German producer Bernd Eichinger is one of the titans of European film production. With credits ranging from Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer to Downfall and Resident Evil, he is responsible for some very big movies.

Under his leadership, Constantin Film has become one of the most successful German producers and distributors. That is why it comes as a surprise when Eichinger declares: 'I tell you quite frankly, I'm not a businessman at all.'

In recent years, he has been producing movies for Constantin but is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of its affairs. That mantle was taken up by Fred Kogel in 2003.

'I can manage a company but it's not what I like most,' he says. 'To run a movie company is nothing else but to decide on the right projects.'

On the festival circuit with his latest film, Uli Edel's The Baader Meinhof Complex, which he also adapted from the book by Stefan Aust, Eichinger is in reflective mood. The Baader Meinhof Complex has attracted more than two million admissions in Germany.

It has also sparked heated debate about the legacy of the terrorist groups of the 1970s and has enabled a generation of younger Germans to understand more about their parents' political beliefs.

The budget for the film - sold internationally by Summit - was around $25.7m (EUR20m). 'There was no big risk involved,' Eichinger states blithely of what most European film-makers would consider a huge movie. 'We are very, very covered. It has sold, basically, all over the world.'

The film is Germany's foreign-language Oscar candidate and Eichinger plans a US sale. '[The Americans] see it is not the normal European arthouse movie with a niche audience. They see it is a very popular movie.'

At press time, no North American distribution deal had been set. 'We've had offers but we can take our time.'

Eichinger's next project, A Minute Of Silence, adapted from the novel by Siegfried Lenz about a student and teacher's affair, promises to be a project on the familiar big Eichinger scale.

'It's not a smaller movie. It is an epic movie,' he says, explaining he will script as well as produce the project (when working on a screenplay, Eichinger dictates to a secretary for up to eight hours a day).

Ask Eichinger about the state of the European industry and he replies: 'Frankly, I don't really care. I care that I'm able to do my movies the way that I want to - and I can do that.' Constantin, he adds, is self-sufficient. It makes up to 1,000 hours of television every year as well as its movies. It has its own distribution arm in Germany and Eichinger is invariably able to pre-sell his movies widely.

He is famously patient, prepared to wait until the time is right to make a project. It took about two decades for Fantastic 4 to be made, and Perfume's gestation was almost as long. His personal taste is hard to pinpoint: he has made big-budget Marvel movies alongside arthouse fare. 'That's the fun of it,' he laughs. 'I do what interests me.'