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"I ran for my life"

Andreas Lust, can you remember “Pumpgun Ronnie”?

I can remember coming across the story as a child, how the police had been on his trail for
weeks. Afterwards, I had the feeling that at the time there was a kind of Robin Hood atmosphere
to it. You get pulled in and carried along.

How did you approach the film project?

First of all I read the screenplay and then the novel. For me the real challenge was to become
less preoccupied with the personality, but to go through it in an abstract way. I did look through
the material on Kastenberger and spoke to eyewitnesses and friends of his, but it was not
about building a pyschological profile or even recreating scenes from his childhood. Benjamin
Heisenberg told me from the very beginning: we are making a wildlife documentary; we are
observing a puma in its natural habitat. He is also aimless: he has to because he can. Rettenberger
channelled energy into time and distance. I found this abstraction a great challenge, in
any case, because I tend to fill out characters with content. Meanwhile, I saw Rettenberger not
so much as a character or as a figure, but as a metaphor for pure energy.

Did you have to attend a casting session? What was tested there?

We tested dialogue scenes extensively during the casting session, but the physical component
was very important too, even at that early stage. It was important not only to be able to play a
marathon runner but to become one.

How did you train for it?

Martin Prinz was my running trainer. We not only worked on fitness but particularly on the
running style. We had to move from jogging and get closer to certain marathon steps which are
longer and more economical. But there is always that part of proper running you cannot force
with all the will in the world, and you can only achieve by running, running and more running.
That’s something that you can’t fake.

How did you find the day you did the Vienna Marathon shoot?

I really reached my limit there. I was very uptight on the day because everything depended on
me. The logistical expense was considerable, because we had to go in at various points of the
route again and again and run along for one or two kilometres. The last bit from the Opera to
Heldenplatz was the greatest challenge. We found a gap in the runners and joined the race.
I couldn’t let the distance between me and the runners in the race get any shorter and ran
the last 300 metres to the finishing line in front of 30,000 spectators who cheered as the
announcement came: «Johann Rettenberger for Austria». It gave me goose-bumps and I ran
for my life.