Werner Herzog, the esteemed director of Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man, and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, hailed The Mandalorian as “cinema back at its best” and praised its primary creator, executive producer Jon Favreau, as a force to be reckoned with in filmmaking.
It was heady stuff for an elder statesman of film who concedes that he’s never actually watched a Star Wars movie. That didn’t make a difference when the 76-year-old accepted Favreau’s surprise invitation to join the new show’s cast to portray a key figure of menace in the pilot. Why? The reason, the irascible filmmaker told a packed El Capitan screening of The Mandalorian, was the vision and voice of Favreau, whom the Munich auteur views as a kindred spirit and as a gifted peer.
“When you invited me, I knew in less than 60 seconds that this was going to be big,” Herzog said during an onstage panel after Favreau asked him to share some reflections about his experience on the project. “I saw the universe. I saw costumes. I saw the round horizon. I saw the spacecraft. I saw an entire universe. And I knew this was really big.”
Herzog finished that thought with a playful observation that might have resonated better with Guinness, the legendary British actor who was far less charmed by his payday-driven foray into the Jedi storytelling: “Secondly, when Jon described a little bit about the character — yes, it’s a dark, dark sort of figure that shouldn’t be trusted at all — I knew it was going to be easy.”
Herzog’s winking observation got a big laugh from the crowd and Favreau, too, but the senior filmmaker quickly toggled back into his impassioned mode.
“I enjoyed every single moment of it,” Herzog said. “And I think it’s beyond what we are seeing on the screen. It’s cinema back at its best. On the big fantasy films, actors were acting almost like robots in front of green screens, you didn’t see the world that you were inhabiting. Now [with The Mandalorian] the actors see the entire universe in which they are operating and the camera does the same. The camera sees it as well so cinema is back to its very life, where it had been. And it becomes very, very Iivey it’s not robotic. It’s got very, very intense life in it.”
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