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(Credit: Raffi Asdourian)

Film

Werner Herzog was once shot with an air-rifle during an interview

There are very few filmmakers that carry the same sense of individuality and artistic mastery as the German director and documentarian Werner Herzog, a modern-day philosopher and thought-provoking sociological explorer. Taking audiences on varying cinematic voyages looking into everything from psychoactive trips down the Amazon River to fascinating studies into life at earth’s farthest reaches, Herzog is known as one of the masters of modern cinema. 

With films such as Grizzly Man, Fitzcarraldo and Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, Herzog has triumphed in the realms of both fictional and documentary filmmaking, with each of his outings being a worthwhile project for audiences to seek out. Working closely with the late Klaus Kinski to bring many narrative feature films to life, including Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Nosferatu the Vampyre, Herzog has enjoyed over 50 years of success in the industry. 

Respected by his peers, François Truffaut once called Herzog “the most important film director alive,” as reported in the book Herzog on Herzog by Paul Cronin, and such praise is certainly valid, with the director often willing to address life’s most difficult questions with an analytical eye. Still making films to this very day, Werner Herzog remains relevant in the public sphere thanks to recent appearances in The Simpsons to The Mandalorian, whilst his various behind-the-scenes antics and bizarre world-view have led him to create a wild legacy for himself.

One of these many behind-the-scenes stories came from an interview that the famous film writer Mark Kermode conducted with the filmmaker back in 2007. Speaking in a clip from The Culture Show, the writer explained: “When I interviewed Herzog for The Culture Show a while ago about his film Grizzly Man, I was interviewing him in Los Angeles out on an open road”. After setting the scene, Kermode then adds, “Then in the middle of the interview, he got shot”. 

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Interrupting the interview with a strange ‘crack’, Werner Herzog looks down to see that he’d been impaled by a bullet shot from an air rifle, with the filmmaker approaching the incident with his typically calm demeanour. Leaving the scene of the crime, Kermode and Herzog retreat to a safe studio where they break down the event, with Herzog lifting his shirt to show the considerable purple bruise, before stating: “It’s not significant”. 

Questions as to who shot the bullet, or indeed why the bullet was shot, remain unknown, though it was clearly someone who didn’t like the filmmaker, or perhaps wasn’t a fan of Nicolas Cage’s performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Jokingly recalling the event, Mark Kermode also adds, “Every time he [Herzog] tells the story he becomes more courageous, which I have to say he was, and we, the BBC, become more and more cowardly, ‘ah yes, they were ducking and running away’”. 

Take a look at the clip of the shocking incident, below.