Trivia / Fitzcarraldo

  • Deleted Role: Wilbur, an unemployed actor who helps out Fitzcarraldo. After Mick Jagger quit, 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: The rapids the boat was sailing on with Kinski on it? All real.
  • 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.
  • Troubled Production: To put it briefly, Herzog felt that the best way 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. To quote Werner Herzog himself from his documentary about Klaus Kinski, My Best Fiend:
    Werner Herzog: I shall never forget one moment, that was right here in the Pongo. We had managed to to drag our huge ship up to here, inch by inch, against the current. The water rises 30 feet higher here, and then all hell breaks loose. Both to the right and left, we had fastened 60 steel cables to the rock, so that the boat was able to pull itself up with the winches. All that took about eleven days, just to pull the boat half a mile into these rapids. Then something unexpected happened. The water rose another 6 feet and the 14 steel cables, each with a diameter of 3 inches were torn up with a single jerk. The boat capsized, laying almost horizontally in the water. More bizarre, there was a pregnant wife on board. The cook's wife. The cook in mortal fear, looking for something vertical, jumped on half a pig. He clutched it and went swinging on this pig. Later on he had to endure some jokes about this, of course... Kinski knew about this incident. We did some shooting here, without any crew on board, and the boat was hurled into the rocks with such an impact that the keel was wrapped around itself like the lid of a sardine tin. The anchor had penetrated the thick metal wall. Everyone knew it, including Kinski. I then thought we should shoot with a couple of cameras on board. We had six volunteers and suddenly Kinski said, "if you go on board, I'm coming with you. If you sink, I shall sink too." (...) While we were shooting, one of the impacts was so violent I remember seeing the lense shooting out of the camera. It flew off, and the camera man, Thomas Mauch, I tried to hold him, [but] he flew 25 or 30 feet through the air with me. The camera weighs about 40 lbs. He held it on his shoulder, [but] it hit the deck so hard that his hand was split apart.
  • 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.