In the summer of 1979, the director Werner Herzog found himself in the Peruvian river-port city of Iquitos preparing for “Fitzcarraldo,” a period epic starring Jason Robards and Mick Jagger that he planned to shoot in the rain forest. Two and a half years later, he was still there, struggling to finish. Robards and Jagger had long since quit, rendering their footage unusable. Locals had set fire to the filmmakers’ camp; the crew fled waving white flags. Robards’s replacement, the German actor Klaus Kinski, had proved so difficult that two Indian chiefs who witnessed his behavior approached Herzog and helpfully offered to murder him. Another member of the filmmaking team had gone completely insane, grabbed a machete and taken hostages. By then, surrounded by bugs and snakes and rooting pigs, beset by injuries and chronically, critically short of money, Herzog apparently found nothing particularly outlandish in what was happening, so consumed was he by a film that all reason suggested he should have abandoned several crises earlier. “I live my life or I end my life with this project,” he said.

more from Mark Harris at the NYT here.