Went to a sneak preview last night of Werner Herzog’s first big-budget Hollywood film, “Rescue Dawn,” about Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), a US pilot shot down over Laos and how he escapes internment. My review will come later, but in the meantime my friend Jon has pointed out this New Yorker profile on making the film from about a year ago. Apparently, Herzog (with whom I share a birthday) likes to do things his way:
The fact that Herzog has been making films for more than forty years, many of them acclaimed as works of unnerving originality, didn’t shake the collective judgment that he was doing it all wrong. The mood on the set was toxic. Josef Lieck, the first assistant director, who has worked with Wim Wenders, said, “For a man of his age, it’s a very . . . raw talent. It’s more like an eighteen-year-old running into the forest.” A costume designer complained, “He doesn’t know basic things about filmmaking, things that simply make it easier to tell a story. He thinks that these things will undermine his vision, but they won’t.” Harry Knapp, an assistant director, said, “There is a silent war on the set. We’re all in a state of shock.” Herzog, for his part, politely ignored the crew’s complaints. Zeitlinger explained, “When making a film, Werner tries to pretend as if nobody is around but him and the actors.”
That the film is very suspenseful and gripping shows how much all the crew’s opinion really mattered. The article is long, but a hoot.