Meeting Walter Saxer, A Retired German Movie Producer Who Lives in the Amazon Jungle…Yes, This is Real!

Maybe it’s my Mennonite heritage, but I’ve always kind of had a thing for German movies. For example, films directed by Werner Herzog. He’s narrated a fair number of his films, and I find his serious German accent, his earnestness, and his descriptive language is completely sidesplitting. We recently viewed Burden of Dreams, a documentary of Herzog’s determination against all sense and odds to film Fitzcarraldo in the Peruvian Amazon during the 1970s: a tale of obsession that is by turns funny and tragic and astounding.

In addition to Fitzcarraldo, Herzog also directed Aguirre, the Wrath of God in the jungle. These films took years to complete. Yes, years. Since it was taking so long, Herzog’s producer Walter Saxer purchased a beautiful home for himself in the midst of the chaotic jungle city of Iquitos, which is today a gorgeous oasis of a hotel: La Casa Fitzcarraldo.

Photos of actor Klaus Kinski on the wall at Casa Fitzcarraldo.

A few years ago, we visited the Peruvian Amazon, and Andrew booked us a night at La Casa Fitzcarraldo. The main thrill of this was that this hotel has connections to Saxer, and is where actor Klaus Kinski, Herzog, and the rest of the crew had stayed during filming. Kinski was the star of both Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Kinski was a great actor, but was notoriously difficult to work with. Just check out this behind-the-scenes footage. Walter Saxer sure had to put up with a lot!

And so, we found ourselves at La Casa Fitzcarraldo, relaxing in our room. We realized we’d forgotten to obtain the wifi password upon check-in. So, I went to the front desk and explained myself to the girl working there, when I heard a voice behind me say in perfect English, “Oh yes, she will help you.” I turned around, and saw an old man with a very white bushy moustache and eyebrows. He looked… eccentric, whimsical. I said thanks, took the slip of paper with the wifi password on it, and hurried back to our room. I sat there pondering and pondering. There was something about that old man… Who was he?

It wasn’t long before Andrew and I went to dinner. As we sat at a table awaiting our food, I began to tell Andrew that he needed to talk to that man. After all, he was sitting right there — I could SEE him!

E: I REALLY think you should go talk to him!

A: You’re making no sense. Have some more beer why don’t you.

E: It’s my intuition! Come on! It’s important!

A: Okay, but this’ll be super-weird…!

So, Andrew went over to him and asked him if he’d been around during the filming of Fitzcarraldo. He replied, “Yes… I produced it!” What followed was a very animated fantastic conversation which I listened to intently as I finished all our beers. Saxer then said, “Well your food is ready now, we can talk more tomorrow.” Andrew sadly replied, “Um, our flight leaves early tomorrow morning.” I then quickly trotted over to take this photo:

Sad to have missed an opportunity for Andrew to talk more in-depth about film with Walter Saxer. The next morning we were very stressed out about making our flight out of Iquitos. Didn’t we have to get to the airport early? Walter told us it was no rush. He leisurely provided us with a fantastic breakfast, which we wolfed down in a panic and then declared we had to leave. At which point Walter casually secured us a cab… and we later learned that he had also paid for it, too. Walter Saxer is definitely a class act.

When we got to the airport, we found out why Walter was so easygoing about our timing: we only needed to arrive 20 minutes before our flight. We waited about an hour to board.

End scene.