Nearing seventy years old, Werner Herzog shows no sign of slowing down. In his sixth decade of filmmaking, he’s managed to cross-over with an appearance on “The Simpsons,” an Oscar nomination for "Encounters At The End Of The World," and soon he'll pop up in your local multiplex as a villain opposite Tom Cruise action picture. In addition, he’s got two documentaries released this year. The first, “Cave Of Forgotten Dreams,” has grossed an unprecedented $6 million, and a phenomenal that see it about to enter its eighteenth weekend of release. And this Friday will will bring to theaters “Into The Abyss,” an elegiac doc about a young man on death row for a horrific triple murder.
However, those who have followed the film’s development will note that “Into The Abyss” differs from earlier synopses. Descriptions for “Death Row,” as the project was originally titled, suggested Herzog would focus on separate cases involving four men and one woman all facing execution. However, he hasn’t necessarily abandoned the subject matter, as future films, possibly regarding those subjects, are on the horizon.
We sat down and talked with Mr. Herzog, and when we asked him what he had lined up next, it seemed to spill out in one long laundry list. “I’m doing four films on death row inmates,” he confirms, adding, “I’m working as an actor in a Hollywood movie, I’m doing my Rogue Film School and I have four or five feature film projects, so it’s coming at me wildly. I never catch up in time.”
This is the first we’ve heard about Herzog’s death row idea spawning multiple films, and considering his packed dance card, making four more features sounds like a Hecuba commitment. Especially considering he’s soon to start on his “Hollywood movie,” the thriller “One Shot” directed by Christopher McQuarrie. In addition, he’s been hard at work since March on his adventurous Rogue Film School. That leaves a script he’s been shopping for a long time, “Queen of The Desert.”
“It is like a female equivalent of ‘Laurence of Arabia’,” Herzog says of the film, which would tell the story of Gertrude Bell, a turn-of-the-century explorer. “But it’s not financed yet.” The project first cropped up earlier this year as a potential next effort from Herzog with Naomi Watts and she remains attached, if not in the official sense. “It’s not that we have a contract,” shrugs Herzog in his customary nonchalance, “but she would like to do it.”
“Into The Abyss” opens this Friday.