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Herzog revels in blockbuster villain role

  • Herzog in a scene from “Jack Reacher.”

LOS ANGELES: German filmmaker Werner Herzog is taking a rare turn in front of the camera as a cold-blooded murderer in Christopher McQuarrie’s new thriller “Jack Reacher,” portraying a character he calls “the epicenter of evil.”

“Jack Reacher” sees Tom Cruise play the eponymous former military investigator. This is the first time that Reacher – a popular character created by British author Jim Grant (who writes under the pseudonym Lee Child) and hero of about 20 novels – has been depicted on the silver screen.

In the film, Reacher teams up with Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the lawyer of a sniper accused of killing five people and taken into custody.

While the lead investigator (David Oyelowo) wants to secure a quick confession, the suspect tells the police to find Reacher. He soon finds someone much more dangerous pulling the strings – The Zec (Herzog).

Herzog cuts an imposing, glowering figure, so it might seem an easy acting transition for the German to play really bad guys.

He likes it that way.

“People know that I’m good at it. They’ve seen me in other films. I’m just an obvious choice,” he told AFP. “And I know that in the few things and those limited things I’m doing as an actor, in what I’m doing I’m good. I leave a lasting impression.”

In “Jack Reacher,” Herzog’s character is nothing short of “the epicenter of evil,” the director-actor said. “I did my job, because I’m really scary. That’s all there was to do.”

The presence of Herzog – whose films and documentaries, from “Fitzcarraldo” (1982) to “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (2010), have earned critical acclaim on the art-house circuit – in a U.S. blockbuster may seem surprising.

For Herzog, “Jack Reacher” is more than just a popcorn blockbuster.

“I think there is a very strong sense of stylization. And you also don’t see this kind of film noir very often,” he said. “In a way, it reminds me of Melville, some of it. Like ‘Le Samourai,’ all-time great movie. And the solitude of the character. He doesn’t have a place. Almost an empty room, one bird in a cage.”

In order to coax the longtime filmmaker to appear in front of the camera, Herzog said it took “first, good storytelling, a real good story, with good dialogue, and Christopher McQuarrie is very good at dialogue,” Herzog said of the U.S. writer-director, who won an Oscar in 1996 for best original screenplay for “The Usual Suspects.”

“Secondly,” Herzog continued, “I would expect that the director has some sort of vision that he follows. Then everything is OK. It doesn’t have to coincide with my own vision.”

The German, known to be a bit demanding, insists that is not the case.

“It’s very easy to work with me, and very easy to work with Tom Cruise,” Herzog said. “If somebody holds out for so long at the top, there must be some qualities of professionalism.”

Herzog especially lauded the “texture between Tom Cruise and Rosamund. Although they never kiss, never really touch each other, there’s a shyness of how to deal with each other.

“This texture is mysterious,” Herzog said. “And it is essentially cinema. If there is no texture, even the biggest films, with the biggest stars, can be a failure.”

 
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