The Projector

Werner Herzog Shall Be Tom Cruise’s On-Screen Nemesis

Tim Grierson
The Projector

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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for MOCA

Traditionally, James Bond movies are only as good as their villains. Everybody likes James Bond, but what helps elevate a "Goldfinger" over a "Tomorrow Never Dies" (among other things) is how compelling and nefarious the bad guy is. But outside of who's going to be the baddie in a superhero movie, we tend not to care all that much about who a movie's villain is. That changed today, though, when it was announced who would be squaring off against Tom Cruise in his potential franchise-starter "One Shot": Werner Herzog. As in, Werner Herzog, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker. As in, holy crap, Werner Herzog is gonna be the bad guy in a Tom Cruise movie.

Variety broke the news just now, saying that Herzog will play a character known as The Zec. (That sounds about right.) In the film, based on one of the Jack Reacher novels by British thriller writer Lee Child, Cruise will play Reacher, a former military policeman who has become a drifter. He stumbles upon a multiple-homicide believed to be the work of a sniper, but, nope, it's actually The Zec's doing.

As probably the world's most recognizable documentary filmmaker who's not Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, Herzog has a personality that looms even larger than his impressive body of docs and features. He tends to talk in deep, pseudo-profound tones when he narrates his films, which has made him a cult figure, parodying his persona on "The Simpsons" and elsewhere.

But he has acted in features before: He's buddies with Harmony Korine and has done parts in his films. Still, our favorite Herzog-as-thespian moment has to be "Incident at Loch Ness," a 2004 mockumentary by Zak Penn in which Herzog plays an exaggerated version of himself -- if such a thing is possible -- as he sets out to investigate the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. When Herzog introduced the film at a screening, he said (swear to God) that as an actor in the role he felt it was his job to "out-Eddie-Murphy Eddie Murphy." And he's now going to play the bad guy in a Paramount film starring Tom Cruise. Sometimes, we think Hollywood executives have very successfully succeeded in stripping movies of all their unpredictability. And then this happens. We can't get the grin off our face.

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