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ASU professor Lawrence Krauss will be starring as a villain in an upcoming Herzog film

Lawrence Krauss in costume for his role on the set of "Salt and Fire."

Lawrence Krauss in costume for his role on the set of "Salt and Fire."

Lawrence Krauss is known for his scientific research and overall influence on the academic world. But this year, he expanded his horizons and took on a new challenge: acting.

When Krauss, director of the Origins Project and a foundation professor in both the School of Earth and Space Exploration as well as the Department of Physics, was judging the Sundance Film Festival years ago, he met Academy Award-winning director Werner Herzog, and they've been friends ever since.

Herzog is known for documentary films but does fictional filmmaking as well. Some of his more popular works are Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters at the End of the World.

Krauss said Herzog always told him that he wanted him to star as the villain in one of his films, but action was never taken until a couple of years ago.

"He's said for some time that he wanted me to be a villain in one of his movies, and he also knew that if I was going to be in a movie, I always wanted to be a villain," Krauss said. "We were in Mexico a few years ago and I reminded him. ... About four months later, he sent me the screenplay."

While it is extremely competitive for actors to get a role in one of Herzog's films, Krauss' role in "Salt and Fire" was written specifically for him.

"Many actors spend their whole lives trying to get into one of Werner's films, and here I am, not an actor, and I had the role written for me," he said. "It's sort of a dream thing."

Krauss described the film as a thriller with a twist.

"It's a thriller, but it's not your standard thriller," he said. "It's a Werner Herzog thriller — dreamy and existential."

He said the experience of acting in a movie was fun, but he couldn't necessarily say the same about acting in a Herzog film. Herzog is known for making his crew work through unfortunate circumstances during filming, and "Salt and Fire" was no different.

"It was three weeks in Bolivia, in isolated places up at 4,000 meters," Krauss said. "It was so cold and the oxygen was so faint that various actors would faint and have to get oxygen from the doctors who were on-site."

Despite the difficult circumstances, however, Krauss said acting in the film was a great experience, and he was glad to have been able to see Herzog in action.

Former ASU film student Joseph Rodriguez is a huge Herzog fan, and said he was very excited to learn that an ASU professor was involved in one of his films.

"I think it's really cool that Herzog would cast his net to a place like Tempe," Rodriguez said. "He makes crazy decisions, and I just hope that it inspires students to not feel so afraid to really try and make their dreams come true."

Rodriguez, who is currently in New York working as an aspiring filmmaker, said he thinks an ASU professor's involvement in a film with such a big director should serve as a reminder for students of the value of hard work.

"You just have to keep making stuff that's true to you, and people will see the value of that," he said.

Nursing junior Alli Tooms said that although she has not taken a class with Lawrence Krauss, she admires him greatly.

"I haven't taken a class with him, but I saw his documentary 'Unbelievers' on Netflix and really appreciated his honest opinion on religion," Tooms said. "From there, I watched interviews with him and came to appreciate his views."

She said that she thinks his role in "Salt and Fire" will help to bring some publicity to his teachings and raise awareness for his vision.

"I think it is an amazing way to bring attention to his vision and mission," she said. "The Origins Project (Krauss' project at ASU) has a unique vision, and I think getting publicity for it is exactly what he wants."

"Salt and Fire" premiers at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15.

Reach the reporter at or follow @alexisegeland on Twitter.

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