Defiant Werner Herzog to Defamer: 'Who is Abel Ferrara?'

Seeing how much fun we had grilling John Cusack last week, we decided one impromptu, inquisitive turn deserves another. Then, through some minor miracle/apparent PR botch, we found ourselves sitting across from Werner Herzog talking about his new documentary about life in Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World. We'll get to that as its release date approaches later this month, but for the moment, we're still wondering how hard our legs were just pulled as Herzog told us all about his mad vision for remaking continuing (or something) Abel Ferrara's 1992 cult classic Bad Lieutenant.

It only looks like more than our standard Five Questions after the jump, but with Herzog jumping on our dropped jaws on more than one occasion, we admit we lost count.

So, yes or no: Is Bad Lieutenant a project you're working on with Nicolas Cage?

Yes, but its not a remake. It's like, for example, you wouldn't call a new James Bond movie a remake of the previous one — although the name of the bad lieutenant is a different one, and the story is completely different. It's very interesting because Nicolas Cage really wants to work with me, and just anticipating working with an actor of his caliber is just wonderful.

Why this project, though? You could have worked on anything.

There's an interesting screenplay; it's a very, very dark story. It's great because it seems to reflect a side of the collective psyche — sometimes there are just good times for film noir. They don't come out of nowhere. There was some sort of a mysterious context with the understanding of people in that particular time. And it's going to be in New Orleans, which is a fascinating place. Part of it was the decision of the producers for tax incentives — which is totally legitimate. However, I thought to myself: "We have seen a lot of New York in movies; we have not seen New Orleans in feature films." Or very few feature films. After Katrina it's a particularly interesting set-up. The neglect and politics after the hurricane struck are something quite amazing. It has to do with public morality.

Speaking of which, the original film's director, Abel Ferrara, has vowed to fight this project, and —

Wonderful, yes! Let him fight! He thinks I'm doing a remake.

Have you talked to him?

No. I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is. But let him fight the windmills, like Don Quixote.

Have you heard his comments at all? He says he hopes "these people die in Hell."

That's beautiful!

Do you relate to that passion?

No, because it's like theater thunder. It's like being backstage in the 19th century, with the machines that make thunder. It has nothing do with with his film. But let him rave and rant; it's good music in the background.

You did a remake before with Nosferatu, but —

It was not so much a remake as an homage to Murnau. But I don't feel like doing an homage to Abel Ferrara because I don't know what he did — I've never seen a film by him. I have no idea who he is. Is he Italian? Is he French? Who is he?

Oh, come on.

Maybe I could invite him to act in a movie! Except I don't know what he looks like.