Feb 29, 2012

Werner Herzog on the 2012 Academy Awards

The day after the Oscars, I interviewed Werner Herzog for The Daily Telegraph about his death row documentary, Into the Abyss. The acclaimed German filmmaker had some words of praise for the ceremony which I thought worth posting in full; they came midway through a discussion of his reputed eccentricity.

"I read it all the time — that I am some sort of maverick filmmaker. No. I am not a maverick. All the rest of Hollywood or the film industry worldwide — these are the mavericks. I am dead centre. Everyone else is eccentric. I occupy the centre, the centre of our time, the centre of our cultural climate, the centre of vision, the centre of storytelling in every single aspect, I know I am dead centre. When you look at the academy awards last night you know that this is rather eccentric. And then you look at me.”

"You may have a point.”

“Not 'may'. Do Have. In capital letters. I DO HAVE a point. It’s the pageantry of the industry, the self-celebration of the industry. It's always better if it gets really eccentric. The more eccentric it gets the better the academy awards are. Yesterday wasn’t so bad. The previous year was kind of boring. This year was really good — much, much better. If the presenter doesn't sing or do some hoofing*, some tap dancing, it's off-target somehow. Hugh Jackman singing and dancing, that was a good one. To see Cirque du Soleil flying around representing the collective fantasy of show-business — Cirque du Soleil has nothing to do with movies, and yet it was exactly right. And the tearful speeches. If anything it wasn’t tearful enough. But there is something very enjoyable about it. Its not a coincidence that the entire world watches it — I say 'entire' in quotes. I see the importance in every day culture, before the Oscars even start: who is wearing what, who is in company with whom. It's just good stuff.”

"It reminds me of an old quote of yours: 'Movies come from the country fair and circus, not from art and academicism'."

“Yes, the country fair and circus. Its an integral part of the cultural climate of the movies. Yesterday night's was quite a good show. I've seen some nagging reports in the German press that it was vulgar, the singing presenter and so on, and I thought that was the good part of it."

* To get the full sardonic effect, your best Werner Herzog impression will be required for the word "hoofing", substituting a soft 'k' for the 'g'—"hoofink"


  1. Love this, thankyou Tom!

  2. Actually, I really love his intonation; his narration in Grizzly Man was so perfect for the mood and subject matter of the film.

  3. His voice is lovely. Listening to him you can well believe that he once hypnotised the cast of 'Heart of Glass'

  4. Yes, thanks for this as well... I'd like to see everything like Herzog does for a day or year... one suspects he could enjoy the eccentricity of a traffic jam, or a stomach wound. Hope you guys found a good spot to do the interview... free of sight lines and sniper perches. I hear he's had trouble with that in the past!

  5. Nice. I've watched so much Herzog that as soon as I got to "hoofing" I automatically pronounced it, mentally, with Herzogian emphasis before even reading the note.