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German director Werner Herzog has enjoyed international success with such films as Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Rescue Dawn (2006).
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Born in 1942 in Munich, Germany, Werner Herzog debuted his first feature film in 1968. He worked with actor Klaus Kinski on several projects, including Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). More recently, Herzog directed Rescue Dawn (2006) with Christian Bale. He also directed several documentaries,
"Facts do not interest me much. Facts are for accountants. Truth creates illumination."
"I've always depicted the jungle as a landscape of the human mind."
including 2011's Into the Abyss.
Born Werner Herzog Stipetic in Munich, Germany, on September 5, 1942, famed director Werner Herzog spent his early years in a small Bavarian town called Sachrang. In his early teens, he and his mother moved back to Munich after his parents' divorce.
Herzog grew up in post-World War II Germany. He later explained what it was like for him during this time to Psychology Today: "People think growing up in the ruins was a such a bad thing for children. On the contrary, it was wonderful. We were the kings of bombed-out blocks in the cities." Around the age of 13, Herzog first encountered Klaus Kinski, his future film star; the pair lived in the same building for a time. While he received little encouragement in school, Herzog began writing scripts at a young age, later working a number of jobs to fund his early film efforts.
In 1968, Werner Herzog released his first feature-length film, Signs of Life. He quickly became a leading avant-garde director in Europe, known for his challenging film shoots. For Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972), Herzog brought his cast and crew to the jungles of Peru. The film, which stars Klaus Kinski, tells the story of a Spanish conquistador on a mad quest to find the legendary El Dorado. The combination of the jungle's damp, brutal heat and the actors' heavy historic clothing nearly proved to be too much for the cast. Kinski threatened to quit the film, and, in return, Herzog threatened to shoot him. "I told him I had a rifle and he would only make it as far as the next bend in the river before he had eight bullets in his head—the ninth would be for me," Herzog later told Cineaste magazine.
Despite their stormy relationship, Herzog and Kinski worked together on the film Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)—Herzog's retelling of the classic 1924 F.W. Murnau silent movie about a Dracula-like vampire. Around this same time, Herzog took on another epic film project, Fitzcarraldo, which explores one man's odd obsession to build an opera house in the wilderness. Part of accomplishing this goal involved dragging a huge steamship over a mountain. Committed to realism, Herzog insisted that a real ship be pulled over a real mountain, explaining to Esquire that he "wanted the audience to be able to trust their eyes."
Jason Robards and Mick Jagger were the film's original leads, but the two eventually dropped out after the production ran into delays and other challenges. Herzog subsequently brought in Kinski to play the title character. Herzog's years spent struggling to make Fitzcarraldo paid off in the end: For his work on the widely acclaimed film, he won the Director's Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982.
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