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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Werner Herzog Discusses His Aversion to Drugs

The famously dour German director is not a fan of hippies, nor the "culture of drugs" and has never smoked weed in his life. But he did once get so stoned off pot-infused marmalade that he couldn't find his own home.

3 Substance

Werner Herzog
German director Werner Herzog is not exactly the type of guy “you’d want to have a beer with,” as we Americans say. Herzog is famously forbidding, imperious, difficult and humorless in the “Great Artist” tradition. At 71, his self-esteem appears to have been unimpaired by the aging process, based on the evidence of this interview for New York magazine, which Herzog endured in order to promote the newly released Herzog: The Collection, a limited-edition Blu-ray anthology of 16 of his 57 films.

One of those films is Fitzcarraldo, about a rubber baron’s quixotic effort to have a steamship carried over a steep hill connecting one river to another in the Peruvian rainforest. Herzog made the movie on location near the city of Iquitous. Mentioning the city gives the interviewer, Steve Marsh, an opening to question Herzog about his experience using psychedelics and other illicit substances:

Steve Marsh: I’ve been to Iquitos and have done ayahuasca there. Have you been under psychedelic drugs?

Werner Herzog: No, never.

Is it because you like to be in control?

No, it’s not a question of control. I simply don’t like the culture of drugs. I never liked the hippies for it. I think it was a mistake to be all the time stoned and on weed. It didn’t look right and it doesn’t look right today either and the damage drugs have done to civilizations are too enormous. And besides, I don’t need any drug to step out of myself. I don’t want them and I do not need them. And you may not believe this, big-eyed as you sit here now, but I’ve not even taken a puff of weed in my life.

When was the first time you refused a joint?

Oh, I do not refuse it. I just pass the joint on to the next and let them do it. It’s their business. I don’t want to do it. Actually, I was completely stoned once with the composer Florian Fricke in Popol Vuh. I was at his home and he had pancakes and marmalade. And I smeared the marmalade and he started chuckling and chuckling. And I ate it and it tasted very well and I wanted another one and took another good amount of the marmalade and the marmalade had weed in it. He didn’t even tell me. I was so stoned that it took me an hour to find my home in Munich. I circled the block for a full hour until finding my place. So I have had the experience.

Was it terrifying?

No, it wasn’t terrifying. It was just weird. Because I have a good sense of orientation.

What motivated Florian Fricke’s nasty little trick remains unexplored in the interview. But it has often been observed that a certain kind of person who would never take a puff of weed is the very one who could most use one.