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Werner Herzog is Now Part of ‘Star Wars’

The iconic filmmaker will break up the harmony of the universe by co-starring in ‘The Mandalorian.’
Jack Reacher
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on December 13th, 2018

Two months ago, we learned that Werner Herzog is taking on outer space. But that news pertained to his next documentary, Fireball, which will have him re-teaming with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer (Encounters at the End of the World, Into the Inferno) for an examination of comets and meteorites and how they’ve influenced mythology and religion.

Now, Herzog is really heading to space — well, through the magic of streaming television — and joining a franchise involving an enormous mythology and an ancient religion. That’s right, he’s going to be a part of the new Star Wars canon. Unfortunately, he’s not directing a Star Wars movie or show. But next best thing, he’ll be co-starring in The Mandalorian.

Herzog’s casting was revealed with little fanfare by the official news release of the Disney+ series’ ensemble. The previously announced Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) was confirmed to be playing the title character, a Mandalorian gunfighter “in the outer reaches of the galaxy.” Also confirmed are Deadpool‘s Gina Carano and the formerly rumored Carl Weathers.

Along with Herzog, the other fantastic new names on the roster include Nick Nolte, who has never done this sort of sci-fi before (Hulk is his only sci-fi movie), Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actor Giancarlo Esposito, Supernatural‘s Emily Swallow, and American GodsOmid Abtahi, who actually voiced a Mandalorian character on the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Who wants to make a guess that Abtahi will reprise that role of Amis in The Mandalorian?

While Herzog is primarily a filmmaker who balances his work between fiction and nonfiction features, he has a famous persona mostly through his own films’ narration and occasional appearances as well as his offscreen personality in real life. As an actor, he can be something of a gimmick. For Jack Reacher, for instance, he played the movie’s villain, and the appeal was simply that Werner Herzog, rather than whoever the character was, is the movie’s villain.

Similarly, in his guest appearance on Parks and Recreation, Herzog is just Herzog as the weird old owner of a haunted house who dreams of living close to Walt Disney World. His name is Keg Jeggings. Nothing about any Herzog character is to be taken too seriously. The closest thing to true dramatic acting would be his performance as the father in Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy, which was made before Herzog became so iconic, but that’s still far from a normal film or role.

Could Herzog’s part in The Mandalorian be distracting, then? Or at least a little too goofy for what otherwise might be a serious space Western? We have no idea what sort of character Herzog will be playing. Is he another villain? A wise old sage? Perhaps he’ll just be lending his famous voice to the part of an existential droid or alien creature. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun, even if an interruption every time, hearing him speak Star Wars dialogue. Or his own dialogue in Star Wars.

Just imagine him uttering something like this line from his doc Grizzly Man: “I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.” Or this one from Les Blanks’ Burden of Dreams: “Even the stars up here in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe.”

The Mandalorian, which will be the first live-action Star Wars series and said to be taking place sometime between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, is set to debut on Disney+ when the streaming service launches in late 2019.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.