Bruno Ganz is a prominent film and theater actor of Swiss descent.
Bruno Ganz was born in Zürich, Switzerland. His family mainly consisted of blue collar workers- his father was a mechanic, while his mother was a stay at home wife. He is Italian on his mother’s side.
Their weak financial background didn’t stop little Gunz from dreaming of becoming an actor. Against his family’s wishes, he dropped out of school, joined an acting school, and supported himself by working as a bookseller.
In the early 1960’s, he moved to Germany to work as a stage actor. While in Germany, Ganz got his first film role in Karl Suter’s dark comedy, The Gentleman in the Black Derby. Despite immense support from lead actor, Gustav Knuth, his film debut was not successful.
Ganz started focusing on theater, and from 1970 onwards, joined Schaubühne, a theater group based in Berlin. He worked with stage directors like Luc Bondy, Peter Zadek, and Peter Stein.
In 1972, during the Salzburg Festival, he got rave reviews from the audience and critics, alike, for his performance in Claus Peymann’s, “Der Ignorant and der Wahnsinnige” (The Ignorant and the Lunatic), by Thomas Bernhard. In 1973, Theatre Heute, a German magazine, pronounced him Schauspieler des Jahres (Actor of the Year). Gunz became a reputed stage actor and went on to work with some of the most outstanding German directors of that time.
The 1976 film, Sommergäste (Summer Guests), catapulted his film career. Unlike many actors, who choose between theatre and film, Ganz has been able to leave a mark on both.
In 1977, he was roped into playing the role of a picture framer who becomes an assassin in Wim Wenders’, The American Friend. The film was based on Patricia Highsmith’s, Ripley’s Game. The film became a critics favorite, holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was West Germany’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 50th Academy Awards. In the following year, Gunz starred opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in Franklin J. Schaffner’s thriller, The Boys from Brazil, which was based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name.
Gunz’s performance in Wim Wender’s romantic fantasy, Wings of Desire (1987), as an angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist, was highly regarded by critics. The film was selected to be West Germany’s official entry for the 60th Academy Awards. The film got a Hollywood remake entitled, “City of Angels”, starring Nicolas Cage.
Ganz gave his most physically demanding stage performance in the year 2000, playing the titular character in Peter Stein’s, ‘Faust’, which lasted more than 21 hours. He suffered many injuries during the rehearsals.
In 1996, for his contributions as a stage artist, he was presented with the prestigious Iffland Ring, which has been passed on from one actor to another for more than 100 years, and no doubt, he is considered ‘the most significant and honourable stage artist of German-speaking theatre’.
Bruno Ganz became a household name after his portrayal of Adolf Hitler in the 2004 release, ‘Downfall’, which was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. The film became a box office hit, and also got nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, in the year 2005. As part of his preparation for the role, Ganz researched for several months and gave a remarkable performance, which got universal critical acclaim. Some websites have rated his performance as the best portrayal of real life ‘bad guy’ in a movie.
In his diamond studded career, he has won many prestigious awards like Swiss Film Prize, European Film Award, Bavarian Film Award, Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the list goes on and on.
Bruno Ganz married his wife, Sabine, in 1965, but the couple later separated. He has a son from his marriage to Sabine, named Daniel. He currently lives with his partner, Ruth Walz, who is a photographer.