The German filmmaker has spent a career chronicling the struggles of odd heroes, real and imagined. Now approaching his 70th year, Werner Herzog confirms he doesn’t fear the inevitable final cut—neither for himself nor the human race. —ARK
Some years ago, Werner Herzog was on an internal flight somewhere in Colorado and the plane’s landing gear wouldn’t come down. They would have to make an emergency landing. The runway was covered in foam and flanked by scores of fire engines. “We were ordered to crouch down with our faces on our knees and hold our legs,” says Herzog, “and I refused to do it.” The stewardess was very upset, the co-pilot came out from the cabin and ordered him to do as he was told. “I said, ‘If we perish I want to see what’s coming at me, and if we survive, I want to see it as well. I’m not posing a danger to anyone by not being in this shitty, undignified position.’” In the end, the plane landed normally. Herzog was banned from the airline for life but, he laughs, it went bust two years later anyway. Herzog tells this story to illustrate how he’ll face anything that’s thrown at him, as if that was ever in any doubt. Now approaching his 70th birthday, the German film-maker has assumed legendary status for facing things others wouldn’t. He’s lived a life packed with intrepid movie shoots, far-flung locations and general high-stakes film-making. He has a biography too dense to summarise. But his tale also confirms the suspicion that he’s helplessly drawn to danger and death. Or vice versa.