Back in 2016, German director Moritz Mohr was with a group of his filmmaker friends in Berlin when they decided to band together to pull off a common goal. "We just wanted to make something cool that we would actually want to watch," he recalls. "We felt like we needed to make a film we could be proud of."

One of Mohr's friends is Dawid Szatarski, a talented stuntman and fight coordinator who has worked on such films as Kingsman: The Secret Service and Wonder Woman, which naturally led them to think about making an action movie. "Germany isn't really known for its action films, but I decided to try making one anyway," Mohr says. "We took all of our weirdest, most fun ideas and threw them all into one big pot."

The resulting movie is Boy Kills World, a genre-bending action comedy about a deaf-mute boy called Boy (Bill Skarsgård) who spends years transforming himself into a human weapon in order to exact his revenge on the tyrannical family responsible for the deaths of his mother and sister. (Sharlto Copley, Michelle Dockery and Famke Janssen co-star as the corrupt Van Der Koy family.) In a cheeky, form-breaking twist, Boy's quest is narrated by an "inner voice" that he adopted from an arcade game he played in his youth. That inner voice is provided by Bob's Burgers star H. Jon Benjamin.

"We hoped to find a way to set it apart from every other revenge movie," Mohr says. "One of the first ideas we had was to add a voice-over, but have it not be the main character's actual voice. We thought it'd be fun to give a young guy an older man's voice."

Boy Kills World was shot in South Africa in early 2022 — marking Mohr's feature directorial debut — and premiered the following year at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. On his own journey to get the film made, Mohr enticed a high-profile producer in Evil Dead II and Spider-Man filmmaker Sam Raimi. But the director hasn't forgotten the film's humble origins.

"It all started with a small group of people getting together, gathering our money, and we shot this proof of concept trailer," he tells A.frame. "It took us a year just to finish that. And now here we are. The work we put in paid off."


A.frame: I know that the film really began to gain traction once Sam Raimi and Roy Lee from Vertigo Entertainment signed on as producers. What was it like to pitch this to someone like Sam, who has mastered this sort of hyper-violent, genre-bending movie?

Before we even wrote the script, we shot this proof-of-concept trailer, and once it was done, I went to L.A. and eventually met with Roy and Sam, who watched the trailer we'd made and then agreed to take the film on and produce it. The great thing was that the proof-of-concept trailer we'd shot made it very easy for me to pitch. I'm horrible at pitching. I'm really not good at it. But being able to show someone like Sam a trailer made it easy for him to say, "I see what you want to do. Now, give me the story you want to tell." The trailer let me skip the part where I had to convey the project's tone, and since the tone of this movie is so special and unique, it would've been really hard to do that. That trailer ultimately helped a lot.

You brought in Tyler Burton Smith and Arend Remmers to turn your original idea into the actual script. What did that collaboration look like in the writing process?

It was a really long process. Arend and I started working on the film in 2017 by, basically, laying out the entire story. I think it took three or four months for us to write the first draft. Back then, we had a studio that was giving us notes, and it was interesting because the notes we got were like, "This feels too much like a cult movie. It feels too niche and not mainstream enough." We were like, "Isn't that a good thing?" And the studio said, "Not for us!" We eventually ended up back on the street and had to look for other partners to help us make the film.

From that point on, though, Tyler sort of took over. Arend and I are both German, so we knew that, at some point, we would have to have a native English speaker come in to polish the script and all of the dialogue. Tyler did much more than that, especially toward the end. He was still writing pages for us when we were shooting. It was crazy writing the script, but I think what was written was so special. People would read it and say, "Oh, yeah. We get it." The voice-over was written in a way that hadn't really ever been done before. Luckily, our producers were on board with what we wanted to do, and they believed that what we wrote would work.

Sharlto Copley and director Moritz Mohr on the set of 'Boy Kills World.'

The film feels like it takes visual inspiration from other action movies, but also graphic novels and video games to an extent. Were there any non-film sources that you looked to for inspiration?

That's a hard question to answer, because I myself have been struggling to pinpoint all of the film's influences. [Laughs] I consume a lot. I'm a big gamer. I love anime and comic books and mangas, and I do think we literally poured everything we love into the film — Tyler, Arend, Dawid, and me. We created this big canvas and said, "Let's go nuts." We wanted to create our own world, and that gave us a lot of freedom. But it's hard to point out any specific influences. You're totally right about the graphic novel quality of the film. That was actually part of my pitch for it. I said, "This is a comic book movie without the comic book." I wanted the film's aesthetic and world to feel very graphic novel-esque, so that was definitely part of my vision for it.

As for what else? I'm not sure. I don't know if I consciously pulled from anything in specific. There are always moments, though, where you sort of realize, "Oh, s**t, we took that from this." Because even though you might want to throw in little nods to other things here and there, you don't ever want to straight-up copy something. You never want to take something that somebody else created and just do it again! We were very conscious about that while we were making the film, but your subconscious is always f**king you over. [Laughs] I'll always look at something I've shot and then rewatch some other movie or TV show I love and realize, "Oh, crap. That's where I got that from."

The film's action scenes are heavily stylized. What was your creative process like working with Dawid to design the action and then your stunt team to execute it?

I took a sort of hands-off approach. I would always talk ahead of time with Dawid about each scene and what we wanted to convey. Should the scene be fun? Intense? What's the purpose of the action? We'd talk about that, and he would pitch me things he wanted to do, and we'd exchange ideas. Then he'd go off and shoot a previs and we'd get together again, and we just talked each sequence through together. Then we'd go through it again with the actors. Getting the fight scenes right involved a lot of talking and planning, but Dawid was definitely doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I'd interject here and there whenever I felt like something wasn't working or was distracting us from what we were really supposed to be focused on, but I mostly just put my trust in him. In a way, my process with him was similar to how I work with actors.

You can't talk about the film and the physicality of it all without mentioning Bill Skarsgård, who does a lot in it with no dialogue. What inspired you to cast him?

Casting the lead role in a movie like this is hard. Funnily enough, Bill's name came up really quickly. I think he was one of the first two actors we thought of for the role. I just find him to be a super intriguing performer. Of course, I've known for a long time that he's a great actor, but I remember specifically watching him in The Devil All the Time. He has a small fight in that film, and when I watched it, I noticed he was really leaning into the physicality of the scene. It blew me away. When you start putting together an action film, though, you don't immediately assume that you're going to get an amazing actor. You need someone who can do the physical scenes and sell tickets, and that's a hard thing to find. So, when Bill signed on, I was like, "Oh, I actually have someone who is an amazing actor leading this film now." I was a very happy director that day [Laughs].

When I talked to him about doing the action scenes in the movie, he said, "I promise I'm up for it. I want to get in shape and I want to train. I want to learn the choreography, and I want to do all my stunts." I told him, "Well, you can't do all your stunts, because we don't have the time or money to take that kind of risk!" So, he didn't do all of his stunts, but he did a lot! And you can tell in the movie that he's performing a lot of the choreography himself. He promised he would deliver on that front and he did. The normal, straightforward acting of the film came very natural to him, too, because he's just so good. His face is so expressive that, after watching him do just a couple of takes on our first day of filming, I knew what we were doing was going to work out.


How early did you know that you wanted H. Jon Benjamin to be Boy's inner voice?

He was literally my first pick for the inner voice! He was our first choice for the role, and I was so happy when he decided to do it. I'm a big fan of Archer and Bob's Burgers, and he's so important to the comedy of the movie. I couldn't be happier with how it all worked out. It was like a dream come true for me to get to work with him.

Their performances match up so well. Did seeing their work come together so seamlessly come as a bit of a relief?

It involved a lot of writing and editing, because those two performances happened months apart, which is not ideal. In a perfect world, Jon would have been on set with Bill. But we were making an indie movie, so we had to work with what we could actually do. Thankfully, their work does match up, and I'm madly in love with that fact.

I can't imagine this was an easy movie to make, especially as your first feature. Now that you're nearing the finish line with it, what are you most proud of pulling off?

I'm just proud of the fact that I stuck with it for so many years. I spent five years working on this project and seven years working to get other things off the ground before that. My dream was always to make a feature film, but it took such a long time. I had made two other proof-of-concept trailers before the one I made for Boy Kills World. This film was the third time I'd done that, and I remember thinking at the time that this was definitely cooler than the others I'd done, but I still wasn't sure if it was going to lead somewhere or actually result in me getting a job.

So much time passed before anything came together for me, so I'm very proud that I didn't give up. I'm also super proud of my team and the people who worked on this film. When we were on set in South Africa, it felt like everybody was — to some degree — having fun. It felt like everyone was really giving us their best, and I've worked on a lot of commercial sets where that isn't the case. You could tell that everybody really wanted this movie to be great. That's an amazing thing to feel. I hope I can keep making movies like that where you can tell that people have a clear passion for the material and really, truly believe that what they're making is something special.

By Alex Welch


'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare's Writer Was Aiming for a Guy Ritchie Tone — and Then He Got Guy Ritchie (Exclusive)

David Leitch & Kelly McCormick: 5 Action Scenes We Love

'Deadpool & Wolverine' Trailer: Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman Crash the MCU