Trivia / Fitzcarraldo

  • Deleted Role: Wilbur, an unemployed actor who helps out Fitzcarraldo. After Mick Jagger had to quit due to scheduling issues, Herzog made the understandable decision that it was impossible to replace Jagger, so he just removed the character from the screenplay.
  • Doing It for the Art: There is no other reason for Herzog to pull this dangerous and crazy stunt.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Herzog wanted to bring out special qualities in the actors and even the film crew that would be impossible to achieve otherwise. Hence to invoke the madness involved in moving a multi-ton steamship across miles of dense jungle was to actually move a multi-ton steamship across miles of dense jungle, using methods that were actually more difficult and less efficient than those used in the actual event. To say this was a stressful experience would be an understatement.
  • The Other Marty: Jason Robards had already filmed about half his scenes as Fitzcarraldo before his doctor ordered him to quit, leaving a few brief clips in Burden of Dreams as the only surviving footage of his performance (as well as Mick Jagger's). Judging from those clips, Robards seems to have played Fitzcarraldo as a blustery Schemer, as opposed to Klaus Kinski's obsessive, slow-burning oddball.
  • River of Insanity: More off-camera than on screen. Just listen to Herzog after more than half a year in the jungle:
    Werner Herzog: Kinski always says [nature] is full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much as erotic. I see it more as full of obscenity.... Nature here is violent, base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication, and asphyxiation, and choking, and fighting for survival,... just rotting away. Of course there is lots of misery but it is to say misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, the birds here are in misery. I don't think they sing, they just screech in pain.
  • Troubled Production: Chronicled in the documentary Burden of Dreams. So many things went wrong that it's a wonder this film ever got made. Herzog himself called it a cursed production.
    • Before production could start, Indians of the Aguaruna tribe burned down the film set in December 1979. It took a whole 13 months to find and build a new set.
    • Jason Robards was cast as Fitzcarraldo but became ill after 6 weeks of filming in the jungle and the production had to be stopped with 40% of the picture completed. The insurance company paid for the resulting costs and filming could start again after Klaus Kinski finally signed on. But the delay caused Mick Jagger to drop out too. Scheduling conflicts made it impossible for him to stay the extra months needed to reshoot the film from scratch.
    • Filming was hit by a plane crash that left four people dead and one paralysed.
    • The bulldozer used to pull the boat across the ridge had a series of breakdowns and heavy rains slowed filming to a crawl.
    • Production went overlong and into the longest dry season in recorded history which left the boat sand-banked for months on end.
  • What Could Have Been: Originally Fitzcarraldo was played by Jason Robards and had Mick Jagger as an assistant. After they pulled out (Robards got very sick and his doctor forbade him to return, and Jagger couldn't stay with the film throughout its numerous delays while also keeping his commitments with the Stones), Herzog considered using Jack Nicholson and even himself in the titular role.