Ganz in 2011
|Born||22 March 1941|
|Died||16 February 2019 (aged 77)|
|Resting place||Friedhof Rehalp, Zürich, Switzerland|
(m. 1965, separated)
Bruno Ganz (German: [ˈbruːno ˈɡant͡s] (listen); 22 March 1941 – 16 February 2019)[note 1] was a Swiss actor whose career in German television and film productions spanned nearly 60 years. He was known for his collaborations with the directors Werner Herzog, Éric Rohmer, Francis Ford Coppola, and Wim Wenders, earning widespread recognition with his roles as Jonathan Zimmerman in The American Friend (1977), Jonathan Harker in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Damiel the Angel in Wings of Desire (1987).
Ganz received renewed international acclaim for his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in the Oscar-nominated film Downfall (2004). He also had roles in several English-language films, including The Boys from Brazil (1978), Strapless (1989), The Manchurian Candidate (2004). The Reader (2008), Unknown (2011) and Remember (2015). On stage, Ganz portrayed Dr. Heinrich Faust in Peter Stein's staging of Faust, Part One and Faust, Part Two in 2000.
From 1996 until his death in 2019, Ganz held the Republic of Austria's Iffland-Ring, which passes from actor to actor—each bequeathing the ring to the next holder, judging that actor to be the "most significant and most worthy actor of the German-speaking theatre". Ganz was also honored with the Order of Merit of Germany and was made a knight of the French Légion d'honneur.
Ganz was born on 22 March 1941, in Zürich to a Swiss factory worker father and a northern Italian mother. He had decided to pursue an acting career by the time he entered university. He was equally drawn to stage and screen but initially enjoyed greater success on the stage.
Ganz made his theatrical debut in 1961 and devoted himself mainly to the stage for almost the next two decades. In 1970, he helped found the Berliner Schaubühne ensemble and two years later performed in the Salzburg Festival premiere of Thomas Bernhard's Der Ignorant und der Wahnsinnige, under the direction of Claus Peymann .
The German magazine Theater heute solidified Ganz's reputation as a stage actor by pronouncing him Schauspieler des Jahres (Actor of the Year) in 1973. One of Ganz's most physically demanding stage portrayals was the title character in Peter Stein’s 2000 production of Goethe's Faust (Parts I and II); he suffered injuries during rehearsals which delayed him starting in the role. He also served as a speaker in classical music works, including a 1993 recording of Luigi Nono's Il canto sospeso with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1960 Ganz landed his first film role, in Der Herr mit der schwarzen Melone (The Man in the Black Derby). Despite the support of lead actor Gustav Knuth, Ganz's cinematic debut was not particularly successful and it was only many years later that his career in film got off the ground. Ganz made his film breakthrough in a major part in the 1976 film Sommergäste , launching a widely recognized film career in Europe and the United States. He worked with several directors of the New German Cinema like Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, and also with international directors like Éric Rohmer and Francis Ford Coppola, among others. In 1977, he co-starred with Dennis Hopper in Wenders' American Friend, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game, playing a terminally ill father who gets hired as a professional killer. In 1979, he starred opposite Klaus Kinski in Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night). Ganz played a professor opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in the thriller The Boys from Brazil (1978), about Nazi fugitives.
In 1987 Ganz first played the role of the angel Damiel in Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire. He reprised the role in Faraway, So Close! in 1993. Ganz appeared in The Reader as a Holocaust survivor and as police officer Horst Herold in The Baader Meinhof Complex, which were both nominated for the 81st Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film respectively). In 2011, he appeared as a former Stasi operator opposite Liam Neeson in Unknown. Among Ganz's later roles were the Grandfather in the literary adaptation Heidi (2015), a pseudo-scientific healer in Sally Potter's The Party (2017) and a Vergil-like figure in Lars von Trier's The House that Jack Built (2018).
Ganz portrayed Adolf Hitler in Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004). after four months of researching the role. His performance was widely acclaimed by critics; The Guardian critic Rob Mackie described Ganz as “the most convincing screen Hitler yet: an old, bent, sick dictator with the shaking hands of someone with Parkinson's, alternating between rage and despair in his last days in the bunker”. His performance inspired many parodies on YouTube, using video and audio from the film with humorous subtitles. In 2014, popular culture website WatchMojo.com named his performance as the best portrayal of a real-life "bad guy" of all time, beating competition from Oscar-winning portrayals of Idi Amin by Forest Whitaker, and serial murderer Aileen Wuornos by Charlize Theron.
Ganz died on 16 February 2019 at his home in the village of Au, in Wädenswil, Switzerland, at the age of 77, over a month shy of his 78th birthday. Ganz was survived by his partner, the theatrical photographer Ruth Walz, and his son Daniel.
Ganz appeared in the following films:
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