About

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  • Birthday: May 29, 1944
  • Born in Bad Ischl, Austria
  • Ash Blonde
  • Blue Eyes
  • Lives in Salzburg, Austria

Honors

1969: Nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in The Damned.

1973: Won a David di Donatello – the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award – for his performance in Ludwig.

2007: Received a special Teddy Award at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival (2007) for his overall professional achievements.

2010: Received two Prix Lumières at the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon and also the “golden key” of the city.

2001: Won the Kristián Award, awarded at the Czech film festival Febiofest “for Contributions to World Cinema”.

2016: International Cinephile Society Award’s Nomination for Saint LaurentBest Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture


Career

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Helmut Berger first met the acclaimed film director, Luchino Visconti, during the shooting of Sandra in 1964 when Visconti picked him out of a group of extras.  Even though Visconti gave Helmut his first acting role as a porter in The Witches (Le Streghe) in 1967, it wasn’t until he was cast as Martin Von Essenbeck in Visconti’s The Damned that Berger gained international stardom.  In 1970, Helmut went on to star as Dorian Gray in the Oscar Wilde adaptation by Massimo Dallamano and Alberto in Vittorio De Sica’s Oscar-winning film, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.  In Visconti’s Ludwig (1972), Berger shows off his acting range by portraying Ludwig II of Bavaria from his youth to his final years.  This brilliant performance earned him a David di Donatello award and might possibly be his most well-known role.  The last film he made with Visconti was Conversation Piece (which is often considered to be based on the relationship between Berger and Visconti) where he starred with Burt Lancaster and Silvia Mangano. Helmut also played leading roles in such well-known movies as Ash Wednesday (Elizabeth Taylor), The Romantic Englishwoman (Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson), Salon Kitty (Ingrid Thulin), and Beast With A Gun (Richard Harrison, Marisa Mell). Famous photographers and artists such as Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol, David Bailey, Victor Strebneski, and Mary Ellen Park photographed Helmut during this time. Helmut being “the most beautiful man in the world” was even the first man on the cover of Vogue when he posed with his then girlfriend, Marisa Berenson, for David Bailey.

HelmutBerger_About6After 1976

In 1976, Visconti succumbed to a stroke and Helmut became a “persona non grata” with Visconti’s family.  Living by himself, Berger stayed in Rome and tried to compensate for the loss of his lover with drugs, alcohol and work.  He eventually even attempted suicide a year after Visconti’s death to rid himself of his emotional torment, but was found in time by friends.  Notably in the early 1980s, Berger played the lead in a tv mini-series, Fantômasand then went on to work in American television as Peter De Vilbis in the one of the most famous prime time soaps, Dynasty.  Helmut Berger has said publicly he only was in Dynasty for the money and has been quoted saying that he “cried on the way to the set but laughed on the way to the bank”. Afterwards, Berger continued to act in American productions such as Code Name: Emerald starring alongside Ed Harris, Max von Sydow and Eric Stoltz.  In the late 1980s, he starred in the horror film, Faceless, by Jess Franco as well as The Betrothed, a tv mini-series that was adapted from the classic Italian novel.

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In the early 1990s, Helmut appeared in Madonna’s Erotica music video as well as The Godfather: Part III.  In 1993, Berger reprised his iconic role as King Ludwig in the acclaimed film, Ludwig 1881.  In the later half of the 1990s, he mostly acted in European films such as The 120 Days of BottropLast Cut, and Under the Palms.

HelmutBerger_About10In Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Tarantino included some archive footage (Helmut Berger slapping Marisa Mell with a newspaper before raping her) from Beast With A Gun during a scene between Robert DeNiro and Bridget Fonda. Tarantino even thanked Berger in the closing credits for his powerful performance.

2000-Present

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From 2000-2009, Helmut Berger moved back to Salzburg and lived with his mother until her passing 8 years ago.  In 2012, Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag published a beautiful coffee table book entitled Helmut Berger – A Life in Pictures.

In the last few years, Berger has starred in Initiation and Murder Sisters which were both directed by Peter Kern, a well-known Austrian actor and director. In 2014, he played an aged Yves Saint Laurent in Saint Laurent for which he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for International Cinephile Society Awards 2016.