The Ultimate Badass

Who is the Ultimate Badass? There’s got to be someone—one person—out there who personifies the meaning of that phrase, right? Who is that person? I was discussing this recently with Matt and we arrived at a potential answer to this question. We may be biased because the name we arrived at was that of a film director, but try as we might we couldn’t come up with anyone who even comes close to the bad-assitute exhibited by Werner Herzog (maybe Zeus, but we’re talking recent history here).

Below are a few true facts about Herzog. Chuck Norris has got nothing on this guy:

  • Fitzcarraldo and shipIn 1982, he hauled a 340-ton steam ship over a Peruvian mountain because he didn’t like special effects.
  • Klaus Kinski fired a gun at him (three times), but missed.
  • He promised his cast that if they all survived production on Even Dwarfs Started Small, he would leap into a cactus. He did. And not some half-assed cactus either; one with long, sharp spines (one of which remains embedded in the cartilage of his knee).
  • He told Errol Morris that if Morris ever made a film, he would eat his shoe. Morris made Gates of Heaven, and Herzog boiled and ate his shoe in front of a live audience at the UC Theater in Berkeley. (See the fantastic Les Blanc documentary short Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, excerpted below)
  • He saved Joaquin Phoenix‘s life by literally pulling him from the wreckage of an overturned car, then vanished without explanation.
  • He has made a film on every continent (yes, even Antarctica).
  • He was shot in the stomach by a sniper with an air rifle during a TV interview in 2006 and didn’t even stop talking (“It is not a significant bullet,” said he).
  • He once walked from Munich to Paris (not on the roads; in a straight line through fields and forests).
  • He once stopped an international flight from leaving the airport in Lima, Peru by stepping out in front of the plane, resulting in a stand-off with police.
  • He never uses storyboards (they encourage mental laziness).
  • On location for Aguirre, the Wrath of God he was swarmed by fire ants and stung approximately 150 times. The day’s production was not halted.
  • In 1982, he rode a 340-ton steam ship through raging rapids in the Amazon jungle because he didn’t like special effects.

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