Oscar is still an Oscar, a great film still a great film. And we were itching for a glimpse of the golden statuette. The genial Ruzowitzky was happy to accommodate – under the watchful eye of his omnipresent bulldog terrier.
“Don’t try to steal it,” he said, only half in jest, “or the dog will come after you.”