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The Werner Herzog Movie Role Almost Played By The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger

The very serious filmmaker Werner Herzog and the very flamboyant musician Mick Jagger might not seem to have a lot in common at first blush — but they actually shared space during the early days of one of Herzog's most famous films, "Fitzcarraldo." Early footage featured in "My Best Fiend," a documentary about Herzog's difficult relationship with actor Klaus Kinski, shows Jagger portraying the assistant to Jason Robards' Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald. 

Unfortunately, Herzog's film soon became mired in well-documented financial and eventually production difficulties. While he wrestled with the Peruvian government, among many other roadblocks, Mick Jagger ultimately pulled out of the movie to prepare for a world tour with the Rolling Stones. Robards, meanwhile, became ill halfway through shooting "Fitzcarraldo." When Robards' doctors wouldn't sign off on his return to the set, Herzog replaced his star with the reliably unreliable Kinski. Meanwhile, Jagger's part was completely removed from the script. 

The director, during an interview with Germany's The Local, admitted that he regretted Jagger's choice to leave the project. "Jagger is a tragic gap in the history of film," he said. "He hasn't been praised enough as someone who could have been a great actor." But perhaps Jagger was lucky to get out when he did.

The shoot for Fitzcarraldo was notoriously tough

In a way, Jagger was fortunate: not only was the shoot for "Fitzcarraldo" legendarily miserable, it was one of the most difficult in cinema history. The film and its arduous birthing pangs were so notorious that they were captured in a documentary, "Burden of Dreams." The film chronicled Werner Herzog's quest to, among other things, actually haul Fitzcarraldo's 320-ton steamship manually up a steep hill. Understandably, the shoot wore on the spirit and bodies of the cast, crew and director alike.

Klaus Kinski and Herzog fought throughout the production, to the point where the chief of the Machiguenga tribe — who were assisting the production on location — clandestinely asked Herzog if he wanted Kinski killed. Herzog said no — because he needed Kinski alive to get his final shots in. This alleged possible on-set crime helped to cement Herzog as one of the most controversial directors of all time. But in the end, most of the crew made their way up out of the jungle uninjured and alive — a triumph that produced a now-classic film that still stirs the spirit to this day.