Is this the most fascinating man in film?
Five Things you may not know about Werner Herzog
A prolific new wave German director of 64 feature films and documentaries, Werner Herzog has worked with talent such as Christian Bale, Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendes,Val Kilmer, and Bruno S., a street performer who had been locked up in mental institutes for 23 years. With no acting experience, he was cast as the lead in Herzog’s “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser”, going on to win the Grand Jury Prize, the Critic’s Prize and the Ecumenical Prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.
He is the only feature-film director to have made a film on every continent. But that might possibly be the least interesting fact about him.
1. Film school was incredibly useful
Where else can you steal a great 35mm camera to shoot your movies?
“I don’t consider it theft — it was just a necessity — I had some sort of natural right for a camera, a tool to work with.” (Herzog)
In all fairness, he did make many films with it.
2. He has an unusual – but effective – way to motivate unreliable actors
When notoriously eccentric actor Klaus Kinski told Herzog he was going to abandon filming of “Aguirre: The Wrath of God”, Herzog replied “You leave this jungle now and you’ll find eight bullets in you and the ninth one will be for me.”
Kinski stayed and completed the film. A wise move since later questioning revealed Herzog was serious.
“People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other’s murder”. (Herzog)
This was not the only time Herzog and Kinski worked together, and not the only time death was a part of the actor-director equation.
Herzog planned to bomb Kinski’s house but was scared off by his dog, and during filming of “Fitzcarraldo” a group of Peruvian Indian extras offered to murder him as a favor to the director. Herzog considered the request, but needed Kinski to complete shooting the film. He is nothing if not dedicated to finishing a project.
3. Getting shot by a sniper during an interview is only a slightly above average level of strange
Hands up who’s natural response to getting shot is to say “It is not a significant bullet”.
Around this time, he also pulled Joaquin Pheonix from a car wreck.
4. He’s not a fan of television.
Invited to guest star on “The Simpsons”, Herzog requested a DVD of the show because he had never seen an episode. This could be due to his attitude towards television in general.
“Our children will hate us for not throwing hand grenades into every TV station because of commercials. Television kills our imagination and what we end up with are worn out images because of the inability of too many people to seek out fresh ones.” (Herzog).
He did, however, go on to voice the part of Walter Hottenhoffer in a 2011 episode of “The Simpsons”.
5. He keeps his promises
Very much from the “think outside the box” school of motivation, to help a young American student Errol Morris stop talking about making movies and to actually make one, Herzog promised to eat his own shoe. Morris did, the 1978 pet cemetery documentary “Gates of Heaven”, and went on to complete many more including “The Thin Blue Line” and “Fog of War”.
Herzog’s eating of his shoe was recorded in the aptly titled documentary “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.”
He is nothing if not dedicated to finishing a project.
Werner’s documentary “Into the Abyss”, exploring the death sentence in the US, will be screening in Sydney as part of the Antenna Documentary Festival from 10th until the 14th October. For more information visit http://www.antennafestival.org