Director Moritz Mohr Introduces Wild Action-Comedy Boy Kills World

Working in a video rental store is the origin story for many filmmakers, and for German director Moritz Mohr, watching everything he stacked on those shelves proved formative for the creation of Boy Kills World.

“We never intended this movie to be a 90s throwback”, he told Zavvi. “But during that time I worked in a video store, I watched everything that came out, from the martial arts section to the crappy straight-to-video action VHS tapes hidden in the back, and developed a love for them all – those films have always been an influence on me.”

This much is apparent in Boy Kills World, in which Bill Skarsgård’s deaf protagonist sets out on a mission to kill Hilda van der Koy (Famke Janssen), the matriarch of the tyrannical family who rule his city with an iron fist, who were responsible for killing his mother in cold blood. However, putting his plan into action coincides with the annual “Culling”, a televised mass-murder event in which anybody who rebels against the system is killed by actors in outlandish cereal mascot outfits on TV.

With Boy’s internal monologue communicated via H. Jon Benjamin in a fourth-wall breaking voiceover, and the action building towards a bloody reality TV parody, you could argue that the film is Deadpool meets The Hunger Games, but only one of those inspired Mohr – and not in the way you’d expect.

He said: “In the Deadpool comic books, he literally has voices in his head, which is the big difference between the source material and the movie; we used those a reference point for a wisecracking guy who isn’t actually talking. And when you’re trying to get an R-rated martial arts movie made, the producers love to hear comparisons to something that made a s**t ton of money for someone else, in the hope that it might happen again!

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“But Deadpool never was a main reference because we wanted to create our own self-contained world, and not connect it to the real world. Deadpool is peppered with pop culture references everywhere; we didn’t want to take people out of the film by dropping in random Star Wars memes here and there.”

The similarities with The Hunger Games are more front and centre, but when reading initial reactions to the movie, Mohr was caught off guard by the comparison.

“After one test screening, audiences were given a questionnaire where they were asked what movie this reminded of; 70% answered with The Hunger Games. I’d never even thought of it, as the Culling in this movie is just another stepping stone which escalates the action – it’s a small part of the movie, whereas the Hunger Games is about, well, the Hunger Games!

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“What I was inspired by in the creation of the Culling was The Running Man, right down to the shock collars all the contestants have to wear.”

Ever since IT, Skarsgård has been typecast in sinister roles – even the parts that subvert this, like horror-comedy Barbarian, rely on the audience assuming he’s a threat the second he’s introduced. Boy may be a deadly fighter, but he stands out in the actor’s recent filmography for being a relatively naïve innocent: a sweet-natured family man who just so happens to be able to kill people with his bare hands.

The director trusted that Skarsgård would work well cast against type, able to sell the comedic beats and heartfelt character arc without any spoken dialogue, but didn’t initially buy him as an action hero.

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“I didn’t know this was something he could do, but on our first call he assured me he was going to commit to this, that he’d take the time to get in shape and train. It was a big promise, but just a few weeks later, he came to see us in Berlin where he was on a day off from filming John Wick: Chapter Four, and we shot a sizzle reel to see how he punches and handles a gun, so we could incorporate this into a fighting style that works for him – you can’t just make him move like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I was struck by how tall he is; he’s 6’3’’, with these very long limbs, and moves in a very interesting way. We didn’t want to create just another action hero, and pairing him with Yayan (Ruhian, who plays his mentor), who is much smaller than him, created the most fascinating dynamic – as soon as they stood side by side, I knew this was going to be great.”

When the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last September, Skarsgård also provided the internal voiceover for his character. Since then, the film has gone back into the editing suite, and re-emerged with the unmistakable voice of H. Jon Benjamin, of Bob’s Burgers and Archer fame, as Boy’s inner monologue.

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I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t the case of an originally recorded voiceover being scrapped due to a negative reception – like Colin Firth being replaced by Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington at the 11th hour, or Samantha Morton’s voice being swapped for Scarlett Johannson late in the post-production of Her – but the intended plan for the movie all along.

“We rushed the movie to get it ready for the TIFF premiere, and the movie screened without us having finished it”, Mohr explained. “But we always had two voiceovers recorded, one with Bill and one with John, and we went back and forth on which to use – Bill sold the emotional beats, but Jon was better on the comedy because, well, he’s Jon!

“The version we decided to screen at the festival had Bill’s voice, and based on the reviews at the festival and the feedback we got from speaking to people, we realised Jon was better suited; he’s a little less emotional, but he’s funnier. Bill always knew we might not use his voiceover, as the original proof-of-concept trailer we made had an older, Marlboro Man-type voice narrating this younger character’s thoughts, so it was never a secret that this was our original idea.

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“And the reaction to the new trailer and Jon’s voice has validated that decision. A few days after the trailer dropped, somebody made artwork of Bob from Bob’s Burgers in a red vest, splattered in blood, it was the funniest thing ever.”

It was the last hurdle in a production process that took several years, kicking off shortly after the original proof-of-concept short made the rounds in the mid-2010s. One studio the film was set up at backed out, leaving the film in limbo until pre-production resumed in 2022, but the director remains thankful for this long gestation period.

“This movie is not for everybody, it’s violent, funny and weird. A studio looks at a movie like this with caution, even if they like it; I’d be concerned if they all told me they loved the idea, as then I’d be concerned I hadn’t got the crazy idea I thought I had!

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“I’m grateful for the time it took for this movie to find the right producers. I wouldn’t want to work with any who’d massacre the movie and create a butchered PG-13 cut to make the most money – we found the right partners, in the end, who shared our vision, and it turned out pretty close to what I envisioned in the first place.”

With the film finally about to be unleashed into cinemas, Mohr is looking to the future, and has publicly teased a sequel – possibly entitled Girl Kills World – ever since the test cut premiered at TIFF. But will it happen?

“The ideas have long been spinning between the producers, the writers and myself. On the breaks in filming, you shoot the s**t, thinking of ways you could follow up on certain storylines, and we had a lot of ideas, but they all depend on people coming out to see it, and if they actually like it.

“We’re now waiting to see if it’s feasible, but the second I hear that it is will be the second I start working on it…”

Boy Kills World is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 26th April.

Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.