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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog

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Also Known As: Werner Stipetic Died:
Born: September 5, 1942 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Germany Profession: director, producer, screenwriter, actor, parking lot attendant, dock worker, welder

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

lf War on Kuwait. But even in documentaries, Herzog was not without controversy, as he was expelled from Kuwait by the Amirs for his depiction of the men and women who fought the oil well fires set by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. By this time, Herzog had ventured into directed opera, surprising for someone who claimed that he refused to listen to any music for almost a decade as a child after refusing to sing in front of class. Over the years, he directed such noted operas as "Doktor Faustus" (1986), "Giovanna d'Arco" (1989), "The Flying Dutchman" (1993) and Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (1999). Turning back to documentaries, he filmed "Little Dieter Needs to Fly" (1997), a look at German-American Navy pilot Dieter Dengler, who was shot down during Vietnam and sent to a POW camp where he suffered torture and starvation before making a brave successful escape through the perilous jungles.For his next film, the documentary "My Best Fiend" (1999), Herzog explored the chaotic life and career of his old friend, Klaus Kinski, who once called the director a "blowhard" and a "sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep." In rather blasé fashion, Herzog recounted the tumultuous professional and personal...

lf War on Kuwait. But even in documentaries, Herzog was not without controversy, as he was expelled from Kuwait by the Amirs for his depiction of the men and women who fought the oil well fires set by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. By this time, Herzog had ventured into directed opera, surprising for someone who claimed that he refused to listen to any music for almost a decade as a child after refusing to sing in front of class. Over the years, he directed such noted operas as "Doktor Faustus" (1986), "Giovanna d'Arco" (1989), "The Flying Dutchman" (1993) and Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (1999). Turning back to documentaries, he filmed "Little Dieter Needs to Fly" (1997), a look at German-American Navy pilot Dieter Dengler, who was shot down during Vietnam and sent to a POW camp where he suffered torture and starvation before making a brave successful escape through the perilous jungles.

For his next film, the documentary "My Best Fiend" (1999), Herzog explored the chaotic life and career of his old friend, Klaus Kinski, who once called the director a "blowhard" and a "sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep." In rather blasé fashion, Herzog recounted the tumultuous professional and personal relationship that resulted in nasty on-set encounters and various death threats, including serious consideration by Herzog to firebomb Kinski's house. "My Best Fiend" was a hit as it made the festival rounds, including Cannes, Telluride and the Chicago International Film Festival. Herzog returned to fictional narrative with "Invincible" (2002), starring Tim Roth as the sinister owner of the Palace of the Occult in Weirmar Berlin, where a former blacksmith from Poland (Jouko Ahola) arrives to perform as a strongman. As anti-Semitism spreads and the Nazis increase their power, the strongman, plagued by nightmares, returns to Poland convinced he has been commanded by God to warn fellow Jews of the impending danger. Blending fact and fiction, Herzog eschewed a melodramatic handling of relations between Nazis and Jews and instead favored a slow and hauntingly stylized tone. In casting untrained actor Jouko Ahola as the kind-hearted, but naïve strongman, Herzog added goodness and optimism into his film, a rare feat for the typically dark and complicated director.

In his next documentary, "Wheel of Time" (2003), Herzog observed the creation of the Kalachakra Sand Mandala, or wheel of time, a collage of images representing the stages of Buddhist enlightenment. For the first eight of 12 days, Buddhist monks make the wheel from sand ground of white stone and mixed with opaque water colors. The last four days are spent initiating students and ends with the Dalai Lama thanking the 722 deities for participating, followed by sweeping away the sands. Herzog was invited by the monks to film the ritual, but he initially wanted to decline because his knowledge of Buddhism was thin at best. He eventually accepted and created a film with beautiful images, including the opening scenes of teeming crowds in saffron robes roaming the streets of Bodh Gaya, the town where Buddha sat under a tree and became enlightened, at the start of the initiation. The film proved to be another foray into gentler, more calming waters for the typically maniacal Herzog.

With "White Diamond" (2004), a documentary about airship engineer Dr. Graham Dorrington, who embarks on a trip to the Kaieteur Falls in Guyana to fly his helium-filled balloon above the trees, Herzog explored one man's unflinching will to conquer nature. Though not nearly as crazed as Kinski, Dorrington provided an element of lunacy to the effort, a common denominator in many of Herzog's films. Lurking death also factored in: 12 years prior to Dorrington's expedition, friend Dieter Plage plummeted to his death in a similar experiment. For "Grizzly Man" (2005), Herzog again ventured into the wilds to follow the path of a half-crazed man hell-bent on penetrating nature. The subject this time was Timothy Treadwell, a self-avowed grizzly bear activist who went to Katmai National Park & Preserve every summer to live with the Alaskan brown bear. Treadwell brought a camera to the refuge and documented himself over the course of five summers, usually turning the camera on himself and as his "bear friends" as he hiked through the woods.

A former alcoholic and drug user, Treadwell ultimately found his own salvation in trying to save the relatively well-protected bears that needed no protection. The activist met his ultimate fate when he stayed in the wild later than usual and encountered an old, hungry rogue bear that killed and ate Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard; an event that was captured while his camera was running with the lens cap on so that only audio of the grizzly attack could be heard. Herzog kept the sound of the attack to himself - the audience was only allowed to watch the director listening to the recording through headphones. Even the sometimes twisted Herzog knew immediately that Treadwell and Huguenard's horrific demise was to be kept private. With over 70 hours of Treadwell's footage at his disposal, Herzog conducted his own after-the-fact interviews to create a probing and entertaining look at a man at war with nature, human civilization and himself. Herzog ventured back to feature films with the experimental sci-fi disaster film, "The Wild Blue Yonder" (2005), which starred Brad Dourif as an extraterrestrial from a water planet who returns to Earth only to find the planet uninhabitable.

In January 2006, Herzog made a bit of news when actor Joaquin Ph nix overturned his car on Sunset Boulevard close to where the director lived. Herzog assisted the actor from his vehicle, who emerged relatively unscathed. A few days later, the director was giving an outdoor interview with Mark Kermode from the BBC, when Herzog was shot with an air rifle by an unknown assailant. Though initially shocked, Herzog quickly shrugged off the attack, declining Kermode's offer to call the police to hunt down his attacker. Later, Herzog displayed a bloodied abrasion slightly north of his groin and told an astonished Kermode that "it is not a significant bullet." Meanwhile, he directed "Rescue Dawn" (2006), a fictional account of Deiter Dengler's heroics starring Christian Bale, who was put through an ordeal almost similar as that faced by the downed pilot. He next helmed the documentary "Encounters at the End of the World" (2007), which brought audiences to McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica, where he filmed some of the most exhilarating landscapes of this remote section of Earth. Herzog next directed the off-kilter Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009), a not-very-faithful remake of "Bad Lieutenant" (1992), starring Harvey Keitel.bout a Brazilian entrepreneur (Kinski) who g s mad while running a 19th century African plantation did not disappoint with its behind-the-scenes action. With their personal conflict reaching full fruition, Herzog and Kinski battled daily, with the actor going to great lengths to disrupt production with his volcanic outbursts. Kinski's torrent of abuse projected at cinematographer Thomas Mauch led the latter to walk off the project, forcing Herzog to find a replacement. But despite the lack of enthusiasm from audiences, critics were on the whole fairly pleased with the results. Most significantly, Kinski died four years after making the film, which marked the end to one of the most storied, volatile and creatively satisfying collaborations in cinema history.

After "Cobra Verde," Herzog settled into making mostly documentaries, while occasionally returning to narrative films. After making "Ech s of a Somber Empire" (1990), which chronicled the bizarre and increasingly paranoid last years of Jean-Bédel Bokassa's military rule of the Central African Republic, Herzog made "Lessons of Darkness" (Discovery Channel, 1992), a look at the environmental impact of the 1991 Gu

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1954:
After parents separation, moved to Munich with mother and two brothers
1957:
Began submitting film ideas to producers at age 14
1962:
Received prizes for two amateur shorts "Herakles" (1962) and "Spiel im Sand" (1964)
1966:
Established Werner Herzog Film production
1967:
Directed third short "Die beispiellose Verteidigung der Festung Deutschkreuz"
1968:
Helmed short film "Letzte Worte/Last Words"
1968:
First full length film "Leibenszeichen/Signs of Life" won the German National Film award for first feature
1970:
Helmed second feature "Even Dwarfs Started Small"; filmed banned in Germany
1971:
Collaborated with Leonard Cohen and Couperin (both providing music) on "Fata Morgana"
1972:
First collaboration with the actor Klaus Kinski, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God"; filmed on location in Peru
1974:
Chose former mental patient Bruno S. for title role of "The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser"
1977:
Reteamed with Bruno S. for "Stroszek"; first collaboration with actress Eva Mattes
1979:
Helmed remake of the 1922 vampire film "Nosferatu the Vampyre"; second collaboration with Kinski
1979:
Filmed adaptation of Georg Buchner's 1836 play "Woyzeck"; third and last colaboration with Mattes
1982:
Returned to Peru, overcoming obstacles of nightmarish proportions to complete "Fitzcarraldo" with star Kinski
1984:
Helmed two short films, "The Ballad of the Little Soldier" and "The Green Glow of the Mountain"
1987:
Final film with actor Kinski, "Cobra Verde"
1992:
Directed the documentary "Lessons of Darkness" (Discovery Chanel)
1997:
Helmed the documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly"
1999:
Filmed documentary "My Best Fiend ¿ Klaus Kinski" about their infamous collaboration
1999:
Acted in Harmony Korine's Dogma 95 film "Julien Donkey-Boy"
2001:
Wrote and directed war drama "Invincible"; film premiered at the Venice Film Festival (released theatrically 2002)
2003:
Helmed documentary "Wheel of Time" about the largest Buddhist ritual to promote peace and tolerance
2005:
Directed documentary "Grizzly Man," about grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Documentary
2007:
Directed Christian Bale in "Rescue Dawn," a film based on his acclaimed 1998 documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly"
2008:
Filmed documentary "Encounters at the End of the World," about people and places in Antarctica; earned Independent Spirit and Academy Award nominations for Best Documentary
2009:
Directed Nicolas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"
2009:
Directed Michael Shannon in thriller "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done"; also co-wrote
2010:
Directed historical documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
2012:
Cast opposite Tom Cruise in action drama "Jack Reacher"
2013:
Co-directed documentary "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" with Dmitry Vasyukov; also co-wrote with Vasyukov and son Rudolph Herzog
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Munich University: -
University of Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania -

Notes

"I try to make films because I know that I have some sort of vision or insight . . . When I make a film I try to articulate it." For him, "it's the fire" of belief and commitment that makes the film, and goes on: "When I look back at my films I think they all came out of some sort of pain . . . I make films to rid myself of them, like ridding myself of a nightmare." It is not that he wants to "make confessions," only that for him film is "something which has more importance than my private life." --Werner Herzog, quoted in "World Film Directors", Volume Two, edited by John Wakeman

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Martje Grohmann. Had four granddaughters and one grandson; survived her.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Elizabeth Herzog. Of Yugoslav descent; separated from Herzog's father c. 1954.
mother:
Elizabeth Herzog. Died in the Holocaust.
son:
Burro Herzog. Irish-born.

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