3 Utterly Bizarre Stories Involving Werner Herzog
It’s an understatement to say that German filmmaker Werner Herzog is a colourful and fascinating character. Amusing and strange anecdotes permeate his name and while some of these tales have perhaps been exaggerated to some extent (he denies forcing actor Klaus Kinski to perform at gunpoint during the making of Aguirre, The Wrath Of God), the following 3 stories are one hundred percent true and don’t require embellishing of any kind.
3. In Which Werner Herzog Helps Joaquin Phoenix Out Of A Car Wreck
In 2006, Joaquin Phoenix lost control of his car and overturned on a road near Sunset Boulevard. He lay upside down with the air-bags deployed when he heard a voice which he described as “calming and beautiful.” This serene voice belonged to Werner Herzog who had coincidentally been driving behind Phoenix’s car and had witnessed the crash. When Phoenix tried to light a cigarette, Herzog with his soft German intonation, simply said “man relax.” Although Phoenix replied calmly that he was relaxed, Herzog told him “No you’re not.” If you’re ever in a similar situation with Werner Herzog then you should most definitely listen to what he says. What Joaquin Phoenix hadn’t realised was that there was petrol leaking from the car. But Werner Herzog saw it. He sees everything. He confiscated the lighter thus preventing Phoenix from torching himself. Then Herzog broke the rear window and pulled the Walk The Line star to safety. And like that, he was gone. The heroic director drove off without waiting for a word of thanks. Perhaps he just went home or perhaps he had to hurry so he could rescue Ed Harris from up a tree. You just never know with him.
2. In Which Werner Herzog Eats His Own Shoe
At one time we’ve all uttered something along the lines of “Oh I’ll eat my shoe if such and such happens,” but of course if said event were to actually occur then we would never go through with it. Unless your name happens to be Werner Herzog. If he says he’s going to do something then he’s going to do it. As he says himself in the short documentary, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, (a film that does exactly what it says on the tin) “I hate cowards.” In the 1970’s Werner Herzog told his friend Errol Morris that if he completed his film, Gates of Heaven, then he would eat his own shoe. This was his Herzogian method of motivating Morris and it worked. So Herzog, a man of his word, boiled his shoe for 5 hours with some garlic and some herbs and then he ate it in front of a public audience. The documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is an extremely funny and strangely uplifting piece of work. It starts off with Herzog being interviewed and talking about how we should declare holy war on talk shows as well as programmes like Bonanza and Rawhide. Then we see him contemplatively stuffing his shoe with garlic and putting it into a pot of water. I am not making any of this up. Other highlights include an anecdote about Herzog filming his feature film Even Dwarfs Started Small and how he flung himself over one of the actors who had caught fire in order to beat the flames out. He then told the actors that if they made it through the film without anymore injuries then he would throw himself onto a cactus. And when all the actors made it through the film without anymore injuries guess what Werner Herzog did? Correct! Herzog regards the act of him chomping down his shoe as an encouragement to anyone who wants to make a film but is perhaps too scared to do so. As he says himself “Once in a while we should be foolish enough to do things like that, more shoes, more boots, more garlic.” Hear, hear!
1. In Which Werner Herzog Is Shot By An Air Rifle During An Interview
When British film critic Mark Kermode began interviewing Werner Herzog on a promontory overlooking Los Angeles, little did he know that he was going to witness first-hand an extraordinary occurrence typical of the sort that have pursued Werner Herzog throughout his career. In the middle of the interview there is a peculiar sound and Herzog looks startled. This was because some unknown lunatic shot him with an air rifle. The most remarkable thing though is how calm Herzog remains during all this. With almost no emotion and certainly no indication that he’s in any pain he says “what was that?” in much the same tone somebody would use when enquiring about a library book. He insists on going through with the interview which is moved to an interior location. Kermode mentions the incident which Herzog laughs off even as he shows what looks like a rather painful wound, the kind us normal folk would certainly want treated in some way and then maybe milk for a weeks in order to get out of doing housework. But all Werner Herzog does is belittle the bullet that hit him by remarking “it is not a significant bullet.”
Werner Herzog-1, Lunatics With Air Rifles-0