How crazy Klaus Kinski really was

A 1999 documentary called “Mein liebster Feind” is running on German regional TV these days, and it’s well worth watching. Werner Herzog describes the multifaceted insanity of his favorite actor Klaus Kinski.

[li]When Kinski and Herzog were sharing an apartment, Kinski locked himself in the bathroom for 48 hours and spent the entire time smashing the furniture and installation into tiny pieces – closet bowl, washbasin and all.
[/li][li]Kinski had a small lengthy room in that apartment. Once Herzog heard some noise coming from that room: it was Kinski taking a running start. A moment later he crashed with the door into the living room and immediately started screaming with fury. It turned out his shirts had not been ironed quite right.
[/li][li]Herzog started Aguirre with a medium-distance shot of a mountainside that the conquistadores descended. Kinski wanted a long-distance “postcard” shot of the mountain range and then a close-up of his face, and called Herzog an insane egomaniac (!) when he refused. The shot had to be done without Kinski.
[/li][li]While making Aguirre the extras would play cards and otherwise relax after hours. This greatly enraged Kinski who took a rifle and fired several shots through the barrack that housed the extras. Luckily, only one man lost the tip of his middle finger to a bullet.
[/li][li]In a scene of Aguirre Kinski and his men came upon a deserted native village. There were some tables with fruit, and the actors were grabbing and eating the fruit. Apparently this was not in the script, and Kinski got so angry that he started to bash their metal helmets with his metal saber, making a deep dent in one helmet and leaving the man with a bleeding wound and a permanent scar on the head. That shot was actually left in the film.
[/li][li]Herzog had to threaten to shoot Kinski to prevent him from leaving Aguirre – Kinski had already broken 30 or 40 other engagements at this point – and during the filming of Fitzcarraldo the chieftain of a native tribe who hated Kinski for his constant insane screaming offered Herzog to have Kinski murdered.
[/li][li]Kinski pretended to love nature as part of his deranged self-image. He would immediately fly into a rage when he was bothered by rain or mosquitoes, but he arrived for Aguirre with half a ton of completely useless mountaineering equipment. He never dared step away from their camp in the jungle, except once when he went fifty paces with a photographer who had to take pictures of Kinski copulating with a fallen tree.

The documentation also features bits of Kinski’s stage performance as a raving Jesus impersonator in some 1960s Christian get-together. And Herzog relates some non-Kinski madness he experienced, such as the Fitzcarraldo ship nearly capsizing with the crew aboard, and a barefooted woodworker chopping off his own foot with a chainsaw after he was bitten by a poisonous snake and too far from the camp to get an antidote in time.

Those were the good old days! That was some real insanity, not the wimpy Tom Cruise stuff we get today…

In English, the title is “My Best Fiend” (sic), and yes, it’s very much worth watching if you have even the slightest interest in either Herzog or Kinski. As a companion piece, listen to the commentary tracks on the Anchor Bay DVD releases of “Aguirre” and “Fitzcarraldo”, where Herzog goes into great detail on both Kinski and the nature of his own completely insane theories on film-making.

I concur, this movie is well worth watching.

My Best Fiend can be found in Herzog/Kinski collection (along with Aguirre, Nosferatu, Woyzeck, Fitcarraldo, and Cobra Verde). All various shades of good-to-great - definitely worth picking up (I got it at Best Buy three years ago for 50 bucks - don’t know if it is still that price. It is 80 bucks at Amazon).

I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy of My Best Fiend for awhile. Herzog has become one of my favourite directors nowadays and Kinski is just magnetic, its impossible to not watch him.

That bit about Herzog threatening Kinski with a gun has been said to be disproved. When Kinski was asked about the incident, his ominous reply was: “I was the only one with a gun on set.”

BTW, for a completely different kind of look at Herzog, rent Incident at Loch Ness. The less you know about it, the better.


“…and she didn’t look like a sonar operator.”

For more Kinski/Herzog fun, rent Burden of Dreams, a great little documentary about the making of my (at times) favorite Herzog film, Fitzcarraldo. In it, both Kinski and Herzog seem like complete pyschos.

It also makes a good companion piece to Hearts of Darkness.

As seen in the banners one day.

Hear, hear on Incident.

“I was disappointed Werner didn’t want to wear the jumpsuit.”

Man, what a great movie that was. Everytime Herzog looks at the camera he has the most bewildered look on his face. I laugh just thinking about it.

Also, I double checked the library system and it does have My Best Fiend, and I already have Burden of Dreams on hold (from waaay back) so eventually I’ll get to see them.

In addition, wait for Rescue Dawn to come out. Its got Christian Bale doing his best ‘crazy man in the jungle’ that has moments that would make Kinski proud.

Or this one (found it difficult to get a cite, and I can’t remember where I heard it originally):

You are Klaus Kinski, “intense” actor. You wake up one morning to find that you cannot breathe. The boil in your throat that you’ve refused to have treated is now suffocating you. You need treatment. Now.
But you can’t do that, because you are Klaus Kinski – a man whose personal motto is “I am my own God, my own jury, and my own executioner!”
So, although you visit your embassy to get $5000 to pay for the operation, you don’t see a doctor. Instead, you tilt your head back, pick up a foot-long butcher’s knife and make like a sword swallower.
With the boil burst, you vomit bloody pus for a full minute. And then, with the $5000 in hand, head out for the nearest car dealership…

I want to see Werner Herzog eating his shoe.

I think that one is on Youtube.

Klaus Kinski’s biography is full of crazy. It’s not particularly good, mind you. But it is crazy.

He kinda says he slept with his own daughter, though she denies it.

I don’t really believe anything in that book, as its just too bizarre to be true (he lost his virginity to his sister? He slept with a woman every night of his life, or at least pretends to have?)
I do love his movies, however. He’s so intense, and you can tell he’s absolutely insane.

I love how he calls Herzog a pretentious piece of shit so many times in the book, and how Herzog made a movie about Kinski being insane. GET A ROOM you two!

They did. Kinski smashed it.

I managed to catch this the other night on TMC, and wow, that is just …


I loved it. Agreed, the less you know the better.

Incident at Loch Ness was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see Herzog playing himself in what is basically a comedy. Herzog and comedy are two things you usually don’t put side-by-side.

And yes, the jumpsuit scene was hilarious.

I saw a great Zapata Western with Klaus Kinski in a minor role as a guerrilla priest, and he stole the show. He wasn’t even in the movie more than 20 minutes, but he really stuck out.
I feel like this is the case in almost all the movies I’ve seen him in.

And seeing My Best Fiend really explains a lot about him, about why he would stick out so much. I wonder if he was such a pain in the ass in those movies where he had a minor role.

A Bullet For The General. Good movie, actually, but Kinski’s easily the best thing in it.