Herbig’s choice – ‘Bully’ or Indian

German Western spoof nabs biggest opening weekend

BERLIN — “Bully Parade” mastermind Michael Herbig has done something few Teutonic helmers have managed here in recent years — he’s created a bona fide summer blockbuster.

His “Der Schuh des Manitu” enjoyed the biggest opening weekend ever for a German pic, garnering north of $5 million; in less than two weeks, the pic has grossed nearly $10.5 million, and local exhibs predict its eventual total in Germany will double that.

The film, from Munich producer-distrib Constantin, spoofs 1960s German Westerns, and has struck a nostalgic chord with kids and young adults who grew up on the old movies and the novels of popular German author Karl May on which they were based.

Indeed, the fictional Native American named Winnetou and his pale-faced pal Old Shatterhand have become definitive German pop icons, still attracting crowds to annual open-air stage adaptations based on Winnetou’s adventures.

“For me, ‘Der Schuh des Manitu’ is simply a process of coming to terms with my past,” quips Herbig, who also produced, co-wrote and stars in the film as the Indian Abahachi, as well as his gay twin brother Winnetouch.

Herbig admits he was taken aback by the success of the movie that he describes as “a social, critical, auteur Western road comedy musical dogma thriller drama with horses — and thus also a film for girls.” He’d hoped the film would attract “at least one more viewer” than his last pic, “but 2 million viewers in 10 days exceeded all expectations.”

Last year, Herbig made his directorial debut with the teen comedy “Erkan & Stefan.” That pic sold 1.2 million tickets and took in $6 million, becoming a nice little hit for Constantin.

Herbig made his media debit in 1992, with a morning radio show that became the first German commercial radio program to be broadcast nationwide. Then, in 1997, he hit TV with comedy skein “Bully Parade” on commercial web ProSieben. He’s currently working on scripts for the fourth season of “Bully,” which kicks off in January.

But making movies is something the 33-year-old Herbig has wanted to do ever since he saw his first Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg films at the age of 12.

And with the success of “Der Schuh des Manitu,” Herbig will in all likelihood get to do whatever he wants — which, he says, includes directing, producing and acting. The only question is, in what medium?

“It’s a real dilemma,” Herbig says. “I’ve got so many different ideas, I don’t know which one I should start.”

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