Werner Herzog is one of the greatest filmmakers of the 21st century, responsible for everything from acclaimed features like Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans to enthralling documentaries like Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World. Werner Herzog says things like “I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility and murder” in his severe and hyponetic German accent the way other people say “nice weather we’re having!” and once ate his own shoe on camera. Werner Herzog is an auteur.
Werner Herzog also friggin’ loves WrestleMania.
In a Variety interview published today about his role in the upcoming Disney+ series The Mandalorian, Herzog is asked if he watches television. “I watch the news from different sources. Sometimes I see things that are completely against my cultural nature. I was raised with Latin and Ancient Greek and poetry from Greek antiquity,” he responds, before careening so quickly from high to lowbrow it’ll give you a neck sprain. “But sometimes, just to see the world I live in, I watch WrestleMania.” (The interviewer also asks Herzog if he felt any pressure working with director Jon Favreau, to which he responds “I do not know what other films he has made.” Ikonisch!)
Interestingly, Herzog has been bringing up WrestleMania in interviews for nearly two decades now. Here, in one place, savor his many thoughts on the wild world of professional wrestling. Because, as he would say, “a poet must not avert his eyes.”
2000, The Baltimore Sun
"Opera singers are never in close-up like on camera. In cinema, you have only one perspective, and that's the lens of the camera. Here they have to act for over 2,000 people in the theater. That's 2,000 different angles and 2,000 focal lengths. It's like watching a basketball game or WrestleMania.”
2002, The Austin Chronicle
“It's fascinating because something very crude, something very raw is emerging. A very raw, primitive form of new drama is being born, as primitive and crude as it must have been in the earlier Greek times before Sophocles and before Euripides, when something like this emerged for the public eye. I do believe that what is fascinating about WrestleMania is the stories around it: the dramas between the owner of the whole show and his son, who are feuding, and his wife in the wheelchair who is blind, and he is then showing up in the ring with four girls who have huge, fake boobs, and he is fondling them. This is almost sort of an ancient Greek drama—evil uninterrupted by commercials. So, what does it say? It says that this sort of thing is more important that the fight itself (which of course is all staged and all manipulated). And that's very interesting to me because apparently the emergence of a new drama has been understood by these people who invented WrestleMania.”
2005, TimeOut London
“You see reality TV, you can play video games in the virtual world, you’ve got Photoshop and WrestleMania… Our sense of reality is experiencing an onslaught of enormous magnitude.”
2006, NOW Magazine
"Reality TV, WrestleMania, The Anna Nicole Smith Show, it goes on and on. Film today is like the medieval knight who finds himself at the battlefield confronted by muskets and cannons. Warfare has changed."
“Why do I watch Wrestlemania? My answer is the poet must not avert his eyes from what's going on in the world. In order to understand what's going on, you have to face it.”
2008, The Independent
(When asked for his ideal night out.)
“I never really spend nights out, they're a bit of a rarity these days. I like attending good soccer matches though, and then heading to the pub for a good beer. I used to be the striker for a very poor 5th division league team. I also really enjoy WrestleMania. Maybe that would be my ideal night out.”
2009, The Guardian
“I watched the Anna Nicole Smith show and now it's over, so now I watch WrestleMania and things like that, simply because a poet must not avert his eyes. You have to know in which collective world you are living; you cannot isolate yourself, you should not.”
“I do watch odd things on television once in a while. Not that I am a fan of WrestleMania. I think as filmmaker, as a poet, you have to know what sort of environment you live. You have to understand the world in which you live. WrestleMania has a couple of strange and interesting sides. And my main take on it is apparently a new, very crude form of drama is emerging. Of course, everything is staged and we have to question what constitutes reality, of course … WrestleMania is only one of those parts of staged realities.”
“You must not avert your eyes. This is what is coming at us. This is what a collective anonymous body of majority wants to see on television.”
“We are having major shifts in our perception of reality because of the Internet and virtual realities. Even six-year-old children nowadays can say in the movies this was a special effect. And we have artificial realities like WrestleMania or Photoshop or whatever.”
2014, His book, A Guide for the Perplexed
“Our sense of the real world today is massively challenged; I include here reality television, breast enhancement and the carefully choreographed, fake drama of WrestleMania, populated by larger-than-life characters with muscles that nature doesn't normally provide us with and who take pleasure in telling everyone how unbelievably evil they are.
I love people like Jesse Ventura, who in his wrestling days played the real bad-ass, the California surfer with long blond hair, sunglasses and a bronze tan. He would climb into the ring and shout to the audience, "You assholes, working day in, day out for a few bucks!" A young boy sheepishly walks up to him to ask for an autograph. Jesse rips the notebook into shreds and tramples on it, at which point ten thousand people howl gloriously in unison against him.”
“I look with great interest at phenomena like WrestleMania.”
"I think like [Classical Studies professor] Herb Golder, who is here with us, who has worked with me, who believes that in Wrestlemania there are crude forms of mythology and drama going on, and they're not in the fights.”
2015, The Daily Beast
“Of course, Sophocles and Euripedes are a very sophisticated high culture form of it. But I do believe, and there is some evidence, that they had very crude origins which are not unlike the stories, the drama—the invented drama—around Wrestlemania.”
2019, The Portal podcast
“I liked Jesse Ventura, who used to be a bodyguard of the Rolling Stones and he used to be a studio wrestler who played the bad guy in the ring. Completely stylized. And he became Governor of Minnesota. And I always liked him for his down-to-earth approach. And he said once, about his time in the ring as a wrestler, one of those WrestleMania people, and he said ‘win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.’ I really like him for that.”
I tremble to think what will happen when he discovers Vanderpump Rules.
Originally Appeared on GQ