August 1, 2012
By Karl Hungus
Music Field Correspondent on assignment for Utne Reader
As Rush continues their meteoric rise, new information is being eased out of the Rush camp concerning details over the tour, stage show, and documentary. During this point of rehearsals, we were allowed unprecedented access inside the Maple Leaf Gardens to amazing sites. With Ferris wheels, cardboard ships, trapeze acts, and canons, Clockwork Angels intends to be a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears.
Walking into the arena I see a tall, grey-haired man holding in his hands a control for an airship, a “steamliner.” It’s none other than Werner Herzog. The critically acclaimed film and stage director is a busy man these days. A rare acting role had replaced his director’s hat, as he’s just finished filming Tom Cruise’s latest project, Jack Reacher, playing a nasty villain called “The Zec.” Now he’s busy shooting a documentary about, well, Rush.
Universally respected for his films, yet you’ve probably never heard his name. Stories from his sets are legend in Hollywood. He made Christian Bale eat live snakes and maggots for Rescue Dawn and actually hypnotized his actors for the art masterpiece, Hearts of Glass. During Aguirre the Wrath of God, he helped his cast understand the term “sphincteral tension”, as they made rafts out of trees, and floated down the Urubamba River during the rain season.
Yet, he feels for his actors. Filming Even Dwarves Started Small, one of the actors was run over by a car (he lived). Herzog, empathizing with the pain, stripped completely naked and jumped headlong on a cactus. On the opposite end of the spectrum, consider the filming of the epic and Palm d’or winning movie Fitzcarraldo. He and the tempestuous Klaus Kinski feuded to the point where Kinski threatened to leave the location. Werner pulled a gun and directed Kinski at gunpoint, saying, “There are two bullets. The first is for you, the second for me, because after I shoot you, I have no movie.”
With an irony only afforded to such driven men, during a live interview by CNN, Herzog was actually was shot by a sniper. Not batting an eye, he continued to film stating, “It wasn’t a significant bullet.”
Into the Vortex
Make no mistake—He’s a man’s man at the head of a project full of promise, with vultures of uncertainty circling his head. Tackling locations most directors would shrivel from, Herzog believes in the “voodoo of location” and that “story boards are for cowards.” While operating his remote control camera via one the steamliners, I asked Werner what “voodoo” Toronto offers? He simply said, “Put dwarves with strippers in downtown Toronto and something will happen. Trust me—I know the hearts of men.”
He continued, “This is where Alex and Geddy initiated the seminal movement of the band. It’s important to get a feel for the city. However, with a trip to St. Catherine’s they found wholeness. Canada means something to these men, and I will bring a different light to their genius.”
Now in his mid-70’s, meeting the band was a highlight of his life. “I’ve been an observer of these men who are wildly creative people, who have pushed the envelope sonically. Musicianship aside, Neil’s lyrics are especially powerful when you ingest them as seeds of contemplation. I always joke with him that he should’ve been a monk. He could’ve pursued his dream of being a beekeeper, and given tours of his monastery. The reason? It would give him plenty of time to write.”
Herzog laughs, “No seriously, when Kinski and I made films, Rush providing healing music which helped our relationship. For example, while filming Nosferatu, Permanent Waves was released in Europe. What a glorious time.
As if turning pages in a book he recalls, “The lyrics from Different Strings were crucial in helping us attain that harmonious balance in our professional endeavors, but we jammed all of their stuff. We’d listen for hours into the night, talking about issues that kept our creative genius at a standstill…that, and discussing A Passage to Bangkok—what powerful elixirs.” For this project, Herzog will take us behind the scenes of the band’s massive show.
Meet the Performers
In his documentary, Herzog reconnects with some old friends from Even Dwarves Started Small. This time they are performing high circus art and pirate battles. “They are interesting as a group to observe,” Werner says, “as individuals, they appear harmless, but as you get to know them you realize, these people might just kick your ass if you step out of line.” Herzog continued “Very mischievous as well. Ask Jack Secret…the BRAWL’rs got into the Moog system and replaced various sounds with burps and farts. Tony was not a happy man.”
The British Repertoire’s Acclaimed Wee Legion is comprised of 12 actors performing as clowns and pirates for the epic songs Carnies and The Wreckers. All actors play dual roles. A select few perform for the song Headlong Flight—as it requires being shot out of canons. There is also the role of wench. Backstage, we caught up with those varmints of vaudeville.
Introduced in our last segment, Tiny Dynamite leads this cast of characters as they sit on various props, playing cards, or on the laps of the dancers. “Oh yeah we have the entire troop here, we have: Drunken Friar, Tickles, Axe Man, there’s Rodrigo—always fun. Where’s Owl—the cook? Oh, and Gemini, WC, Trenken—they empty the chamber pots in the dressing rooms.”
Dynamite’s right hand man is Treeduck. In Caravan, he performs the finest of British stage traditions and is the weepy house wench of protagonist Owen Hardy. Ducky offers insight into the mindset of this production, “Look, it’s a job right? I always get these roles because of my hair and high voice. No, seriously I love what I do. There are fringe benefits to working with Rush, namely outstanding catering from Frenchie, and with this gig—the women. I get to use their dressing room. Good massage therapy performed by Romeo…magic hands I tell you.”
When The Wreckers cranks up, you get to meet the loveable Goobs. Per his usual self, he portrays an oft-maligned role without ego. When asked how he enjoys this work compared to other roles of the past he said, “Well, playing Gimli was my magnum opus, my Hamlet, so to speak. At first I thought it would be a real chore to do this production because I dislike the band’s current direction.” Goobs then gets a cheerful look, and grins wide and says, “But I’ve changed my mind and now love the album. So being a cabin boy is no chore, feels natural. It’s certainly an unusual part for me. Let’s see…if I compare this gig with the last? Hmmm…cabin boy now vs. Lord of the Rings then?”
Moving on to a more decisive actor—the pirate captain. Indeed a highly coveted role. Out of over 1500 that auditioned, it was ultimately given to the actor only known as “Tripod” Tony. An equestrian kind of man and a hit with the ladies who comprise the “Seven Cities of Gold Dancers”, he leads the cast of pirates with an iron fist during production. “I’ve worked with Goobs before…Willow I think it was, we’ve done so many they blur together. I remember eating lunch with him one day and I noticed something odd. He eats peas at every meal. Peas!?! If the caters didn’t serve it, he carried a can in his pockets—with an opener.”
Before leaving the arena, there was some tumult to observe as Stage Director Liam Birt was seen slamming the show’s script on the ground in front of none other than a laughing Flava Flav and Rupert Grint, saying with a rattled voice, “YOU’RE the bloody peddler!!! It’s not ‘What you talkin’ bout Willis?’ it’s ‘what do you lack’…that’s all…Four words Flav—get it right!”
Until the next installment…keep the pirate flags aloft, and with the help of Totem natural male enhancement, keep those canons aimed high, as you are introduced to the “Seven Cities of Gold Dancers.”
Edited by Tombstone Mountain, 31 July 2012 - 10:27 AM.