Conquest of the Useless:Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo
"Fitzcarraldo", written and directed by Werner Herzog, stars Klaus Kinski as the title character - a would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an Irishman called Fitzcarraldo in Peru, who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber territory. The film is derived from the real-life story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fermin Fitzcarrald. In his autobiographical film "Portrait Werner Herzog", Herzog has stated that the film's spectacular production was an incredible ordeal. It famously involved moving a 320-ton steamship over a hill without the use of special effects. Herzog believes that no one has ever performed a similar feat in history, and likely never will again, calling himself 'Conquistador of the Useless'. The casting of the film was also quite difficult. Jason Robards was originally cast in the title role, but he became ill and was forced to leave. Herzog then considered casting Jack Nicholson, and even playing Fitzcarraldo himself, before Klaus Kinski accepted the role. By that point, forty percent of shooting was complete and Herzog insisted on a total reshoot with Kinski.
Mick Jagger was originally cast as Fitzcarraldo's assistant Wilbur, but his shooting schedule expired and he departed to tour with the Rolling Stones. Though none of the major cast members spoke English natively, the original soundtrack was recorded in English, as it was the only language common to the lead actors. Klaus Kinski himself was a major source of tension, as he fought with Herzog and other members of the crew. In his documentary "My Best Fiend", Herzog says that one of the local Peruvian chiefs who was an extra in the film offered to murder Kinski for him, but Herzog declined because he needed Kinski to complete filming. Les Blank's documentary "Burden of Dreams", about the production of the film, also documents these many hardships. Herzog won the 1982 Best Director at Cannes for the film, which was hailed by critics around the globe.