My Secret Life: Werner Herzog

'I'm a good villian'

Charlotte Philby
Wednesday 11 April 2012 17:54 BST
Herzog says: 'Films come at me like burglars in the night. I have no idea who will next be in my kitchen at 3am'
Herzog says: 'Films come at me like burglars in the night. I have no idea who will next be in my kitchen at 3am' (David Sandison)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


My parents were... I didn't know much of my father, he disappeared quickly and I never had much affinity with him. My mother was of Croatian decent. She raised three boys in post-war Germany, which was very hard and very admirable.

The household I grew up in... We grew up in a tiny house next to a farmhouse in the remotest mountain valley in Bavaria. There was no running water, we had to fetch water with a bucket from a well. There was no toilet, just an outhouse. It was a wonderful childhood.

When I was a child I wanted to be... We were so absorbed with our childhood that it didn't occur to us that there were professions out there. I didn't see any films until I was 11.

If I could change one thing about myself... I wouldn't change anything. I'm not one of those who wants to be somewhere else. I'm comfortable enough with what I am.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... I'm a good villain. I acted a villain in a movie recently with Tom Cruise.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... cooking soups and sweet things.

I wish I had never worn... I hardly notice what I'm wearing.

At night I dream of... I do not dream. People claim that every person dreams, but all the psychologists and psychiatrists are wrong. I dream maybe once in two years.

When I look in the mirror I see... I do not see myself, I do not want to see myself. I only know the colour of my eyes from my passport.

My house is... very inhabitable and it has very high ceilings with skylights. There are shafts of light coming in, which gives the feeling of being in an open space.

Movie heaven... I don't experience movie heaven, but there is heaven in poetry, in reading, in music.

I drive... an SUV in the United States, which is 15 years old. I have to hand crank the window.

My real-life villain... is stupidity. You can see it in recent wars waged by empty hearts and armed stupidities.

The person who really makes me laugh... Buster Keaton.

My five-year plan... I can't even tell you what's going to happen in the next five weeks; I have no plan. Films come at me like burglars in the night. I have no idea who will next be in my kitchen at 3am.

What's the point? When I write I never have a window nearby. I make crosshairs on the wall, have it in sharp focus: that's the point.

My life in six words... It's a slalom into the unknown.


Werner Herzog was born in Munich on 5 September 1942; two weeks later his family fled to the Bavarian village of Sachrang. His first film, Signs of Life, won the Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize in 1968. His films have won awards at the Venice Film Festival, Cannes and the Emmys. Herzog moved to the States in 1995. He has three children and lives in LA with his third wife, Lena. Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life is out now, and Death Row is released on DVD by Revolver Entertainment in May

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