Arts & Entertainment

Working With Actors: Creating the Character

Werner Herzog

Lesson time 19:49 min

Through casting, wardrobe, and behavioral ticks, Werner shares both the subtle and bold techniques for developing characters with your actors.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Casting the right actors • Using wardrobe and props • Finding the character's voice


Acting and working with actors, well, that's a key to what you do as a director. And I think the first of all keys is casting. You have to have an eye to do casting right. And the mistake, sometimes, and it happens to big studios, they put two of the greatest bestselling actors, the greatest stars, together in a love story and they don't have any chemistry. And the film somehow does not function with audiences. So, for me, it's chemistry. Understanding chemistry and understanding chemistries has a lot to do with understanding the world and understanding human beings. In a way, I keep saying you have to know the heart of men. You have to see very deep into the right decisions. It happens that no matter who is stepping in front of my little camera that records them, they all have the same chance. And, in one film not very long ago, the casting lady, who is a wonderful woman, she said to me, I'm so embarrassed. But there's somebody outside the door and she has come uninvited, but she's a girlfriend of the main producer. And I said to her, bring her in. Bring her in. When she's here she has the same chance like anyone else. And I had done screen tests with six or seven other young women and she was so good. I mean she was fantastic and I took her. And there's no embarrassment. There's no ritual. There's nothing. Everyone has the same chance when you do these kind of early selections. And, for the big roles, of course, I know that's going to be that person will be in the film and no tests. Nothing. You will be the protagonist. Enigma of Kaspar Hauser just had written the screenplay and I thought, who could play the leading part? Who has it in him? And, by coincidence, I watched on TV a short film by a Berlin student filmmaker about homeless people in Berlin and some street singers among them. And there was one of them in it. It hit me like lightning. I knew that someone. Am I lucky that someone, and I have to say of all actors with whom I have worked and they're some of the greatest, Kinski had something extraordinary about him. And Claudia Cardinale, Christian Bale, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, I've worked with the finest of the fine. Now Michael Shannon, who is certainly the best of his generation, but nobody, not one of them, all these great ones, had his steps. It was something that you never see on a screen again before or after. There's something unique. And I'm glad that I risked everything, my career, my money, my reputation, my everything, and I had Bruno and I do not regret it at all. You describe it, how you would notice it, how you spot it, is kind of mysterious. You cannot teach it. You cannot teach it to anyone. But it's essential and I've always tried to look at casting in that way. I've had some very, very fine moments in doing the right casting and you're not really...

About the Instructor

When the legendary director Werner Herzog was 19, he stole a camera and made his first movie. 70 films and 50 awards later, Werner is teaching documentary and feature filmmaking. In this film class, you’ll learn storytelling, cinematography, location scouting, self-financing, documentary interview techniques, and how to bring your ideas to life. By the end, you’ll make uncompromising movies.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Werner Herzog

In 6 hours of video lessons, Werner Herzog teaches his uncompromising approach to documentary and feature filmmaking.

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