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Peter Zeitlinger, Thinkfilm
Werner Herzog at the rim of Mount Erebus in "Encounters at the End of the World."

For his latest big-screen adventure, Werner Herzog went where few other filmmakers have gone before him — and that includes "Transformers" director Michael Bay.

"Encounters at the End of the World" took the veteran German director to Antarctica, where he profiled animal researchers and environmental scientists, as well as casual travelers who wound up at the South Pole.

"In my usual fashion, this film features a little bit of everything," he said with a chuckle.

And, as Herzog proudly points out, Bay had also asked if he could shoot a film there but was turned down by the National Science Foundation, which controls almost all access to the region.

"The NSF didn't want all the scientists and their hard work to be trampled by a huge, mindless movie production," he said from New York City, where he was promoting his latest film's release.

As for Herzog's crew, it was a three-man operation that consisted of himself, cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger and an expert diver. "Our budget alone forced us to keep things to a bare minimum, although that is usually my preferred way to do things," he said.

Still, NSF officials allegedly had some reservations about Herzog, based in part on his 2005 documentary, "Grizzly Man."

"It was never made clear to any of us exactly what their objections were about that movie, but we had to do a lot of justification for them to say yes to our request," he recalled.

Again, "Encounters" is as odd as its maker. At one point in the film, narrator Herzog states that intention was to avoid making "another movie about penguins," an off-hand remark that, on the surface, seems to dismiss the Oscar-winning 2005 documentary "March of the Penguins."

However, Herzog explained that wasn't necessarily meant as a criticism of the earlier movie, just that he didn't want to make something that was similar.

"While I was making 'Grizzly Man,' I was shown footage from Antarctica, and was instantly mesmerized by what I saw," he said. "It was so extraordinary, full of all these unearthly, science-fiction landscapes.

"Selfishly, I wished to go there to see them for myself," Herzog continued. "Making a movie seemed to be the best way for me to do that."

He and the others shot not only topside Antarctic locations, but also several underwater sequences as well, hence the need for a diving expert. "Those caverns are far too dangerous and treacherous for any ordinary camera crews to explore," Herzog explained.

And early portions of the film focus on the McMurdo Station, the central base and in Antarctica, which features such modern amenities as an aerobics studio and a bowling alley.

A cafeteria there also boasts a soft-serve ice cream product that Herzog describes as "disgusting" but which is very popular with the residents.

Of course, Herzog added that by the time the film had wrapped up production, "I was already horrible addicted to that vile concoction and still crave it sometimes."

Now 65, Herzog is keeping busy. He is already in preproduction on a follow-up film project based on the "Bad Lieutenant" concept.

"Just to set the record straight, I am not remaking that other movie. I have not even seen it," he said, referring the infamous 1992 thriller that starred Harvey Keitel as a corrupt, out-of-control New York City police detective.

Herzog also plans to team with the equally eccentric David Lynch for "My Son, My Son," a horror-thriller based on a real-life murder.

"As long as I continue to find stories that interest me, I will continue to make movies. And I have been very fortunate in that regard," he said.


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