Werner Herzog Finally Plays a Hollywood Villain, in Jack Reacher

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 17 2012 3:20 PM

Werner Herzog Finally Plays a Hollywood Villain

Werner Herzog plays "The Zec" in Jack Reacher
Werner Herzog plays "The Zec" in Jack Reacher.

Still from the trailer for Jack Reacher.

There’s a lot to absorb in the new trailer for Tom Cruise action flick Jack Reacher—military cover-ups, Drive­-style vintage car chases, the surprisingly tossed-off appearance of the great Robert Duvall. But for fans of the “ecstatic truth,” the film has one clear selling point, shown for the first time here: Werner Herzog in the role of the sinister antagonist.

The at-first surprising casting of Herzog as an evil Hollywood villain is actually a long time coming. In a way it already happened in 2011, when Hugo Weaving based his portrayal of Red Skull for Captain America on the “wonderfully mad” German auteur. (Herzog fans will recognize his famous Bavarian pipes in Red Skull’s own cadences.) And of course Herzog has long enjoyed toying with his own persona, whether he’s playing up his rivalry with actor and collaborator Klaus Kinski, appearing on The Simpsons and The Boondocks, or lending his voice to a plastic bag.

We don’t get a lot of Herzog here—I for one would still like to see him muse on the celebrity of Tom Cruise—but there’s enough to tantalize fans. Herzog has, of course, kept his signature accent, and at one point he telegraphs his menace with some spectacularly shifty eyes (pictured above). It remains to be seen whether Cruise’s character will counter-attack by threatening him with chickens.

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Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 



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