The Bizarre Reason Werner Herzog Once Ate A Shoe

Hailed as a pioneer of New German Cinema, Werner Herzog is known for his powerful film directing style, his deep, cutting voice, and his many works that cover everything from half-crazed rubber barons dragging steamships through the jungle to the ill-gotten fate of Timothy Treadwell. It's no surprise that Herzog is viewed as something an enigma — a complex riddle with a staggeringly blunt answer. 

In his interview with The Guardian, Herzog discussed everything from his movie about Japanese actors playing long-lost fathers or paparazzi for washed-up models to his fascination with trash TV. Wired plunges headlong into Herzog's examination of the internet's effect on mankind, painting him as a dour but fascinated outsider examining an entity of pixels, signals, and human contact. Of course, Herzog has taken some more interesting roles later in his career — in everything from "The Simpsons" to "Jack Reacher" — which only add to the German director's diverse and complex appearances. And whether you believe Herzog is a genius or simply pretentious, you can't say he's not a man of his word. If he made a promise to eat his own shoe, then by God will he do it.

Herzog putting his own foot in his mouth

For some, the old saying "putting your foot in your mouth" is just a comic term to imply you've said something foolish or tactless. To Werner Herzog, it wasn't just a whimsical saying but a promise. You see, fellow filmmaker — and Werner's protégé, at the time — Errol Morris was dragging his feet on a documentary project about pet cemeteries, and it didn't sit well with the dynamic Herzog (via The Hollywood Reporter). Frustrated with Morris' slow progression, Herzog stated that he would eat his own shoe if Morris would ever complete his project. Perhaps incentivized to finish or just encouraged by Werner Herzog's inspiring words, Morris' project "Gates of Heaven" premiered at the University of California, Berkeley, in the spring of 1979.

A man of his word, Werner Herzog agreed to live up to the terms of the deal. While Morris believed that Herzog eating his shoe would overshadow "Gates of Heaven," Herzog argued it would be good publicity. According to Mental Floss, Herzog enlisted the help of Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters to assist him in making his leather boot edible. The boot was boiled in duck fat, herbs, garlic, and hot sauce for nearly five hours. Although the leather was tough and the rubber sole was surprisingly inedible, Werner kept his promise and began to consume parts of his shoe with a set of poultry shears. The resulting stunt later became the classic short documentary aptly titled "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe."