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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog


9/5/1942, Munich, Germany

Birth Name

Werner Stipetic


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Werner Herzog was born Werner Herzog Stipetiƒ on September 5, 1942 in Munich, Germany. He is considered one of the greatest German film makers in recent history. His father abandoned the family when he was a young child. The family moved to Sachrang in the Chiemgau Alps to…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • Herzog's many ordeals during the making of "Fitzcarraldo" are documented in a feature-length documentary by Les Blank entitled "Burden of Dreams."

    • Werner Herzog stole a 35mm camera from the Munich Film School and used it to shoot several features, including "Aguirre: The Wrath of God." He admitted this freely but justified it by saying he "had a natural right to take it."

    • Werner was voted the 35th Greatest Driector of all time by `Entertainment Weekly`.

    • When he was 13, Werner and his family lived in an apartment in Munich which they shared with several other people including Klaus Kinski.

    • Werner was educated at the University of Munich.

    • Werner is the brother of Lucki Stipetic.

    • Werner is admired for being the only director who was able to work with the late and very eccentric Klaus Kinski.

    • Werner is 1.85 metres tall.

    • Werner has claimed to have walked from Munich, Germany to Paris, France in 1974 to see a dying friend.

    • In early 2006, Werner was shot by an air rifle during a BBC interview. Herzog is later seen in the footage laughing it off as 'insignificant.'

    • To help fund his first films, Werner worked as a welder in a steel factory.

    • Werner has a tattoo of Death on his upper right arm.

    • Werner is a film director, screenwriter, actor, and opera director.

    • Werner has three children.

    • While filming the classic "Even Dwarfs Started Small", Herzog's cast of midgets revolted. In order to get them back to work, he promised to roll in a cactus patch. He did, and work continued.

    • As a result of the success of "Gates of Heaven" (a documentary by Herzog's student at the time, Errol Morris, about pet cemeteries and the people who suffer the loss of their loved ones) Herzog made good on a bet he had made with Morris: if "Gates" was a success, he would eat his shoe. Which he does, in a short film called "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe".

  • Quotes

    • Werner: love my movies as they are. I let them develop their own lives.

    • Werner: Many of my films have not been easy work.

    • Werner: Ecstatic truth. I've always tried to strive for a much deeper truth in the images, in cinema, in storytelling, on a screen, so whether I've achieved it or not remains to be seen. . . . There are short fleeting moments when I know that I have achieved it. And to work for that and to strive for it and to try, gives at least some dignity and some meaning to my existence.

    • Werner: For such an advanced civilization as ours to be without images that are adequate to it is as serious a defect as being without memory.

    • Werner: I'm making films for an audience out there and a very tiny fraction of them are would-be filmmakers. But let's speak of them-the would-be filmmakers, the tiny fraction. I've witnessed many times when I've showed films and was present at a screening that exactly those people feel very much encouraged by what I'm doing.

    • Werner: Very often, footage that you have shot develops its own dynamic, it's own life, that is totally unexpected, and moves away from you're original intentions. And you have to acknowledge, yes, there is a child growing and developing and moving in a direction that isn't expected-accept it as it is and let it develop its own life.

    • Werner: I cannot work fast enough. I cannot cope fast enough, really. And just releasing a film is hard.

    • Werner: I'm old-fashioned; I'm a man of celluloid. I think it still has a depth and a precision that you do not have in the digital domain, and the digital domain has some disadvantages. When you shoot something and record it with a digital camera, you have an instant access to it - you don't have to wait for the dailies.

    • Werner: Strangely enough, I've always believed that my stories were mainstream stories; the films are narrated in a way that you never have a boring moment.

    • Werner: Let's put it this way: art house theaters are vanishing. They have almost disappeared completely, and that means there's a shift in what audiences want to see. And they have to be aware of that and be realistic. It's as simple as that.

    • Werner: Technology has a great advantage in that we are capable of creating dinosaurs and show them on the screen even though they are extinct 65 million years. All of a sudden, we have a fantastic tool that is as good as dreams are.

    • Werner: 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.

    • Werner: Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of mind. Cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art and academicism.

    • Werner: I didn't know cinema even existed until I was 11. I didn't see films because I didn't even know they existed. And I made my first phone call when I was 17. It's unimaginable for anyone today. At 19 or 20, I made my first film. What does it mean? I had to invent cinema for myself. I had no training in school, I was never in film school, I was never an assistant to anyone. And I had to invent as if I was the first one to make films. So that, somehow, made them (Herzog's films) different.

    • Werner: 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.

    • Werner: 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 privelege 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.

    • Werner: 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.

    • Werner: 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.

    • Werner: 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.

    • Werner: (on Klaus Kinski) Every gray hair on my head is because of Kinski.

    • Werner: I'm not out to win prizes - that's for dogs and horses.

    • Werner: (on working with Klaus Kinski) I had to domesticate the wild beast.

    • Werner: I don't spend sleepless nights over getting very bad reviews.

    • Werner: I know whenever it comes to be really dysfunctional and vile and base and hostile on screen, I'm good at that!

    • Werner: Our children will hate us for not throwing hand grenades into every TV station because of commercials.

    • Werner: Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.

    • Werner: Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.

    • Werner: I despise formal restaurants. I find all of the formality to be very base and vile. I would much rather eat potato chips on the sidewalk.

    • Werner: Through invention, through imagination, through fabrication, I become more truthful than the little bureaucrats.

    • Werner: Film should be looked at straight on, it is not the art of scholars but of illiterates.

    • Werner: If I had to climb into hell and wrestle the devil himself for one of my films, I would do it.

    • Werner: I love nature but against my better judgement.

    • (About not calling the police when he was shot during an interview near Lookout Mountain, Georgia)
      Werner: I didn't want to have police called, because when you report to police you have been shot at by a man with a rifle, they send out a helicopter and a SWAT team. They would have over-reacted, and I thought, 'this is not a serious bullet, this is part of the folklore out of here, this is something we can laugh about it later on,' and we laughed a lot. I have been shot at with much more serious bullets before, in my life, and what I am trying to say, it's something very exhilarating for a man to be shot at with little success.

    • Henry Rollins: Do you think now, in 2006, you could go to a big studio... and pitch Fitzcarraldo, and say, 'We're not gonna to use CGI, we're not gonna use any computer imaging, we're really going to pull a damn boat over a mountain.'?
      Werner Herzog: It wouldn't fly. You wouldn't do it. You see, sometimes there are things-- there are projects out there that you do not solve with cash money, and with a big studio backing you up. You do not move mountains with money, you move mountains with faith.

    • Henry Rollins: Let's talk about your documentary filmmaking, which to me is — I've never seen anything like your documentaries. Can you explain the idea of 'ecstatic truth'?
      Werner Herzog: I think at the moment there's a major tectonic shift going on. We have virtual reality in the internet, we have reality TV, we have got digital effects, we've got Photoshop. Everything is pointing towards a redefinition of reality. We have to start seeing, and working, and explaining, and articulating reality in movies in a different way. Cinema verite was the answer of the sixties. Today it's something else out there, and I've always said, 'sure, reality has to be seen in a new way,' but that is not so much the interesting part of it. The interesting side of it is, where is truth in all this? Cinema verite is the accountant's truth, as I keep saying. I have insulted many with that, but I've always been after what I call an 'ecstatic truth' — an ecstasy of truth... facts do not create truth. Facts create norms, but they do not create an illumination.

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