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About The Production
"I love America because America gave me wings.” -- Dieter Dengler

RESCUE DAWN marks the first truly American film from internationally acclaimed director Werner Herzog. Based on the true story of the courageous POW escapee Dieter Dengler, the film once again takes Herzog on an intense adventure into the dark heart of human peril, but comes out the other side with a heart-lifting sense of all that is meant by duty, honor and triumph over adversity. Says Herzog: "Dieter Dengler embodied everything I love about America: courage, perseverance, optimism, self-reliance, frontier spirit, loyalty and joy of life. He was the quintessential immigrant into America – a young man who arrived with a great dream and came to represent the best of the American spirit.”

The story of Dieter Dengler has long had a grip on Herzog, the German-born director who has attained legendary status for his groundbreaking and unforgettably lyrical films -- both harrowingly truthful fictional narratives and mischievously inventive documentaries -- that have provided ecstatic visions of human reality. Earlier, he created an acclaimed, Emmy® nominated documentary about Dengler, LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY, in which the real Dieter Dengler, then living a comfortable life in Northern California (he passed away in 2001 after a final battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease), looked back on his jungle odyssey with a gritty, astonishingly unsentimental yet emotionally stirring frankness. Though that film was an evocative work in its own right, Herzog says: "I knew in my heart the story remained incomplete.” 

Thus was born RESCUE DAWN, the first time Werner Herzog has written a screenplay entirely in English and his first film working with major Hollywood stars such as Christian Bale, who is rapidly emerging as the leading talent of his generation. With this revisiting of Dengler's story, Herzog once again finds himself in the ragged borderlands where truth and fiction meet – turning a true story that he previously turned into a documentary back into a fictional narrative that seems to cut to the core truth of human experience at its most intensified. 

Herzog recalls first hearing of Dengler back in the 1960s, when he read of his remarkable quest for survival against all odds in the pages of a major German magazine. Even then, Dengler's story resonated with Herzog, who was already pursuing the theme of heroic struggles in his early career. More than that, Dengler's childhood eerily mirrored that of Herzog's. Both were raised in remote areas of Germany without a father – Herzog in mountainous Bavaria, Dengler in the Black Forest. And both suffered from starvation and deprivation in the harsh years following the end of World War II, leading each man down a different path, Dengler to become a pilot where he would be up above it all, and Herzog to become a filmmaker renowned for getting deep down in the visceral guts of life's most wrenching and amazing moments. 

Years later, Herzog was approached to create a segment for a television show entitled "Voyages To Hell” about his own harrowing imprisonment in Africa. Not wanting, as he says "to circle around my own navel,” Herzog decided instead he would do a piece on Dengler. Though he had no connection to Dengler, following a mere hunch as to where he would have wound up, Herzog found the former Naval pilot in the Marin Yellow Pages. After a brief meeting, at which Dengler expressed some iniital hesitation about becoming the subject of a film, the film director spontaneously showed up on Dengler's doorstep with a film crew. This began not only their collaboration on LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY but a deep-seated and long-lived friendship. 

"I truly loved the man,” says Herzog. "Even now, when I get into complicated situations, I often will ask myself: ‘What would Dieter have done?'” 

Yet at the premier screening of

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