9:00am PT by Patrick Shanley
'Wolfenstein II' Stars Address Nazi Marketing Controversy
Since its launch in 1981, the Wolfenstein video game franchise has sparked controversy. From its often over-the-top violence to its controversial subject matter, the series often finds itself making headlines whenever a new title is announced.
Naturally, the upcoming Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is no exception. The game, which takes place in an alternate timeline in which Nazi Germany has taken over America, sparked a wave of backlash from some for its latest marketing campaign slogan, "Make America Nazi-Free Again" — a play on President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan from his 2016 presidential run. The game took on an unexpected relevance in August, following tragic violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a white supremacy rally attended by neo-Nazis.
In the forthcoming game, a direct sequel to 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order, players once more take control of war veteran William "B.J." Blazkowicz as he leads the underground Resistance to fight against the Nazi regime in the United States. It's from developer MachineGames and publisher Bethesda Softworks (the studio behind both the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series).
The game's stars, Brian Bloom and Nina Franoszek, were guests on the most recent Donkey Con Artists podcast, hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley, where they discussed the game's controversial subject matter, why the series has endured over such a long period of time, and the absolute craziness the first-person shooter has in store for its fans.
Bloom, who stars as the hard-nosed veteran Blazkowicz, wasted no time in addressing the recent Nazi controversy and the game's unexpected relevance in today's political climate. "The only thing [the new game] has in common with anything in history is that the Nazis are bad guys, and I hope and think and thought and still do that we all agree," the star said. "It's nice that you can jump behind the barrel and be B.J. and although it's complex, it's not complicated. Through his barrel and sensibilities and belt-fed diplomacy, do his best to solve this problem. It's awesome to be involved in that and wherever it crosses with what's happening currently, that was not what we were making or what I was doing when I put the dots on."
For Franoszek, a German-born actress who portrays the game's main antagonist, Frau Engel, the subject matter was very close to home. "My father is Jewish and my mother is German. In the past, there was a German general on the mother's side and Jews trying to survive in Poland on the father's side, so the subject was very close to me," Franoszek said. "I've done a lot of research to understand my own past and been to Auschwitz and all that, but as an actor what really convinced me was the script. The script to me was very similar to Inglourious Basterds, and I was given the opportunity to play sort of the Cristoph Waltz character as a female with a boytoy."
Franoszek said she normally doesn't play the "perpetrators" in World War II projects, but the script for Wolfenstein gave her an opportunity to play a truly unique character. "The freedom that [MachineGames] gave us to really develop these characters brings out a lot. For me, it was almost like a theater production," Franoszek said.
In addition to speaking about the game's resonance, the stars also dropped a few cryptic hints about standout moments to look forward to when fans finally get their hands on the controls. "All the moments we're excited for you to get your hands on, we can't even hint at," Bloom said with a laugh. "Listen, there are some epic moments in this thing and some incredible face-time between [B.J. and Frau Engel]. They tend to resolve conflict through violence and these are two individuals who are probably seeking out each other to not only cut off the head of the snake but to face the best counter or opposite that validates their existence."
Franoszek also teased the relationship between Engel and her daughter, which will show off just how "narcissistic" and "cruel" her character is. "We went far," Franoszek said.
"You're going to have a blast as these two hunt each other," Bloom promised.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on Oct. 27.
Listen to the interview in full at the 16:06 mark below.