A harrowing jungle shoot for 'Rescue'


Director Werner Herzog is no stranger to exotic location shoots. The man who steered a steamboat across the Peruvian Andes for "Fitzcarraldo" and braved the raging oil fires of Kuwait for "Lessons of Darkness" recently tackled the jungles of Thailand to bring his Vietnam War drama "Rescue Dawn" to the big screen.

The film, which MGM releases July 4, captured a relentless Southeast Asian landscape that posed the ultimate challenge for actors Christian Bale, Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies.

Herzog chose the merciless topography of Northern Thailand to fill in for Laos, where the true story of Dieter Dengler's tortuous imprisonment and impossible escape from a POW camp unfolded. Like his character Dieter, Bale ate maggots, swam in snake-infested waters and dodged deadly creatures during the three-month shoot.

"I was like: 'Look at that spider. It could kill you with one bite,' " said Bale, who also spotted random elephants traipsing through Herzog's shoot in the remote northwestern hill country of Thailand, near the Burmese border. "It's an adventure to make a movie with him, and I think that's his point. … It's about blood, sweat and tears. It's about jumping in and getting your hands dirty and just collapsing at the end of the day."

For Davies, who lost 33 pounds during filming, the visionary director led by example. "In film or any (industry), he is probably the most fearless person I've ever met," Davies said.