Which places on Earth would still love to visit?
There are few out there that I know I should see before I die. But let’s not talk about it, because otherwise I’ll find a horde of tourists there.
So where is your favourite place on Earth?
Of course I’m very fond of the jungle, of Amazonia, but as a landscape and for the people, I really like the arid north east of Brazil a lot.
You turned your documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly into a feature film starring Christian Bale. Will you ever do the same for Grizzly Man?
No, it shouldn’t be made into a feature film. That’s an interesting case because one of the greatest Hollywood stars has acquired the rights to a feature film. It never materialised, because the moment they saw my film, they knew you cannot be nearly 10 percent as good as Timothy Treadwell. It is disaster for an actor to be compared to Treadwell.
Will you say who it was?
No. When you look at the three of four greatest stars, one of them.
What did you hear on the tape recording of Treadwell being eaten by the bear?
I can only say that apparently Treadwell’s girlfriend was very, very brave and attacked the bear with a frying pan. A frying pan was found next to the few remains of Treadwell. In the tape, you hear some banging noise, like metal, and apparently it’s the frying pan she’s used to hit the bear. She was eaten as well, of course.
Did you hear the recording of Christian Bale’s infamous outburst?
I have to say something. It is shame for the media. You will probably wipe it under the carpet, what I am saying, but it is the media who are vile and debased not Christian Bale. Yes, he had an outburst. But nobody in the media tells you that for three decades this man has been the most charming, diligent, noble of them all. But I know you will not mention it.
Okay. By the way, during Rescue Dawn, I had one moment where there was a misunderstanding and we yelled at each other. ‘Christian, are you crazy??’ He yelled back. It lasted 15 seconds. Then we decided we had to see each other face to face at arm’s length. In 10 seconds, the misunderstanding was gone and we hugged each other.
Can you name the film that made you fall in love with cinema?
This film doesn’t exist. The first time I saw films was when I was 11. Until I was 11, I did not even know that cinema existed. The films I saw which were brought by a travelling projectionist to the little school house in the mountains. They didn’t impress me at all. Later I saw Dr Fu Manchu and Zorro and Tarzan and things like that. They didn’t impress me very much. I always had the feeling I had to make better films than Dr Fu Manchu.
The men in your film always follow their dreams. Do you dream?
No, I do not dream at all. You see, there is this common agreement among the psychologists that every person dreams during the night time. And I am the living proof that there are some people out there who do not dream at all. I do not dream, no. It’s possibly because of the absence of dreams that I make movies. Well, it’s a feeble explanation, don’t take it that seriously.
Maybe you’ve just forgotten them when you wake up.
No. You can wake me up anytime in the night and there are no dreams.
What might you have been if not a filmmaker?
I don’t know… Maybe a musician. That’s something I missed unfortunately. I would give 10 years of my life if I could play the cello with same ease as I am breathing.
You think it’s too late?
If you really want to play it well, you have to start before you are six. Or mathematics. I would have loved to be into specific forms of mathematics. But I am aware that I am too old for that. Every single monumental breakthrough in mathematics was done by kids between 14 and 24.
What ambitions do you have left to fulfil?
I never had any ambitions. I only have a life. I do what I love to do.
What do you think of the digital age? Are you embracing it?
I was asked recently, ‘What is your social network?’ My social network is my table here, which holds six persons. My wife and me invite four guests maximum. We eat and feast and laugh and tell stories. And that’s my social network – my dinner table.
Do you watch many films these days? Do you ever watch YouTube?
No, I don’t. Two or three films are my average per year. But I do watch, for example, Premier League or Bundesliga. I want to see how Bayern Munich is doing. They are not really that good at the moment. They had the most abysmal start to the season. They really have to get their act together now.
Do you have personal heroes who have inspired you?
Yes, but they are all dead. Leonidas, the leader of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. Or the Pharaoh Akhenaten. Or a writer that you have never heard of, Philippe de Commines. They had a vision way, way, way beyond their time. Akhenaten was more than a 1,000 years ahead of his time.
When will we see you next?
I’ve seen my apotheosis now in American popular culture by being a guest actor on The Simpsons show. The title of the episode is A Scorpion’s Tale. I didn’t even know that The Simpsons were animated creatures. I had seen them only in print. I thought it was like Charlie Brown. They were completely baffled that I asked them to send me one or two samples on a DVD. They thought I was joking.
What character do you play?
I’m playing the part of a German pharmaceutical industrialist who creates some type of LSD-like pills to sedate and make happy unbearable old people like Grandpa. I enjoyed it.