Edit
Werner Herzog Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (37) | Personal Quotes (76)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 5 September 1942Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Birth NameWerner H. Stipetic
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Director. Writer. Producer. Has studied history, literature and theatre, but hasn't finished it. Founded his own production company in 1963. Has staged several operas, besides others in Bayreuth, Germany, and at the Milan Scala in Italy. Herzog has won numerous national and international awards for his films.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Oliver Heidelbach

Spouse (3)

Lena Herzog (1999 - present)
Christine Ebenberger (19 August 1987 - 1997) (divorced) (1 child)
Martje Grohmann (1967 - 1985) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (8)

His films contain animals doing unusual things
His films contain long, extended landscape shots
Frequently worked with Klaus Kinski
Screeching cellos and violins in musical scores
Driven protagonists who often seem to be on the brink of madness
His films frequently feature characters or real people who attempt to change nature but are ultimately overwhelmed by it
His films often show archive footage from various sources
Urabamba River in Peru is used as a regular location for some of his films

Trivia (37)

Herzog is being admired for being the only director who was able to work with the late and very eccentric Klaus Kinski.
Herzog once promised to eat his shoe if a young American film student went out and actually made the film he was always only talking about. The young student was Errol Morris, who met the challenge with his off-beat 1978 pet cemetery documentary Gates of Heaven (1978) (and went on to make The Thin Blue Line (1988) and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)). Herzog makes good on his promise in the film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980), directed by Les Blank.
Worked nights in a steel factory in 1961 to raise money for his films. In 1966, he was employed by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). .
Brother of Lucki Stipetic.
Has three children from three women: Rudolph Herzog (born in 1973), Hanna Mattes (born in 1980) and Simon Herzog (born in 1989).
When he was thirteen years old he and his family lived in an apartment in Munich which they shared with several other people. One of them was the actor Klaus Kinski.
Was voted the 35th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Claimed to have walked by foot from Munich, Germany to Paris, France (a distance of about 500 miles) in 1974 to prevent the very sick film historian and good friend, Lotte Eisner, from dying (as, applying his logic, she wouldn't dare to die until he visited her on her deathbed). Eisner, indeed, went on to live for 8 more years after Herzog's journey.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945- 1985". Pages 422-429. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Said in DVD commentary for Incident at Loch Ness (2004) that his first book was a Marshal- Plan copy of "Winnie the Pooh", and it remains one of his favorites.
Joaquin Phoenix was in a car accident on a winding canyon road where his vehicle flipped over. Shaken and confused, he heard a tapping on his window and a voice said, "Just relax." Unable to see the man, Phoenix replied, "I'm fine. I am relaxed." When he managed to see that the man, he realized it was Werner Herzog, who then replied, "No, you're not." After helping Phoenix out of the wreckage, Herzog phoned for an ambulance and vanished.
In late 2005, during an interview with BBC film critic Mark Kermode regarding Grizzly Man (2005), a sniper opened fire on them with an air rifle. Kermode panicked when Herzog calmly said, "Someone is shooting at us." One of the pellets then hit Herzog. An unmoved Herzog said that the bullet was 'not a significant one' and insisted on continuing the interview.
Herzog claims in a 2006 Bloomberg interview that he had the chance to direct both Brokeback Mountain (2005) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
Invited to join AMPAS in 2006
Lives in Los Angeles.
Was romantically linked to Eva Mattes. They have a daughter together, Hanna Mattes.
Studied at the University of Munich and later earned a scholarship to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, but dropped out after only a few days.
Only feature-film director to have made a film on every continent.
Has a sister, Sigrid. and two brothers, Tilbert and producer 'Lucki Stipetic.
Claimed that when he was a few days old, he was nearly killed after Allied bombs caused a skylight in his nursery to shatter. The shards fell around his cot but somehow did not injure him.
Mother, Elisabeth, and father, Dietrich, were biologists.
Claims to have been 17 years old before he made his first first phone call.
When he first took an IQ test as a young boy, he scored 124. He then re-took the test years later and scored an average 101.
Was scheduled to fly on the same ill-fated plane as fellow German teenager Juliane Koepcke in 1971, but was bumped from the flight at the last minute. On Christmas Eve, the plane crashed in the Amazon jungle, and 17-year-old Juliane was the only survivor, after enduring 11 days alone. Her tale was told in 1974's Miracles Still Happen (1974).
Frequently directs operas on stage, but never on film, and finds the two forms fundamentally incompatible.
Herzog received a lifetime achievement award, the Pardo d'onore, from the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2013, only four months after being similarly honored for his lifetime achievement in cinema by the German Film Academy in April 2013.
His documentary entitled "From One Second to the Next," which explores the consequences of texting while driving, had its premiere August 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. It was sponsored by several major mobile phone companies.
New York City: Eight of Herzog's early films will be screened in tribute to his work, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, from Aug. 16-22. [July 2013]
He was invited to get an honorary doctorate from Cambridge. He refused it, however, because he believes he is not the man for this kind of respectability.
He considers Nosferatu (1922) to be the greatest German film ever made. He directed the remake Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).
In 1968, Signs of Life (1968) won the German Film Prize and a Silver Bear as Best Debut Film at the Berlinale. The following year, Herzog organized a free alternative to the Berlinale in Wedding, a working-class district of Berlin, showing festival films at no charge for people who wouldn't ordinarily encounter independent and off-beat movies such as his own.
Has shot 5 of his films in Peru: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Fitzcarraldo (1982), My Best Fiend (1999), Wings of Hope (2000) and parts of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009).
According to Roger Ebert, 'even his failures are spectacular'.
Never uses storyboards.
Writes his screenplays in 4-5 days.
Has a school of guerrilla filmmaking called 'Rogue Film School'.
François Truffaut once called him 'the most important film director alive'.

Personal Quotes (76)

TV uses landscapes. I transform landscapes - I direct landscapes.
[on the ending of Stroszek (1977)] When I saw the dancing chicken, I knew I would create a grand metaphor - for what, I don't know.
[on working with Klaus Kinski] I had to domesticate the wild beast.
Perhaps I seek certain utopian things, space for human honour and respect, landscapes not yet offended, planets that do not exist yet, dreamed landscapes. Very few people seek these images today.
So, you have to be daring to do things like this, because the world is not easily accepting of filmmaking. There will always be some sort of an obstacle, and the worst of all obstacles is the spirit of bureaucracy. You have to find your way to battle bureaucracy. You have to outsmart it, to outgut it, to outnumber it, to outfilm them - that's what you have to do.
I love nature but against my better judgment.
[During the making of Fitzcarraldo (1982)] I shouldn't make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum.
Every gray hair on my head I call Kinski.
If I had to climb into hell and wrestle the devil himself for one of my films, I would do it.
Film should be looked at straight on, it is not the art of scholars but of illiterates.
Through invention, through imagination, through fabrication, I become more truthful than the little bureaucrats.
At my utopian film academy I would have students do athletic things with real physical contact, like boxing, something that would teach them to be unafraid. I would have a loft with a lot of space where in one corner there would be a boxing ring. Students would train every evening from eight to ten with a boxing instructor: sparring, somersaulting (backwards and forwards), juggling, magic card tricks. Whether or not you would be filmmaker by the end I do not know, but at least you would come out as an athlete.
I despise formal restaurants. I find all of that formality to be very base and vile. I would much rather eat potato chips on the sidewalk.
I have the impression that the images that surround us today are worn out, they are abused and useless and exhausted. They are limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution. When I look at the postcards in tourist shops and the images and advertisements that surround us in magazines, or I turn on the television, or if I walk into a travel agency and see those huge posters with that same tedious and rickety image of the Grand Canyon on them, I truly feel there is something dangerous emerging here. The biggest danger, in my opinion, is television because to a certain degree it ruins our vision and makes us very sad and lonesome. Our grandchildren will blame us for not having tossing hand-grenades into TV stations 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.
Actually, for some time now I have given some thought to opening a film school. But if I did start one up you would only be allowed to fill out an application form after you have walked alone on foot, let's say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of about five thousand kilometres. While walking, write. Write about your experiences and give me your notebooks. I would be able to tell who had really walked the distance and who had not. While you are walking you would learn much more about filmmaking and what it truly involves than you ever would sitting in a classroom. During your voyage you will learn more about what your future holds than in five years at film school. Your experiences would be the very opposite of academic knowledge, for academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion.
Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.
Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs.
Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of mind; cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art and academicism.
Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good Kung Fu film.
Coincidences always happen if you keep your mind open, while storyboards remain the instruments of cowards who do not trust in their own imagination and who are slaves of a matrix... If you get used to planning your shots based solely on aesthetics, you are never that far from kitsch.
I invite any sort of myths [about myself] because I like the stooges and doppelgangers and doubles out there. I feel protected behind all these things. Let them blossom! I do not plant them, I do not throw out the seeds. I advise you to read Herzog on Herzog because there you see a few clarifications.
It is my firm belief, and I say this as a dictum, that all these tools now at our disposal, these things part of of this explosive evolution of means of communication, mean we are now heading for an era of solitude. Along with this rapid growth of forms of communication at our disposal - be it fax, phone, email, Internet or whatever - human solitude will increase in direct proportion.
To me, adventure is a concept that applies only to those men and women of earlier historical times, like the medieval knights who traveled into the unknown. The concept has degenerated constantly since then... I absolutely loathe adventurers, and I particularly hate this old pseudo-adventurism where the mountain climb becomes about confronting the extremes of humanity.
If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe.
On Klaus Kinski: "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".
Your film is like your children. You might want a child with certain qualities, but you are never going to get the exact specification right. The film has a privilege to live its own life and develop its own character. To suppress this is dangerous. It is an approach that works the other way too: sometimes the footage has amazing qualities that you did not expect.
Our children will hate us for not throwing hand grenades into every TV station because of commercials.
Every gray hair on my head is because of Kinski. - on Klaus Kinski
You leave this jungle now and you'll find eight bullets in you and the ninth one will be for me - [to Klaus Kinski on the set of Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) (aka Aguirre: The Wrath of God)].
It is not only my dreams, my belief is that all these dreams are your's as well. The only distinction between me and you is that I can articulate them. And that is what poetry or painting or literature or film making is all about... it's as simple as that. I make films because I have not learned anything else and I know I can do it to a certain degree. And it is my duty because this might be the inner chronicle of what we are. We have to articulate ourselves, otherwise we would be cows in the field.
I'm not out to win prizes - that's for dogs and horses.
I know whenever it comes to be really dysfunctional and vile and base and hostile on screen, I'm good at that!
I don't spend sleepless nights over getting very bad reviews.
There are certainly laws and elements that make a film more accessible to mainstream audiences. If you've got Tom Cruise as a strongman, I'm sure it would have larger audiences, but it wouldn't have the same substance.
[on threatening to shoot Klaus Kinski on Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)] Yes, I did that. I said to him that there was a line that neither he nor I could cross; we had a higher duty than ourselves. I told him it was impermissible for him to walk away. I explained to him calmly that he would not survive if he tried. I had a rifle - not in my hands - and I told him I would shoot him. He understood this was not a joke. He screamed for the police. The nearest police station was 40km away. And for $20 flat they would have testified to it being a hunting accident.
Of the filmmakers with whom I feel some kinship Griffith, Murnau, Pudovkin, Buñuel and Kurosawa come to mind. Everything these men did has the touch of greatness.
[on Bruno S. in the film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)] I instantly knew he could be the leading character in "Kaspar Hauser".
[on whether he'd like to direct a film like Jack Reacher (2012)] I've made bigger films than that, "One Shot" [former title] is just more expensive.
I'm not an interviewer. I have conversations. And I know the heart of men. I know it because I have had fundamental experiences like traveling on foot. The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. You're unprotected and have to talk to people to ask them to fill your canister because there's no creek for dozens of miles. You really learn what men are all about.
[on why his generation doesn't support capital punishment] We have seen the barbarism of a state-ordered industrialized murder program. I'm not saying that's an argument. It's only an historical experience that we still sense within us. America has not had this experience.
[his first interview question to death-row inmates] Your crime is abominable and monstrous, but I will treat you as a human being.
[on the director of The Act of Killing (2012)] Joshua Oppenheimer is not the inventor of the casual and unbelievable surrealism that seeps into this film from all corners. It does not come from him, it is not imposed by him. You watch this, and you know that in a way, it's real. And yet you cannot believe that reality can take forms as crazy and weird as that. [Without the staged re-creations] you would end up with a self-righteous, mediocre film you would see on television, a regular issues film, and I say that with venom. These are precisely the scenes that would be cut.
Never show anything to anyone in a documentary. They will become self-conscious and freak out. The will think, 'Oh, the light on me was bad', or 'My hairdo wasn't good enough', and 'My God, I spoke too fast'. Never, never, ever, ever do that.
When you look on the Internet, there are at least two or three dozen fake Herzogs out there. Sometimes people answer back to my questions as if they were me. I could shut down these websites very quickly, but I don't want that. I consider them my unpaid bodyguards. Let them battle out there.
There are billions of people who have cellphones. All of them can shoot a movie on it, if you want to do that. The Internet is spread out into everywhere, so you have to find your own means, your new outlets, for distribution.
I make films because I have not learned anything else.
[on Nastassja Kinski] To understand Nastassja, you must look at her parents. Her mother is a poet, her father was possessed.
Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
Day one is the point of no return.
There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
[when asked about his favourite Muppet] I do not know Jim Henson and I do not know the Muppets.
[why he has never taken a vacation] It would never occur to me... I work steadily and methodically, with great focus. There is never anything frantic about how I do my job; I'm no workaholic. A holiday is a necessity for someone whose work is an unchanged daily routine, but for me everything is constantly fresh and always new. I love what I do, and my life feels like one long vacation.
We can never know what truth really is. The best we can do is approximate... Truth can never be definitively captured or described, though the quest to find answers is what gives meaning to our existence.
When I write, I sit in front of the computer and pound the keys. I start at the beginning and write fast, leaving out anything that isn't necessary, aiming at all times for the hard core of the narrative. I can't write without that urgency. Something is wrong if it takes more than five days to finish a screenplay. A story created this way will always be full of life.
I try to give meaning to my existence through my work. That's a simplified answer, but whether I'm happy or not really doesn't count for much. I have always enjoyed my work. Maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word; I love making films, and it means a lot to me that I can work in this profession. I am well aware of the many aspiring filmmakers out there with good ideas who never find a foothold. At the age of fourteen, once I realized filmmaking was an uninvited duty for me, I had no choice but to push on with my projects. Cinema has given me everything, but has also taken everything from me.
I work best under pressure, knee-deep in the mud. It helps me concentrate. The truth is I have never been guided by the kind of strict discipline I see in some people, those who get up at five in the morning and jog for an hour. My priorities are elsewhere. I will rearrange my entire day to have a solid meal with friends.
A natural component of filmmaking is the struggle to find money. It has been an uphill battle my entire working life... If you want to make a film, go make it. I can't tell you the number of times I have started shooting a film knowing I didn't have the money to finish it. I meet people everywhere who complain about money; it's the ingrained nature of too many filmmakers. But it should be clear to everyone that money has always had certain explicit qualities: it's stupid and cowardly, slow and unimaginative. The circumstances of funding never just appear; you have to create them yourself, then manipulate them for your own ends. This is the very nature and daily toil of filmmaking. If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs.
Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Although for many years I lived hand to mouth - sometimes in semi-poverty - I have lived like a rich man ever since I started making films. Throughout my life I have been able to do what I truly love, which is more valuable than any cash you could throw at me. At a time when friends were establishing themselves by getting university degrees, going into business, building careers and buying houses, I was making films, investing everything back into my work. Money lost, film gained.
The best advice I can offer to those heading into the world of film is not to wait for the system to finance your projects and for others to decide your fate. If you can't afford to make a million-dollar film, raise $10,000 and produce it yourself. That's all you need to make a feature film these days. Beware of useless, bottom-rung secretarial jobs in film-production companies. Instead, so long as you are able-bodied, head out to where the real world is. Roll up your sleeves and work as a bouncer in a sex club or a warden in a lunatic asylum or a machine operator in a slaughterhouse. Drive a taxi for six months and you'll have enough money to make a film. Walk on foot, learn languages and a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema. Filmmaking - like great literature - must have experience of life at its foundation. Read Conrad or Hemingway and you can tell how much real life is in those books. A lot of what you see in my films isn't invention; it's very much life itself, my own life. If you have an image in your head, hold on to it because - as remote as it might seem - at some point you might be able to use it in a film. I have always sought to transform my own experiences and fantasies into cinema.
[on the difference of his documentary work to 'Direct Cinema'] I'm not a fly on the wall. That would be utterly boring. I'm a filmmaker. I create films. I stylize them, I narrate them, I captivate an audience, I do everything a director should do. You see, what I do has to do a lot also with some sort of cautious humor. But also the joy of creating, the joy of taking an audience along with me, left and right.[2015]
[if it was easier to make films in the past] No, it was probably harder because the tools of making films were expensive and inaccessible. I had to steal a camera, or rather as I call it, "appropriate" a camera. Today you can make a film with fairly high-quality digital equipment that is very inexpensive and do a feature film for under $10,000. In other words, young people who are in the culture of complaint, saying the financiers are so stupid and the studios do not listen to me, should just roll up their sleeves, earn some money and make a film.[2011]
[on his big break as a filmmaker] I wrote a screenplay, "Signs of Life" [later to become his feature film debut Signs of Life (1968)], and submitted it to a competition of all German-speaking screenwriters and filmmakers. There was a cash prize with it and I submitted it under a pen name because I was already known for three short films. ... I won this award, which really carried me for quite a time. That was a very huge push.[2011]
[on his surname] It's Stipetic. It's Croatian. My mother's side of the family originated from Croatia. My parents divorced and technically my name is Stipetic. My younger brother is Stipetic. Herzog was my father's name [Dietrich Herzog]. As a filmmaker, I thought Herzog sounded so much better. It means Duke. Duke Ellington, Count Basie or King Vidor. Although I was never really close to my father, it sounded better.[2011]
[on getting Klaus Kinski back to work] In Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), at the end, ten days before the end of shooting, Kinski, I believe as usual, didn't learn his lines. They were very short lines anyway, and he all of a sudden interrupts everything and throws everything around and he screams in a tantrum and destroys half the set and screams that the still photographer had smiled and had to be dismissed on the spot. Of course I wouldn't dismiss him because everyone else would have walked out in solidarity. I said "No, I'm not doing it, let's calm down and we'll continue." And he left the set. And I knew why he had done it because he had done it 35 times just within the last five years. And because of that, movies were canceled and destroyed. It was too well documented. He packed his things into a speedboat and screamed and screamed. And it was somehow not correctly reported in the press, but I have witnesses that I was unarmed, and did not point a gun at him, but I walked up and I said to him, "Klaus, I don't have to make up my mind. I've had months of deliberating where is the borderline that we will not transgress. This would be the transgression, the borderline. This is something that you will not survive." I said to him, "I do have a rifle," very calmly. He could try to take the boat and he might reach the next bend of the river but he would have eight bullets through his head. But of course there were nine bullets, and I said, "Guess who gets the last one?" And he looked at me and he understood it was not a joke anymore. I would have done it. He understood he better behave, and it was kind of hostile for the next couple of days. But what I'm trying to say is, the incident may sound funny now, and it seems funny and bizarre to me; if I sat out there I would laugh with you. But what I'm trying to say is that there's always been a very clear borderline, a line that must not be stepped over. So once you accept the duty you have to understand the duty that is upon you.[2005]
[on hypnosis] Heart of Glass (1976), yes, I did that film with the entire cast under hypnosis. And so I taught Tim Roth how to do it [in Invincible (2001)] and the funny thing was that the cinematographer was looking through the eyepiece and sitting that close and all of a sudden started to weave, and I grabbed him by the hair while the scene was still running and softly shook him. So yes, if the audience will be willing, it can be hypnotized from the screen. And that was what I actually had planned to do in "Heart of Glass"; I actually had the idea that I would appear on screen myself, and explain that I was the director and the scenes were shot under hypnosis. "And if you are willing to see the film under hypnosis, you should follow my advice now. I will ask you to look at something like a pencil, and don't remove your eyes, and listen to my voice and follow my words and follow my instructions." And of course I would tell the audience that at the end of the film they will return to the screen and softly wake up again. I have actually shown films to audiences who were hypnotized, including for example Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972).[2005]
{on doing Fitzcarraldo (1982) without special effects] It was disgusting actually because at that time 20th Century Fox was interested to produce a film and we had a very brief conversation of about five sentences because it was clear their position was, "You have to do it with a miniature boat." From there on it was clear no one in the industry would ever support something like that. It was really risky, and I knew, at that moment, I was alone with it. I tried to explain that I wanted to have the audience know that at the most fundamental level it was real. Today when you see mainstream movies, in many moments, even when it's not really necessary, there special effects. It's a young audience, and at six and seven kids can identify them, they know it was a digital effect, and normally they even know how they were done. But I had the feeling I wanted to put the audience back in the position where they could trust their eyes ...[2005]
[on dubbing Klaus Kinski for Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) with another voice] I obviously paid him much less than others would offer him. I mean a fraction of that. I didn't have the budget. Kinski the bastard won a third of the entire budget. And then, there's an interesting thing, the real good version is the German version, it's the authentic version, but since we filmed a lot in rapids there was such a huge noise that - of course we did have some direct sound - but you could hardly understand a word. We had to post-synch it, so I said to Klaus, "We need you for looping, for one and a half days." He said, "Yes, I'm coming, but it will cost a million dollars." And there was absolutely no way. He knew, of course, I didn't have a thousand dollars, everything was gone, my wrist watch was gone, everything, and he asked for a million dollars, he hated the film so badly you could not believe it. And he didn't show up for looping so I looped it with a different voice, and the voice is as good as Kinski. I took a lot of effort; nobody, nobody would ever know. But you know it now. Can you please not... do not leak to the press.[2005]
I like the crabs a lot {at the end of Invincible (2001)]. Actually what you see in the film was shot on Christmas Island, actually two Christmas Islands, one in the Pacific and one in the Indian Ocean west of the Australian mainland. I spent some 10 or 12 days just waiting for the crabs to arrive because there's only a very short window of opportunity during the very first days; 70 or 80 million crabs start migrating from the jungle to the beaches. They mate, lay their eggs and disappear back into the jungle. So it took quite an effort and some time to get them on film. (...) I think about them and I don't know why. I can't explain it. I know there's something very big for example, to see the crabs crossing the railroad tracks, something that I can't explain, but I know there's something big, like for example the dancing chicken at the end of Stroszek (1977). (...) It is also one of my great favorites, and that image also fell into my lap. I don't know how and why; the strange thing is that with both the crabs and the dancing chicken at the end of "Stroszek," the crew couldn't take it, they hated it, they were a loyal group and in case of "Stroszek" they hated it so badly that I had to operate the camera myself because the cinematographer who was very good and dedicated, hated it so much that he didn't want to shoot it. He said, "I've never seen anything as dumb as that." And I tried to say, "You know there's something so big about it." But they couldn't see it. (...) When you are speaking about these images, there's something bigger about them, and I keep saying that we do have to develop an adequate language for our state of civilization, and we do have to create adequate pictures - images for our civilization. If we do not do that, we die out like dinosaurs, so it's of a different magnitude, trying to do something against the wasteland of images that surround us, on television, magazines, post cards, posters in travel agencies...[2005]
{on F.W. Murnau and post-war cinema in Germany] I'm still convinced that there's no better German film than Nosferatu (1922), his silent film, and since we were the first postwar generation and we had no fathers, we had no mentors, we had no teachers, we had no masters, we were a generation of orphans. Many of us actually were orphans. Same thing with me but in many other cases a father just died in captivity, in the war, whatever. And those who make movies, the majority, the vast majority, died with the Nazi regime. A few were sent to concentration camps and the best left the country like Murnau [before WWII] and others, so the only kind of reference in my case was the generation of the grandfathers, the silent era of expressionist films. [The film critic and historian] Lotte Eisner was a great mentor of mine, who knew the entire film history, I mean she knew every single person that had worked in cinema and had an important part. She knew the brothers Lumiere, she knew Melies, who made films between 1904 and 1914, and she knew Eisenstein and all the younger ones. The young friends, the young German ones. So she was one of the very last people on this planet who had known all of them and seen all of their films, and there was not one who did not bow his or her head in reverence to her. (...) Actually, with Signs of Life (1968), my first film, I sent it by mail and she actually saw it and she sent it to Fritz Lang, saying "Finally they have cinema again in Germany." He liked the film...[2005]
[on the dangers of filming Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) on location] You know, I've filmed in Black Africa, and during the shoot I was jailed five times in a row, I had malaria, we almost died - nothing scares me anymore, neither a jungle nor a Klaus Kinski, nor costumes, nor being with hundreds of Indians. There were in fact extraordinary difficulties, financial problems too. When you see the film, it looks as though it must have cost $2 million to make. But it cost maybe a tenth of that.[1973]
[on Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and why he chose to film in Peru] That has to do with the history of the film, with its story, which takes place in Peru in the 16th century and deals with the search for El Dorado, the land of gold. To be authentic, I had to go to Peru, to the original locations. So pre-production was intensive. I was in Peru for half a year, scouting parts of all the major tributaries of the Amazon. I looked for rapids that were the most spectacular, but not too dangerous to cross with the cameras, with several hundred people, and with all the props, rafts and horses. I found some unbelievably beautiful locations. Some of the most beautiful parts of Peru are in my film. (...) The Peruvian army supplied us with an amphibian aircraft and set up a small radio station, so that we always had contact with the nearest bigger city, assuming the electricity didn't fail. (...) Ninety-five percent of the extras were Peruvians. And a fifteen-year-old Peruvian girl from Lima played one of the main roles. Then we had around 250 highland Indians from a co-op not far from Cuzco. These Indians made extraordinary contributions to the film, because they always worked with joy even under the most difficult conditions, and they represented the fate of their people in an unusual way [that is, by making a film]. And that's how they understood it. All the Spanish adventurers were played by people from the Cuzco area, the wildest people I could find anywhere. One of the main actors is a very well-known Mexican, Helena Rojo. Then there are two Brazilians, one of whom is a very famous director, Ruy Guerra. For me, he's one of the five most important filmmakers in the world right now and a terrific actor as well. Two Americans, one of them played the lead in Dennis Hopper's film, The Last Movie (1971). In all, we had 400 people from 15 countries thrown together...{1973]
[on Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) as a political film] [Films from Latin America are] ...highly political films, just like "Aguirre", although it takes place around 1560. And yet, as a theme, this horde of imperialistic adventurers performing a great historical failure, this failure of imperialism, of the conquerors, the theme is really quite modern. The method by which history was then made is actually one that can still be found today in many Latin American countries. History there is staged as theater, with theatrical coups. Think of the banana republics and their dictators. (...) A big panel of officials [by the Peruvian government] read the script in advance and was extraordinarily moved by the story. The Peruvians currently have a rather unusual form of state: It is a military dictatorship, but a liberal one that has nationalized certain industries-the banks and oil companies of the Americans - and [enacted] a huge land reform, with confiscations from large private owners. They noticed very clearly that my story revolves around the same problem of identity for the Peruvian people, the identity they're searching for, as well. How do you shake off the last vestiges of this imperialism, of Spanish conquest, to achieve a sense of 'Peruvianness.' And that's the theme of my film. It shows that the strong and the enduring are the Indians and their culture. (...) I'd rather show the film there than I would in Germany, because it fits there much better than it does here. Quechua, for example, is spoken in the film, and it remains in the German version too. It is a film that's largely meant for Latin America. But the topic may be of interest everywhere. It's also a film that's meant to be understood as a 'movie.' It's thrilling, it shows unusual locations and there's lots of action. (...) At any rate, it's my first film that will be more widely accepted. None of the others found a larger audience; they remained in the circles of cinephiles.[1973}
{on casting the notorious Wilhelm von Homburg in Stroszek (1977)] Well, he was a dangerous man with a huge amount of criminal energy. And he was the right one to play a pimp, a dangerous pimp. So it was a good choice.[2014]
[on drugs] I simply don't like the culture of drugs. I never liked the hippies for it. I think it was a mistake to be all the time stoned and on weed. It didn't look right and it doesn't look right today either and the damage drugs have done to civilizations are too enormous. And besides, I don't need any drug to step out of myself. I don't want them and I do not need them. And you may not believe this, big-eyed as you sit here now, but I've not even taken a puff of weed in my life. (...) I just pass the joint on to the next and let them do it. It's their business. I don't want to do it. Actually, I was completely stoned once with the composer Florian Fricke of Popol Vuh. I was at his home and he had pancakes and marmalade. And I smeared the marmalade and he started chuckling and chuckling. And I ate it and it tasted very well and I wanted another one and took another good amount of the marmalade and the marmalade had weed in it. He didn't even tell me. I was so stoned that it took me an hour to find my home in Munich. I circled the block for a full hour until finding my place. So I have had the experience.[2014]
[on Rescue Dawn (2006)'s troubled production] It was full of trouble and it was very, very ugly. The production was extremely ugly. Daily events are beyond description. I cannot even tell it on camera, so ugly. However, I had the nerve to keep the film out of all the daily trouble. And I kept the integrity of the film.[BBC1, 1st July 2008]

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page