Thursday, April 27, 2006

2006 SFIFF—Famous Directors and Their Funny Animal Stories!!!

The on-stage appearances of both Guy Maddin and Werner Herzog have proven immensely entertaining! Steve Seid and David Sterritt, respectively—and with skilled professionalism—allowed themselves to be turned into straight men for their interviewees who each unexpectedly transformed into stand-up comics!

After complaining that Shelly Duvall was better known for her role in Popeye than in his own Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and that Frank Gorshin's "touchingly antiquated" impersonations weren't everyone's cup of tea (his Jack Nickolson was "amazing" but his Jack Nicklaus was "lame"), Guy Maddin reminisced on Twilight of the Ice Nymphs:

"I remember that whole movie. There's a lot of ostriches in that movie and it was a kind of humiliating experience because I found that I could direct the ostriches better than I could direct the people. They're birds, right? So when it's dark they go to sleep. A couple of times they stampeded around, and I was warned by the ostrich wrangler, 'Watch out for the ostriches, especially the males, they can kick your face off.' Things like that. And then there was a stampede where they destroyed most of my sets one day and we started turning out lights, and they kicked some lights over, and some lights went out, and they immediately got calm. And so I learned that you could direct them by dimmer switch! So it's just a matter of having someone—not a focus puller but an F-stop puller—so while you're dimming the lights you just open the aperture up more and you could agitate the ostriches and then calm them down. It was humiliating to me that I was reduced to sort of just going, "NOW!" These animals would perform perfectly. Because see, you're always told never direct children or animals, it will drive you nuts and things. …They aren't likeable animals. They were constantly pecking at things. Modern slates are made with little Velcro numbers—well, real modern slates now they're all digitalized—but these ones I felt were pretty modern, they had Velcro numbers and all the numbers were missing. And then we'd watch in the rushes, we could see where the ostriches were sort of pecking them off when no one was noticing. And they would peck off your eyeglasses at this distance. And they're about eight feet tall. They're like the reproductive organs of flowers, very strange, that's all I remember, I don't remember Frank Gorshin frankly or anybody else."

* * *

As if Guy Maddin's ostrich anecdote wasn't hilariously engaging enough, Werner Herzog got his audience roaring responding to an inquiry by a woman in the audience who had read a story about a man in Holland who had been in charge of finding thousands of brown or black rats for one of Herzog's films and had ended up painting some of them the color Herzog wanted. "Anyway, it was a fascinating story," the woman said but admitted she hadn't seen a film of his with thousands of rats in it and was wondering which film it was.

Herzog replied the film was Nosferatu and qualified, "It's actually eleven thousand!! They were white laboratory rats, snow-white laboratory rats, and no one on earth can paint them individually. We had cages, four hundred of them, and dipped them into the paint." He then went on to recount about the man who was in charge of the rats. Herzog had this big conflict with that man because he misappropriated money meant for feeding the rats. So Herzog took the rats back by force and the bozo almost ran him over with a caterpillar. He was enraged and shoved the caterpillar through the windows of Herzog's car. Herzog jumped out of his car and sort of lay down on the ground in front of the caterpillar hoping to try to stop him but the idiot continued forward and was just about to run Herzog over when the cinematographer pulled him out of danger's way. "So you see," Herzog communicated drolly, "I have conflicted feelings over those rats!"


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing these two to life--you must have total recall. I'm sorry I missed Maddin after the ostrich story. I didn't miss Herzog, and he was quite remarkable.

Michael Guillen said...

Chris, thanks for swinging by!! And sorry you missed Maddin, which has been one of the funniest on-stage appearances in recent history! One joke after the other!