Edit
Werner Herzog Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (29) | Personal Quotes (47)

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 - 1994) (divorced) (1 child)
Martje Grohmann (1967 - 1987) (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 (29)

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 The Story of Juliane Koepcke (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 is not the man for this kind of respectability.

Personal Quotes (47)

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) (aka "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser")] I instantly knew he could be the leading character in "Kaspar Hauser".
[on whether he'd like to direct a big film like Jack Reacher (2012)] I've made bigger films than that, One Shot 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.
[re 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 be come 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.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page