The legendary German director talks to us on the eve of the release of his new film, ''Rescue Dawn''

By Josh Rottenberg
Updated July 06, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Don’t be fooled by the soothing voice and gentle manner: German director Werner Herzog is a danger magnet. During a career of 50-plus movies, including mesmerizing art-house classics like 1972’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, 1982’s Fitzcarraldo, and the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, Herzog has traveled the globe, encountering production challenges — like pulling a boat over a mountain — that could crush the hardiest of souls. Even a 2006 BBC interview turned Herzogian when the 64-year-old was hit by a stray bullet in his abdomen. Within days, he randomly pulled Joaquin Phoenix from a car wreck in L.A. Now, as he releases his most mainstream film yet, July 4’s riveting Vietnam POW drama Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale, Herzog shares more war stories and a few profound thoughts.

He’s raised Murphy’s Law to an art form.
”I’ve attracted disasters, one after another. They come on like biblical plagues. During [the making of 1971’s] Fata Morgana, I got ill with a blood parasite, got arrested and put in jail in Africa — all sorts of tough things. But I’ve never left a film unfinished.”

He’s happy to see Rescue Dawn open against Transformers.
”All of my films are commercial; they just haven’t reached the mainstream. [It’s just that] I’ve worked within the niche of foreign films, a market that’s so small, it’s not more than there is black under my fingernails.”

Herzog, an adventurer? Not according to him.
”Adventure doesn’t exist anymore. It died away at the time when damsels would faint on couches and men would meet in pistol duels at dawn. Now it’s an embarrassment.”

The truthiness is out there.
”We need a new approach to reality. I’m not into facts. I’m going for something that illuminates us, an ecstatic truth.”