Best known for playing Adolf Hitler in "Downfall" of course, though he already had a long and distinguished career before that. He worked with director Wim Wenders multiple times, first in the 1977 neo-noir "The American Friend", and both in the epochal "Wings of Desire" and its sequel "Far Away, So Close". Also in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of Fritz Murnau's "Nosferatu" and the great 2008 "The Baader Meinhof Complex". His international work included "The Boys From Brazil", the 2004 remake of "The Manchurian Candidate", the 2009 Liam Neeson vehicle "Unknown Identity" and Ridley Scott's 2013 "The Counselor". Last year he was to appear on stage in Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at the Salzburg Festival, but had to quit rehearsals at urgent medical advice.
Before the inevitable renewed onslaught of "Downfall" Youtube clips, a look at the original.
Ganz’ performance in Untergang (Downfall) is phenomenal. You owe it to yourself to see this film in its entirety and with careful attention to the details not only of Ganz’ performance, but of others as well, such as the secretaries (at least one of whom, Traudl Junge, wrote a memoir that contributed much of the context and factual information that make these scenes so memorable).
_________________________ “I was guilty of judging capitalism by its operations and socialism by its hopes and aspirations; capitalism by its works and socialism by its literature.” — former socialist and later advocate of freedom Sidney Hook, born December 20, 1902.
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The film was largely based upon two books, Traudl Junge's memoirs and noted Hitler biographer Joachim Fest's work on the last days in the bunker, which lent it it's name. Another source were the recollections of Ernst Günther Scheck, the Waffen-SS surgeon who advised Hitler on his suicide, played by Christian Berkel in "Downfall".
There is an extended 178-minute version with lots of additional scenes; the most memorable ones to me about a lone technician who remains at the bunker after everyone around him has shot himself, and eventually encounters a couple female Soviet soldiers looking for Eva Braun's wardrobe.
Funnily, the two greatest and most successful German-speaking actors of recent times in my book are actually not really German-born. Bruno Ganz was of course Swiss, and Christoph Waltz of "Inglorious Basterds", "Django Unchained" and "Spectre" fame (we'll kindly forget "The Green Hornet", even though his villain was the best part) was born in Austria to a German-Austrian couple (though with German citizenship).
One might add Armin Mueller-Stahl ("Shine", "The Peacemaker", "The International", "Angels & Demons"), born in East Prussia (part of Russia today) to an Estonian-German mother who had fled the Bolsheviks from St. Petersburg. He started his career in East Germany until blacklisted in 1976, and emigrated to the West four years later.
Of other recent German-speaking actors, Diane Kruger (civilly Heidkrüger) is certainly successful, but not really in the class of the above. Or one might as well invoke Sandra Bullock, a native bilingual English-German speaker thanks to American-German parents and having grown up largely in Nuremberg (though born in Arlington).
I was a couple of weeks late for the 75th anniversary of VE Day, but I watched Downfall today. Incredible movie. Also incredible that so many of the actors cast in this movie were both highly competent and eerily resembled the historical persons they portrayed.
__________________________________________________________ I just get up every day and don’t let the old man in. - Clint Eastwood
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For a similarly faithful historical movie from the same producer (Bernd Eichinger - "The Name of the Rose", "Last Exit to Brooklyn", "Smilla's Sense of Snow" etc.) and including Ganz in a supporting role, though about a different period, I recommend the aforementioned "The Baader Meinhof Complex".