Werner Herzog Interview
Werner Herzog Interview
I was more curious as to whether, though you stated that it wasn’t that sort of film, whether they still tried to influence the film in what they said?

Werner Herzog

I allowed both of them to proclaim their innocence and they did, they both claim the other one to be the responsible one, and claim they had nothing to do with it. Whether it’s credible or not is up to you, but I give them this voice, without making it the central point of the film.
What did you want the audience to get out of the film when you made it?

Werner Herzog

I can’t really tell because I’m not making films to find a specific reaction. I’m a storyteller. It’s a very disturbing, very disquieting story. It has deep insight into our darkest nature. It, [at] the same time elevates crime TV to a completely different level, which I thought, in the United States should be necessary – crime TV is hugely popular among TV audiences and much of it is very, very cheap tabloid stuff. But I don’t have a programme - that's what I want to implant into the hearts of an audience.
Why did you make the film, then, if you didn’t have an audience as a motivation?

Werner Herzog

No, I knew that this would find audiences. Of course I knew and I make films for audiences, as I said, giving you insight into something that we don’t normally see and great storytelling and a great cast of characters. So it’s a movie – I’m a movie-maker.
Did you have any affection or compassion towards Perry?

Werner Herzog

No, as I said to him, two minutes into our conversation, “Although you had a difficult childhood, it doesn’t exonerate you and besides, it does not necessarily mean that I have to like you.”
But you respect him as a human being?

Werner Herzog

Yes, of course, I tell him, “I respect you as a human being” and they all knew that. And I always told them, “Everybody describes you as monsters – no, you are not monsters. The crimes are monstrous, but the perpetrators are always human beings and they remain human beings. And besides, a human being shouldn’t be executed, period.” I mean Perry, looks like a lost kid …
Yes, I thought he looked like a 12 year old.

Werner Herzog

In a way, yes. It’s totally astonishing - at times he could be in the same company as the actor from East of Eden … James Dean – a good-looking, lost kid, and yet I’ve seen many dangerous people in my life, I mean in real life, and I’ve been in very dangerous situations, but according to my instincts, this young man was the most dangerous I’ve ever seen. And it seems to contradict a good-looking, lost kid.
What did you see that made you feel that?

Werner Herzog

Well if you’re planning with your buddy, to steal a car from a lady, and their plan was to stay overnight with her son and steal the keys at night - no plan beyond that – other than vaguely that they may go to California with the car. And so they see that this lady is at home alone, baking cookies, and Perry comes up with the plan that it would be so much easier just to kill her and then take off with the car. And this kind of spontaneous, senseless violence is something that’s so scary about him. I must say, I have no real clear argument but knowing the case file in detail – 1,500 pages, crime scene photos and videos, and having read the transcripts of court procedures, which is another 1,000 pages – it gets scarier and scarier. And the film covers only a small amount of that.
The crimes are monstrous, but the perpetrators are always human beings and they remain human beings...
Being so close and knowing so much about the case, was it difficult ensuring the film stayed on the fence?

Werner Herzog

Not really, no, because you see, doing the film you have exactly 50 minutes - 60 maximum if the guards are nice with you – so you have to function immediately, you have to immediately find the right voice and you have to perform, you have to deliver, there’s no thinking.

For example, I had 25 minutes with the Chaplain and he came to the set, tapping at his wristwatch and he said, “Quick, quick, I have to be in the death chamber in 30 minutes!” And he speaks like a superficial, phony TV preacher about the beauty of creation at the golf course, and sometimes how a squirrel or a deer looks at him, and a merciful God, and all of sudden I stop him and I ask him, “Tell me about an encounter with a squirrel.” And all of a sudden he comes apart, and you look deep into the heart of that man.

So there’s something where you have very limited time and because of this pressure of this only one possibility to do it for the film, there’s hardly any footage left. There's hardly any footage - everything that I filmed is basically in the film. So you don’t make many plans, they suddenly come later when you are watching the footage. Then all of a sudden, it sinks in.
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Content updated: 18/08/2019 14:00

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