Queen of the Desert

After several documentaries, Werner Herzog returns to narrative features this year with Queen of the Desert. Nicole Kidman stars as Gertrude Bell, an English explorer sometimes described as the “female Lawrence of Arabia.” Along with the male Lawrence of Arabia (played here by Robert Pattinson), she helped shape the Middle East region as we know it today.

Now a new Queen of the Desert trailer has been released, and you can watch it after the jump. Damian Lewis and James Franco also star.

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Queen of the Desert Trailer

Since the last foray into historical drama by Nicole Kidman resulted in the continuously delayed and forgotten Grace of Monaco, maybe teaming up with the eccentric Werner Herzog for his narrative Queen of the Desert might yield better results.

The first trailer for the Berlin Film Festival selection has just arrived, showcasing the story of cartographer Gertrude Bell, an explorer who negotiated with Arab nations and helped establish the countries of Iraq and Jordan. The film follows around ten years of Bell’s life, focusing mostly on how her career was impacted by various romances over the years with suitors played by Robert Pattinson, James Franco and Damian Lewis. Watch the Queen of the Desert trailer after the jump! Read More »

Werner Herzog Penguins

Werner Herzog wants to teach you about penguins. We had no idea that the filmmaker with one of the world’s best voices had lent his talents to the DreamWorks Animation spin-off The Penguins of Madagascar. And yet here he is, as the voice of a documentarian leading a crew shooting footage of penguins in their natural habitat. Herzog’s presence in a kids film turns out to be just as great as you’d hope. As March of the Penguins parodies go, the only way this could be any better is if Morgan Freeman’s omniscient narrator showed up to get into a fist-fight with Herzog’s documentarian. Check out the Werner Herzog Penguins of Madagascar appearance in the extended clip below. Read More »

Herzog Parks and Rec cameo

The career of Werner Herzog is an endlessly wonderful thing. The director has crafted a rich filmography bursting with documentary and dramatic films. His voice and manner of speaking are approaching iconic status. His statements about work and life are rich, surprising, and entertaining. And every once in a while he shows up in someone else’s project. He played the villain in Jack Reacher (above) and now he has shot a cameo for Parks and Recreation.

Wait, what? Read the details below.  Read More »

Russell Brand

Werner Herzog is currently out in the desert for his Gertrude Bell biopic Queen of the Desert, but soon he’ll focus on some arid Americana. His next film is slated to be Vernon God Little, based on the novel by DBC Pierre that won the Booker Prize after its 2003 publication. The novel is set in a small Texas border town, where a high school student shoots six fellow students before taking his own life.

Now Russell Brand, Sasha Pieterse of Pretty Little Liars, and young actor Austin Abrams (The InBetweeners) are in talks for major roles in the film.

Update: Mike Tyson and Pamela Anderson also have roles. If your lifelong dream is the same as mine (to see Herzog direct Pamela Anderson) then this movie just became a must-see.

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The Wind Rises

Briefly: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is having a big news day. He’s attached to adapt Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and he’s now officially been revealed as the lead voice in Disney’s English-language release of Hayao Miyazaki‘s final film, The Wind Rises.

Gordon-Levitt will voice Jiro Horikoshi, a talented engineer who spends his life building planes, only to realize he can’t fix everything. The actor will be joined by an impressive list of names including his Looper co-star Emily Blunt, her husband John Krasinski, as well as Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, William H. Macy, Werner Herzog (!), Mae Whitman, Jennifer Grey, Darren Criss, Elijah Wood and Ronan Farrow.

The English dubbed version will be released February 21. [USA Today]

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Homeland Damian Lewis

Briefly: For a couple years, Werner Herzog has been moving towards a new dramatic feature, Queen of the Desert, which will chronicle the story of pioneering anthropologist/explorer/political advisor Gertrude Bell. While Naomi Watts was once set to play Bell, the role will now be filled by Nicole Kidman. To play Bell’s paramour, Lt. Col. Charles Doughty-Wylie, Herzog has now recruited Damian Lewis, whose notable recent work is on the Showtime series Homeland.

Deadline reports that the film will shoot beginning in December of this year.

The character to be played by Lewis was a British war hero who, while married, engaged in an affair with Bell during the last years of his life. But it was a very chaste affair, conducted entirely via letter correspondence. How does that become a compelling screen story? There can be quite a lot of narration and longing looks aimed to a point off-screen, for starters. But this could also be a device to let the screen version of Bell voice observations and frustrations as she goes about her work building what became the the early political incarnation of the modern Middle East.

 

Nicole Kidman

Longtime BFFs Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts have quite a bit in common. Both are fair-complected Australians who’ve gotten attention from Oscar in the past, and who hope to attract still more by playing princesses this fall. (Watts has Diana, Kidman has Grace of Monaco.) Naturally, then, when Werner Herzog needed a replacement for one, he turned to the other.

Kidman has entered talks to take over for Watts on Queen of the Desert, a fact-based epic about the “female Lawrence of Arabia” Gertrude Bell. Watts had been attached to the lead since 2011. Hit the jump for all the details.

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I’ll listen to Werner Herzog read any script — even the lightly written villain role in Jack Reacher — and so the appearance of a new Herzog documentary is a thing of many pleasures. First, there’s his extraordinary ability to capture documentary subjects. Then there’s his tendency towards the pursuit of “ecstatic truth,” which is Herzog’s term for a depiction of reality that isn’t true, strictly speaking, but uses the false to probe towards an inaccessible truth.

And then there’s Herzog’s scripting and narrating, the combo of which always sets his efforts apart from other documentaries. I don’t know how much of Herzog we’ll hear in Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, as this trailer is mostly comprised of images, free of any decorative narration. But those images look incredible, and this film (co-directed with Dmitry Vasyukov) could be a perfect companion to Encounters at the End of the World.

See the trailer below. Read More »