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Werner Herzog Tells Conan O’Brien That Breaking the Law Can Make for Great Film

How he got a colonel to salute him while making "Fitzcarraldo."

Werner Herzog teaches a MasterClass

Werner Herzog teaches a MasterClass

courtesy of MasterClass

Werner Herzog — world-renowned auteur, global treasure and cinematic spirit animal — appeared on “Conan” this week to discuss his new documentary “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.” Like most exchanges involving the filmmaker, the interview contained a distinctly Herzogian anecdote — this one about breaking the law in order to make a film.

READ MORE: James Franco’s Movie Column: What Werner Herzog’s Documentaries Teach Us About Humanity

“There are too many things you cannot teach in school, and it’s way too long. Young people waste three, four years of their lives on the basics of filmmaking. You can learn in a week,” says Herzog, who founded the Rogue Film School (where he teaches students how to pick locks and forge shooting permits) and recently taught a MasterClass. He then recounts an experience he had while making “Fitzcarraldo,” production of which inspired Les Blank’s essential documentary “Burden of Dreams.”

After running into what he describes as “a border war between Peru and Ecuador,” Herzog says, he was asked to produce a permit by a colonel. The filmmaker returned three days later with “a beautiful, beautifully crafted permit, which would allow me literally everything.” The colonel responded by saluting Herzog and allowing him to continue.

READ MORE: Werner Herzog Has Some Thoughts on Internet Trolling and Virtual Reality

“The sacred rite of trespassing, sometimes you have to take it,” says Herzog. Watch the full video below.

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