A wildly bizarre story about a mid-80s blind dinner date with a murder plot as the main dish

Inspired by the real-life, totally bonkers “friendship” between acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog and controversial actor Klaus Kinski, MY DINNER WITH WERNER is a wildly bizarre story about a mid-80s blind dinner date with a murder plot as the main dish. Director Maverick Moore thrilled us with his pulpy new wave ‘Shotgun‘ back in 2014, certainly didn’t hold back once again on the raging storylines. Werner and Klaus had a notorious working relationship, until they one day mysteriously stopped working together. Maverick takes us through a chaotic chamber-piece farce about friendship, love, art …and chickens. MY DINNER WITH WERNER is the night their friendship went devilishly wrong.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

The story for My Dinner with Werner was born purely out of my love and fascination with acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog and (what legend has said to be) his borderline murderous working relationship with controversial actor Klaus Kinski. For over 15 years, Herzog made movies with Kinski. Their work together was legendary. Their partnership was notorious. Their methods were dangerous. And their “friendship” was stranger than fiction. They would push each other to the absolute extreme edge. And both have admitted to sincerely wanting to kill one another. However, this aspect of their collaboration arguably contributed to the five films they made together (which are celebrated worldwide).

But in 1987, they stopped working together – forever. There are lots of little reasons why (like, you know, wanting to murder each other). But the exact, singular event that led to their separation (if there is one) is a mystery.

So, I was inspired to tell the story of what “really” happened – the night it all went devilishly wrong. When Werner also happens to be on a blind date at a fancy restaurant.

How deep did your research go on Herzog and Kinski?

While the Werner (Matthew Sanders) and Klaus (Andrew Perez) characters in the film are exaggerated fictional adaptations, the film was nonetheless thoroughly researched in all things Herzog and Kinski. Despite the film being a parody, we (co-writer Ryan McNamara and I) wanted it to be very well-versed in its real-life inspirations.

For example, one goal we had with the film was to take wildly peculiar things that both Herzog and Kinski have publicly said or done in real life and adapt them into the context of the story.
While Herzog eating his shoe never made the cut, we also incorporated some of the more known fun facts – Herzog’s deep fear of chickens, his glowing admiration of WrestleMania, and his notorious story about threatening Kinski with a rifle to not leave the film shoot in the jungle (which Herzog has repeatedly told audiences throughout the years). As bizarre as some of the stuff the characters say and do are, they are inspired by fascinating actualities.

However, our mission from the beginning was for the film to be a good time at the movies – whether or not you catch those references. We wanted it to be fun for everyone – both for folks familiar with Herzog and Kinski, and for folks that have no clue who they are. So, it was very important to us that the movie would be understandable, relatable, and enjoyable to all audiences. For that reason, we created an original character not based on anyone – Christine (Chynna Walker) – to act as an ambassador for the audience throughout the twisty, bizarre journey of the movie.

And we crossed our fingers that, if folks weren’t familiar with Herzog or Kinski, they would end the film wanting to learn more about them, their history, and the films they made – especially the ones they made together. With the film now online, we hope all the same is true for anyone that discovers it here as well.

What do you think “really” happened between Herzog and Kinski?

Given how tumultuous their working relationship was said to be, their eventual split seemed inevitable. But I doubt it could ever be as exciting or as eventful as what people can dream up given their explosive, publicized feuds.

Herzog’s documentary My Best Fiend (which is about their turbulent creative partnership) perhaps reveals the truth about what happened, but both Herzog and Kinski have also accused each other of fabricating and exaggerating stories about the other. So, who knows how factual those famous on-set stories and feuds really are. Or what “really” happened between them.

All we can do is imagine what happened. Maybe that’s what they wanted.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

I think it was Stanley Kubrick that said, “the best education in film is to make one.” And making this film was most definitely an education for me. There were more than a fair share of challenges (I guess that’s what I deserve for making a movie based on Werner Herzog), and the film as a whole was a tough nut to crack – casting actors that could embody Herzog and Kinski, finding a restaurant that could be more or less destroyed, and really just assembling all of the resources, expenses, and talent needed to pull off all the wacky craziness that’s in the story. And then there’s an evil talking chicken we had to find too, but that’s another story. I can’t really complain though – I never had to lug a steamship over a mountain like Herzog or anything.

But the countless lessons those challenges offered is a major reason I make movies – to learn. And, out of all those lessons learned, perhaps the most valuable to me was how beneficial it can be to let go of your false sense of control of the movie to experiment and embrace discovery. There’s a scene involving a poisonous dart and a sad, lonely patron that taught me that lesson. While I don’t want to give it all away, that was one of my favorite scenes to shoot – largely because it was all improvised and we got to really have fun experimenting with the scene thanks to that.

Everything the waiter (Grant Virtue) and the lonely patron (Trey Dickerson) did in that gag was entirely made up on the spot, and they tried something different take after take (and we did a lot of takes). The sense of freedom and discovery I felt from shooting the scene that way was both refreshing and exciting. Fight it as you might, filmmaking is an inherently organic process and embracing that from time to time can lead to discoveries that might make your movie better than whatever you have written or stored in your head. Or at least more fun to make.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

To be honest, I’m trying to figure out this filmmaking stuff just like they are.

So, my advice would be to just make sure to enjoy the process. While it’s so much easier said than done, in the midst of all the calamity and craziness that is production, it’s important to occasionally press pause, take a breath, and be present in the moment to enjoy and appreciate that calamity and craziness – and that getting to make movies is always awesome.

Looking back, it was amazing getting to experience the film come to life piece by piece – to make new discoveries while writing, to see the locations and costumes and props for the first time, to witness the actors become the characters, to observe scenes transform into a reality during shooting, to watch everything shape and evolve in post-production, and to finally share it with audiences at film festivals – it’s all special stuff. Especially given the memories you make along the way, reminding you that the act of creating is more life-giving than the result.

Previously, I mentioned a scene with a poisonous dart. Naturally, we also needed a bamboo blow-gun. And one of the most memorable experiences (and my favorite moment) making the movie was making those bamboo blow-guns, which were made by my grandma and I in her backyard with machetes during Thanksgiving. It was a great bonding experience, and probably one of the best Thanksgiving holidays I have ever had.

But that’s how the film was made – everyone (family, friends, and even chickens) coming together and doing everything we could to make it a reality. There were certainly days when I thought I might have dreamed too big, but thanks to our awesome cast and crew (family and friends included) – their never-ending hard work, trust, and talent – we managed to pull it off and I was rewarded with many unforgettable memories in the process.