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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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In 2006, movie audiences saw another gritty epic from Herzog: He created a prisoner-of-war camp in the jungles of Thailand for the Vietnam War-era action-thriller Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale. Bale dropped more than 60 pounds to play a U.S. pilot taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese in the film.
Over the years, Herzog has continued to make interesting, if not always successful,
choices for his film projects. He directed the much-maligned Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which was released in 2009 and stars Nicolas Cage. In the film, Cage revisits the role of a drug-addled cop—a character originated by Harvey Keitel in 1992's Bad Lieutenant.
In addition to feature films, Herzog has made numerous documentaries throughout his career. He turned his lens to a personal subject with 1999's My Best Fiend, about his relationship with actor Klaus Kinski. Not a traditional biographical project, Herzog told Cineaste that the film "is as much about me as it is about him, about our strange relationship." The director later explored a story of man and nature with Grizzly Man (2005), a documentary following the work of Timothy Treadwell, who lived with and studied grizzly bears in the wild.
In 2009, Herzog released two documentaries: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which explores some of the earliest human drawings found on cave walls in southern France, proved to be one of the top-grossing non-fiction films of the year. Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, which Herzog co-directed with Dmitry Vasyukov, looks at life in a Siberian village.
Herzog has always maintained a strong stance against the death penalty. In 2011, he delved into this issue with Into the Abyss, a documentary about Michael Perry, a prisoner who was sentenced to death. Herzog revisited the topic in the 2012 television miniseries On Death Row, which generated enough interest to spur a follow-up series. Around this same time, the director reportedly began working on a documentary series examining hate crimes, entitled Hate in America.
Herzog has been married to his third wife, Lena, since 1999. The couple lives in San Francisco, California. Herzog has three children—a son named Rudolph with his first wife, Martje Grohmann; another son, Simon, with second wife Christine Ebenberger; and a daughter, Hanna Mattes, from his relationship with actress Eva Mattes.
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