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Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog in Brussels, 2007.
Born Werner Herzog Stipetić
5 September 1942 (1942-09-05) (age 67)
Munich, Germany
Occupation Actor
Years active 1962–present
Spouse(s) Martje Grohmann
Christine Maria Ebenberger (1987–1994)
Lena Herzog
Official website

Werner Herzog (born Werner Herzog Stipetić;[1] 5 September 1942) is a German film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and opera director.

He is often associated with the German New Wave movement (also called New German Cinema), along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Wim Wenders and others. His films often feature heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who find themselves in conflict with nature.


Personal life

Herzog was born Werner Herzog Stipetić (German pronunciation: [ʃtɪpɛtɪtʃ]) to Dietrich Herzog and Elizabeth Stipetic in Munich. His family moved to the remote Bavarian village of Sachrang (nestled in the Chiemgau Alps), after the house next to theirs was destroyed during the bombing at the close of World War II.[2] When he was 12, he and his family moved back to Munich.

The same year, Herzog was told to sing in front of his class at school and he adamantly refused. He was almost expelled for this and until the age of 18 listened to no music, sang no songs and studied no instruments. He later said that he would easily give 10 years from his life to be able to play an instrument. At 14, he was inspired by an encyclopedia entry about film-making which he says provided him with "everything I needed to get myself started" as a film-maker—that, and the 35 mm camera that the young Herzog stole from the Munich Film School.[3] In the commentary for Aguirre, the Wrath of God, he states, "I don't consider it theft—it was just a necessity—I had some sort of natural right for a camera, a tool to work with." He studied at the University of Munich despite earning a scholarship to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In the early 1960s, Herzog worked nightshifts as a welder in a steel factory to help fund his first films.

Herzog has been married three times and has three children. In 1967, he married Martje Grohmann,[4] with whom he had a son in 1973, Rudolph Amos Achmed,[5] who is a film producer and director as well as the author of several non-fiction books. In 1980, his daughter, Hanna Mattes (now a photographer and an artist), was born to Eva Mattes. In 1987, Herzog was divorced from Grohmann; later the same year he married Christine Maria Ebenberger. Their son, Simon Herzog, who attends Columbia University, was born in 1989. Herzog and Ebenberger divorced in 1994. In 1995 Herzog moved to the United States and in 1999 married photographer Lena Pisetski, now Lena Herzog. They live in Los Angeles.

In January 2006 actor Joaquin Phoenix overturned his car on a road above Sunset Boulevard. Herzog, who lived nearby, helped him get out of it.[6] A few days later, while giving an interview to Mark Kermode for the BBC, Herzog was shot on film with an air rifle by an unknown individual. Herzog continued the interview and showed his wound on camera but acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, remarking "It is not a significant bullet."[7]

Herzog is also a Jury Member for the digital studio Filmaka, a platform for undiscovered filmmakers to show their work to industry professionals.[8]


Besides using movie stars, German, American and otherwise, Herzog is known for using people from the locality in which he is shooting. Especially in his documentaries, he uses locals to benefit his, as he calls it, "ecstatic truth", using footage of them both playing parts and being themselves. Herzog and his films have won and been nominated for many awards. Herzog's first major award was the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury for his first feature film Signs of Life[9] (Nosferatu the Vampyre was also nominated for Golden Bear in 1979). Most notably, Herzog won the best director award for Fitzcarraldo at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. On the same Festival, but a few years earlier (in 1975) his movie The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser won The Special Jury Prize (also known as the 'Silver Palm'). Other films directed by Herzog nominated for Golden Palm are: Woyzeck and Where the Green Ants Dream. His films were also nominated at many other very important festivals all around the world: César Awards (Aguirre, The Wrath of God), Emmy Awards (Little Dieter Needs to Fly), European Film Awards (My Best Fiend) and Venice Film Festival (Scream of Stone and The Wild Blue Yonder).

In 1987 he and his half-brother Lucki Stipetic won the Bavarian Film Awards for Best Producing, for the film Cobra Verde.[10] In 2002 he won the Dragon of Dragons Honorary Award during Kraków Film Festival in Kraków.

Herzog was honored at the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival, receiving the 2006 Film Society Directing Award.[11] Four of his films have been shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival: Wodaabe - Herdsmen of the Sun in 1990, Bells from the Deep in 1993, Lessons of Darkness in 1993, and The Wild Blue Yonder in 2006. Herzog's April 2007 appearance at the Ebertfest in Champaign, IL earned him the Golden Thumb Award, and an engraved glockenspiel given to him by a young film maker inspired by his films. Grizzly Man, directed by Herzog, won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Encounters at the End of the World won the award for Best Documentary at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature, Herzog's first nomination.

Herzog once promised to eat his shoe if Errol Morris completed the movie project on pet cemeteries that he had been working on, in order to challenge and motivate Morris, whom Herzog perceived as incapable of following up on the projects he conceived. In 1978 when the film Gates of Heaven premiered, Werner Herzog cooked and publicly ate his shoe, an event later incorporated into a short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe by Les Blank. At the event, Herzog suggested that he hoped the act would serve to encourage anyone having difficulty bringing a project to fruition.

In 2009, Herzog became the only filmmaker in recent history to enter two films in competition in the same year at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was entered into the festival's official competition schedule, and his My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? entered the competition as a "surprise film".[12] Herzog also provided the narration for the the short film Plastic Bag directed by Ramin Bahrani which was the Opening Night film in the Corto Cortissimo section of the festival. [13]

Herzog is also a Jury Member for the digital studio Filmaka, a platform for undiscovered filmmakers to show their work to industry professionals.[8]

Herzog was the President of the Jury at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.[14][15][16]

Film theory

Herzog's films have received considerable critical acclaim and achieved popularity on the art house circuit. They have also been the subject of controversy in regard to their themes and messages, especially the circumstances surrounding their creation. A notable example is Fitzcarraldo, in which the obsessiveness of the central character was mirrored by the director during the making of the film, as shown in Burden of Dreams, a documentary filmed during the making of Fitzcarraldo. His treatment of subjects has been characterized as Wagnerian in its scope, as Fitzcarraldo and his later film Invincible (2001) are directly inspired by opera, or operatic themes. He is proud of never using storyboards and often improvising large parts of the script, as he explains on the commentary track to Aguirre, The Wrath of God.



Actors/Actress in a Leading Role
Actors in a Supporting Role


Thomas Mauch

Mauch worked with Herzog on ten films: starting with Signs of Life and Last Words and ending with Fitzcarraldo. He helped to create hallucinogenic atmosphere in Aguirre and realistic style of Stroszek. Mauch won Film Award in Gold and National Society of Film Critics Awards for Aguirre. He was Herzog's first choise to be cinematographer during Cobra Verde, but after a perpetual torrent of verbal abuse from Kinski, Mauch walked out on the project. That was Mauch and Herzog's final collaboration.

Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein

Reitwein worked with Herzog on seventeen films. Reitwein was Thomas Mauch's assistant camera during Even Dwarfs Started Small. His first independent work for Herzog was Precautions Against Fanatics in 1969. He helped to create poetical atmosphere of Fata Morgana, Heart of Glass, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and Nosferatu. He won Film Award in Gold for Heart of Glass and Where the green ants dream during German Film Awards. He last collaborated with Herzog during Pilgrimage in 2001.

Peter Zeitlinger

Zeitlinger collaborated with Herzog on eleven films, from Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices (1995) to My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2010), including Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World.

Walter Saxer

Saxer produced sixteen of Herzog's films, including Nosferatu and The White Diamond. He worked as Sound Department during seven of Herzog's films, including The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner and Echoes from a Somber Empire. He co-wrote Scream of Stone which Herzog directed. Saxer appeard as himself in Herzog's My Best Feind and in Les Blank's Burden of Dreams, in which he was perpetual torrented of verbal abuse from Kinski.

Lucki Stipetic

Lucki is Herzog's half-brother. He also produced several Herzog films, including Aguirre and Invincible. Stipetic is a head of Werner Herzog Productions. He won Bavarian Film Award in 1988 for Cobra Verde and International Documentary Association Award for Little Dieter Needs to Fly in 1998. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award in 1998.

Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus

Beate Mainka is a film editor. She worked with Herzog on twenty films, from Signs of Life and Last Words (both from 1968) to Where the Green Ants Dream (1984).

Joe Bini

Bini is a film editor. He collaborated with Herzog on eleven films, from Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) to Bad Lieutenant (2009).

Costumes designers
Ann Poppel

Poppel is a costume designer. She collaborated with Herzog on four films, including Nosferatu the Vampyre and Scream of Stone.

Gisela Storch

Storch is a costume designer. She with Herzog on six films: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Woyzeck, Fitzcarraldo and Cobra Verde. She was nominated for a Saturn Award for Nosferatu the Vampire in 1979.

Henning von Gierke

Gierke collaborated with Herzog on seven films and several operas. He was Production Designer during The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Nosferatu the Vampyre and Fitzcarraldo. As a Set Decorator he worked on Heart of Glass and Woyzeck, as Stage Designer on operas: Lohengrin and Giovanna d'Arco and as Costume Designer on film The Transformation of the World Into Music. Gierke shot additional still photographs on Stroszek 's set. He appeared twice in Herzog's film The Transformation of the World Into Music as himself and in Herzog's TV realisation of opera Giovanna d'Arco. Von Gierke won Film Award in Gold for The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser during German Film Awards and Silver Berlin Bear for Nosferatu, during Berlin International Film Festival.

Popol Vuh

Popol Vuh was a German Krautrock band founded by pianist and keyboardist Florian Fricke. The band took its name from the Popol Vuh, a manuscript of Quiché Maya kingdom, after watching Herzog's Fata Morgana (in which Lotte Eisner read Popol Vuh's parts). The band composed music for eight Herzog's films: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner, Heart of Glass, Nosferatu, The Dark Glow of the Mountains, Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde and My Best Fiend. Their compositions were also used by Herzog in Rescue Dawn. Florian Fricke made a cameo as a pianist in Signs of Life and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.


All films were directed and written (or co-written) by Werner Herzog:




Full length:

For TV:



Films written, though not directed, by Herzog
Werner Herzog has written all his films, except
  • Scream of Stone (1991)
  • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
  • My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2010)
Herzog has also co-written
  • Hunger in the world explained to my son (El hambre en el mundo explicada a mi hijo) (2002)
  • Incident at Loch Ness (2004)


Stage works



  • Floresta Amazonica (A Midsummer Night's Dream) (1992, Teatro Joao Caetano)
  • Varété (1993, Hebbel Theatre)
  • Specialitaeten (1993, Etablissement Ronacher)




  • Of Walking In Ice (Free Association, New York, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9796121-0-7)
  • Fitzcarraldo: The Original Story (Fjord Pr, January 1983, ISBN 978-0940242043)
  • "Conquest of the Useless" Herzog's diaries of the making of "Fitzcarraldo"


  • Paul Cronin. Herzog on Herzog (London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2002, ISBN 0571207081) (extracts here:[17]
  • Lena Herzog. Pilgrims: Becoming the Path Itself (Periplus Publishing London Ltd., ISBN 1902699432)


  • Cobra Verde (Jade-Flammarion 2001, ISBN 2082030091)
  • Wo Die Grünen Ameisen Träumen (Hanser 1984, ISBN 3446141065)
  • Nosferatu (Ulbulibri, 1984)
  • Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu, Stroszek (Mazarine 1982)
  • Screenplays: Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Every Man For Himself and God Against All & Land of Silence and Darkness (translated by Alan Greenberg & Martje Herzog; Tanam, New York, ISBN 0934378037)
  • Drebücher III: Stroszek, Nosferatu (Hanser 1979)
  • Drebücher II: Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, Jeder Fü sich Und gott Gegen Alle, Land des Schwiegens Und der Dunkelheit (Hanser 1977)
  • Drebücher I: Lebenszeichen, Auch Zwerge Haben Klein Angefangen, Fata Morgana (Hanser 1977)


  • Alan Greenberg & Herbert Achternbusch. Heart of Glass 1976


  1. ^ "Werner Herzog Biography". Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  2. ^ "Werner Herzog on the Story Behind 'Rescue Dawn'". Fresh Air. October 27, 1998. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  3. ^ Bissell, Tom. "The Secret Mainstream: Contemplating the mirages of Werner Herzog". Harper's. December 2006.
  4. ^ IMDb
  5. ^ IMDb
  6. ^ "Phoenix rises thanks to Herzog". Guardian. 03 February 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  7. ^ Martin, Tim (03 February 2006). "People". Times Online. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  8. ^ a b Filmaka Jury Member Werner Herzog,
  9. ^ "Berlinale 1968: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Film Society Directing Award". Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  12. ^ "Filmmaker Herzog is up against himself in Venice | Entertainment | Film". Reuters. 2009-09-05. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  13. ^ "66th Venice Film Festival Corto Cortissimo". 
  14. ^ "Werner Herzog to be President of the Jury of the 60th Berlinale". Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  15. ^ "Werner Herzog to head Berlin film festival jury". Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  16. ^ "Werner Herzog is to head the Berlin Film Festival jury". bbc news. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  17. ^ "Herzog on Herzog". Retrieved 2009-10-25. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog (born Werner Stipetic on 5 September 1942) is a German screenwriter, film director, actor and opera director.



  • That man is a head taller than me. That may change.
    • "Don Lope de Aguirre" in Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) English title:Aguirre: The Wrath of God
  • You are all wrong.
    • Responding to booing crowds at the Berlin Film Festival, who disapproved of his Lessons of Darkness (1992).
  • Well they are very frightening for me because their stupidity is so flat. You look into the eyes of a chicken and you lose yourself in a completely flat, frightening stupidity. They are like a great metaphor for me... I kind of love chicken, but they frighten me more than any other animal.
    • About chickens, on the Signs of Life (1968) DVD audio commentary (2005).
  • I believe the common denominator of the Universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder.
    • "Grizzly Man" (2006)
  • Together, I said, we shall boil fire and stop fish.
    • To Lotte Eisner in Paris after walking from Munich to meet her, Of Walking in Ice (ISBN 978-0-9796121-0-7).

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)

  • If you switch on television it's just ridiculous and its destructive. It kills us. And talk shows will kill us. They kill our language. So we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television. Commercials and – I think there should be real war against commercials, real war against talk shows, real war against "Bonanza" and "Rawhide", or all these things.
  • If you want to do a film, steal a camera, steal raw stock, sneak into a lab and do it!
  • As you see [filmmaking] makes me into a clown. And that happens to everyone — just look at Orson Welles or look at even people like Truffaut. They have become clowns.

Minnesota declaration (1999)

"Minnesota declaration: truth and fact in documentary cinema", Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (30 April 1999)

  • By dint of declaration the so-called Cinema Verité is devoid of verité. It reaches a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants.
  • Cinema Verité confounds fact and truth, and thus plows only stones. And yet, facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth seem unbelievable.
  • Fact creates norms, and truth illumination.
  • There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.
  • Filmmakers of Cinema Verité resemble tourists who take pictures amid ancient ruins of facts.
  • Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.
  • Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: "You can´t legislate stupidity."
  • We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.
  • Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species—including man—crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

Herzog on Herzog (2002)

  • I shouldn't make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum.
  • If I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that: I live my life or I end my life with this project.
    • Said while making Fitzcarraldo
  • It is my duty because this might be the inner chronicle of what we are, and we have to articulate ourselves. Otherwise we would be cows in the field.
  • I like to direct landscapes just as I like to direct actors and animals.
  • The kinds of landscape I try to find in my films...exist only in our dreams. For me a true landscape is not just a representation of a desert or a forest. It shows an inner state of mind, literally inner landscapes, and it is the human soul that is visible through the landscapes presented in my films.
  • Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs.
  • Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of mind; cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art and academicism.
  • Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.
  • 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.
  • 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 privilege 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.
  • We comprehend... that nuclear power is a real danger for mankind, that over-crowding of the planet is the greatest danger of all. We have understood that the destruction of the environment is another enormous danger. But I truly believe that the lack of adequate imagery is a danger of the same magnitude. It is as serious a defect as being without memory. What have we done to our images? What have we done to our embarrassed landscapes? I have said this before and will repeat it again as long as I am able to talk: if we do not develop adequate images we will die out like dinosaurs.
  • You can fight a rumour only with an even wilder rumour.
  • I am not an artist and never have been. Rather I am like a craftsman and feel very close to the mediaeval artisans who produced their work anonymously and who, along with their apprentices, had a true feeling for the physical materials they were working with.
  • I have never been one of those who cares about happiness. Happiness is a strange notion. I am just not made for it. It has never been a goal of mine; I do not think in those terms.
  • I am someone who takes everything very literally. I simply do not understand irony, a defect I have had ever since I was able to think independently.
  • May I propose a Herzog dictum? those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.
  • It is my firm belief, and I say this as a dictum, that all these tools now at our disposal, these things part of of this explosive evolution of means of communication, mean we are now heading for an era of solitude. Along with this rapid growth of forms of communication at our disposal— be it fax, phone, email, internet or whatever— human solitude will increase in direct proportion.
  • To me, adventure is a concept that applies only to those men and women of earlier historical times, like the mediaeval knights who travelled into the unknown. The concept has degenerated constantly since then... I absolutely loathe adventurers, and I particularly hate this old pseudo-adventurism where the mountain climb becomes about confronting the extremes of humanity.
  • 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.

On Klaus Kinski

  • People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other's murder.
  • Often he was a joy, and you know, he was one of the few people I ever learned anything from.

Quotes of others about Herzog

  • Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep...he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No—panther claws should rip open his throat—that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It's no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me. ~ Klaus Kinski
  • His speech is clumsy, with a toadlike indolence, long winded, pedantic, choppy. The words tumble from his mouth in sentence fragments, which he holds back as much as possible, as if they were earning interest. It takes forever and a day for him to push out a clump of hardened brain snot. Then he writhes in painful ecstasy, as if he had sugar on his rotten teeth. A very slow blab machine. An obsolete model with a non-working switch— it can't be turned off unless you cut off the electric power altogether. So I'd have to smash him in the kisser. No, I'd have to knock him unconscious. But even if he were unconscious he'd keep talking. Even if his vocal cords were sliced through, he'd keep talking like a ventriloquist. Even if his throat were cut and his head were chopped off, speech ballons would still dangle from his mouth like gases emitted by internal decay. ~ Klaus Kinski
  • Nobody is going to buy the book if I say nice things about you, Werner. ~ Klaus Kinski

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