Herzog brings his female "Lawrence of Arabia" to Berlin film contest

Fri Feb 6, 2015 1:51pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - Nicole Kidman says she loves the desert, which was lucky for her as veteran German director Werner Herzog expected her to spend a lot of time there for his entry for this year's Berlin film festival competition.

His "Queen of the Desert", which had its premiere on Friday is based on the life of the British society woman Gertrude Bell.

Known as "the female Lawrence of Arabia", she trekked the deserts of the Arabian peninsula in the early part of the 20th century, knew T.E. Lawrence, befriended Bedouins, had two failed love affairs, worked as a spy and wound up as Britain's diplomatic expert on the Arab tribes.

Herzog, 72, who directed off-the-wall features such as "Fitzcarraldo" and other films starring the maniacal Klaus Kinski in the 1980s, said he wished he'd made more movies with women.

"I think I should have done films about female protagonists much earlier in my life. I always thought I was a director for men ... and I'm glad that finally this discovery came to me, I should have done films about female characters from much, much earlier on," Herzog told a news conference.

Kidman said she was attracted to the movie in part for the opportunity to bring Bell's life to the screen, but also for the chance to film in the desert. James Franco, Robert Pattinson and Damian Lewis co-star, but as Herzog pointed out, the Australian actress appears in all but one scene.

"I think what's so beautiful about this movie is you just see how exquisite that region is and the desert and the people and being a part of it certainly gives you a strong affinity for that, but I've always felt a pull toward the desert," she said.

Herzog said he hoped the film would give viewers a better appreciation of the region and its politics, in part complicated by borders Bell helped to draw. He said if the West did not understand the region, it risked falling further into the hands of Islamic State.   Continued...

Actors James Franco, Nicole Kidman, Damian Lewis and director Werner Herzog (L-R) arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the movie 'Queen of the Desert' at the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival, in Berlin February 6, 2015.                           REUTERS/Stefanie Loos