Werner Herzog Loses a Bet to Errol Morris, and Eats His Shoe (Literally)

Almost 35 years ago, some­time in the late 70s, the film­mak­ers Errol Mor­ris and Wern­er Her­zog made a bet. Cor­rec­tion: At the time, Her­zog was a film­mak­er, and already a star, but Errol Mor­ris was just a guy obsessed with the idea of mak­ing a film about a pet ceme­tery. ‘I don’t believe you have the guts,’ Her­zog told Mor­ris. ‘But if you do, I’ll eat my shoe.’

Mor­ris rolled up his sleeves and got to work. The result is his stun­ning debut, Gates of Heav­en (1978). In response, Her­zog rolled up his sleeves, and got to work as well — in the kitchen, where he and uber-chef Alice Waters tried their might­i­est to con­coct a decent recipe for leather footwear.

Just to com­plete the doc­u­men­tar­i­an tri­fec­ta, the 20-minute short film, Wern­er Her­zog Eats his Shoe (1980), was direct­ed by the great Berke­ley film­mak­er, Les Blanc. You can watch a short­ened ver­sion above, or the full ver­sion here. The film is also now added to our big col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Errol Mor­ris and Wern­er Her­zog in Con­ver­sa­tion

Wern­er Her­zog and Cor­mac McCarthy Talk Sci­ence and Cul­ture

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

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  • rocky says:

    Actu­al­ly, what hap­pened is that Her­zog was doing a ques­tion-answer ses­sion at the old FILMEX fes­ti­val in LA, and the then unknown Mor­ris gets up and starts whin­ing about how you can’t get mon­ey to make films any more, it’s impos­si­ble, I’ve got an idea and tried, etc etc.

    So Her­zog gets furi­ous and tells him he’ll nev­er do it, he’s a los­er, he does­n’t have what it takes, and that if he ever does make his film then “I’ll eat my shoe!” So he takes off one of his shoes and starts pound­ing the table with it for empha­sis.

    Mor­ris gets inspired, makes him movie, and then a cou­ple years lat­er con­fronts Her­zog about his promise.

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