Childhood & Early Life
Werner Herzog Stipetić was born on September 5, 1942, to Dietrich Herzog and Elizabeth Stipetić, in Munich, Germany. The family was forced to move to a Bavarian village after their house was bombed during World War II.
They moved back to Munich when Herzog was twelve. It is believed that he was an extremely adamant child in school and would never play an instrument or sing in class, which almost resulted in his expulsion from the institute. At the age of 14, he developed an interest for filmmaking.
He stole a 35 mm camera from the Munich Film School and began filming whatever he could see around him. He won a scholarship to Duquesne University in Pennsylvania, but chose to study in the more reputed, University of Munich instead.
He travelled often which inspired his filmmaking in later life. In the 1960s, he worked as a welder in a steel factory. This helped him to fund his first film. t was during this time he directed his first fiction short film, ‘Herakles’.
In 1966, he worked briefly in television under the sponsorship of NASA.
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In 1968, he directed his first film based on World War II titled, ‘Signs of Life’, which became a critical and commercial success. The film was later, showcased at the 18th Berlin International Film Festival and also won an important award. The next year, he made a documentary feature film, titled, ‘The Flying Doctors of East Africa’.
In 1970, he directed, ‘Even Dwarfs Started Small’, a horror-comedy-drama film, which was made on a shoe-string budget of $200,000. He also made his acting debut the next year with the film ‘Geschichten vom Kübelkind’.
In 1971, he made two documentary feature films, ‘Land of Silence and Darkness’ and ‘Handicapped Future’, both of which were critically acclaimed. The next year, he directed, ‘Fata Morgana’ and his well-acclaimed film, ‘Aguirre, The Wrath of God’.
From 1974 to 1980, he directed a number of feature films including, ‘The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser’, ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre’ and ‘Woyzeck’.
In 1982, he directed one of the greatest films of all time, ‘Fitzcarraldo’ starring one of the most difficult actors of the period, Klaus Kinski. The movie was based on the story of the baron, Carlos Fitzcarrald.
In 1987, he directed the film, ‘Cobra Verde’, based on a Bruce Chatwin novel, ‘The Viceroy of Ouidah’
Through the 1990s, he directed a number of hit films including, ‘Scream of Stone’ and ‘Lessons of Darkness’. He also made a number of documentary films including, ‘Echoes from a Somber Empire’, ‘Jag Mandir’, ‘Bells from the Deep’, ‘Gesualdo: Death for Five Voices’ and ‘My Best Friend’.
In the 1990s, he also starred in the movies such as ‘Hard to Be a God’, ‘What Dreams May Come’ and ‘Julien Donkey-Boy’. Apart from acting, he directed operas like, ‘La Donna del lago’, ‘The Flying Dutchman’ and ‘The Magic Flute’ to name a few.
In 2001, he wrote and directed the drama film, ‘Invincible’ starring Tim Roth, Anna Gourari and Max Raabe. Although the film was rated average, it became a hit due to its brilliant music soundtrack.
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In 2009, he became the only filmmaker in recent history to have his two films entered in the Venice Film Festival in the same year. One was his American crime drama, ‘The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’ and the other was ‘My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?’
In 2010, he was the chief guest of the 15th International Film Festival in Kerala, India. The same year, he completed his documentary titled, ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’, which was a journey to Chauvet Cave in France. The same year, another one of his documentaries, title, ‘Happy People: A year in the Taiga’, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival.
In 2011, it was announced that he would be directing a film on the life of the explorer, ‘Gertrude Bell’ with the star cast, Naomi Watts, Robert Pattinson and Jude Law.
In 2013, he replaced Watts with Nicole Kidman for the role of Getrude Bell in his movie ‘Queen of the Desert’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Herzog married Martje Grohmann in 1967, with whom he has a son, Rudolph Amos Achmed. The couple divorced in 1987.
He had a daughter with his companion, Eva Mattes, in 1980.
After he divorced his first wife, he married Christine Maria Ebenberger, in 1987, and had a son, named Simon Herzog, with her. The duo split in 1994.
After moving to the United States, he married Lena Pisetski, a photographer, in 1999, with whom he currently lives in Los Angeles.