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Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

German film director and screenwriter
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German film director and screenwriter
A.K.A. Florian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, Florian Henckel
Countries Germany
Occupations Film director Screenwriter Film producer Film editor
Gender male
Birth 2 May 1973 (Cologne)
Star sign Taurus
Father: Leo-Ferdinand Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck
Education University of Television and Film Munich, New College
Notable Works The Lives of Others
The details

Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck (born 2 May 1973) is a German film director, best known for writing and directing the 2006 Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others and 2010's The Tourist, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Early years

Donnersmarck was born in 1973 in Cologne, West Germany, into the aristocratic Roman Catholic Henckel von Donnersmarck family, and grew up in New York City, Brussels, Frankfurt, and West Berlin. He is fluent in English, German, French, Russian, and Italian. After graduating at the top of his class from the classical high school Evangelisches Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster, he studied Russian literature in Leningrad for two years and passed the Soviet State Exam for Teachers of Russian as a Foreign Language. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at New College, Oxford, and a diploma in Film Directing from the University of Television and Film of Munich.


The younger son of Leo-Ferdinand, Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, a former president of the German division of the Order of Malta and literary scout Anna Maria von Berg, Henckel von Donnersmarck holds German and Austrian citizenships. His father's only brother, Gregor Henckel-Donnersmarck, is the emeritus abbot at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in the Vienna Woods, where Florian spent a month writing the first draft of The Lives of Others (German: Das Leben der Anderen).

Henckel von Donnersmarck is married to Christiane Asschenfeldt, former International Executive Director of Creative Commons. They have three children and currently live in Los Angeles. He is 205 cm (6 ft 8 in) tall.


In 1977, while living as a child in New York, he saw his first movie at the Museum of Modern Art. He expected to see Doctor Dolittle but was "exposed instead to" the German melodrama Varieté. "He cites this experience as the start of his interest in film."

In 1996, he won a directing internship with Richard Attenborough on In Love and War, and then went to study at the Fiction Directing Class of the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film München (University of Television and Film Munich), Germany, alma mater of directors as diverse as Wim Wenders and Roland Emmerich. His first short film, Dobermann (which he wrote, produced, directed and edited), broke the school record for the number of awards won by a student production. It became an international festival sensation, and Donnersmarck travelled the festival circuit for over a year.

His first feature film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), which Donnersmarck spent three years writing, directing and completing, won the European Film Award for Best Film, Best Actor and Best Screenplay in 2006. Donnersmarck won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's award for Best Foreign Film, was nominated for the Golden Globe (which went to Clint Eastwood instead), and on 25 February 2007 won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

His next film, The Tourist, which Donnersmarck re-wrote, directed and completed in under 11 months (telling Charlie Rose he had wanted a break from writing a dark screenplay about suicide), was a thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The film was nominated for three Golden Globes: Best Musical or Comedy, Depp for Actor Musical or Comedy and Jolie for Actress Musical or Comedy. It also won three Teen Choice Awards nominations (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress) of which it won two. The film grossed US$278.3 million at the worldwide box office, prompting The Hollywood Reporter belatedly to proclaim it an "international hit".

In 2007, Donnersmarck was one of 115 new members to be invited to join AMPAS.


In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, director Howard Davies named Donnersmarck as the artist he most admired.

René Pollesch wrote a play, L'Affaire Martin!, which poked fun at von Donnersmarck. According to Pollesch, the director's parents attended a performance and came backstage to say they liked it.

After meeting him at the Davos World Economic Forum, Jay Nordlinger, writing for the National Review, described Donnersmarck as "one of the most impressive people on the planet".

The Europe List, a largest survey on European culture, established that the top three films in European culture are:

  1. Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful
  2. Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others
  3. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie


DE-BY Der Bayerische Verdienstorden BAR.png Commander of the Bavarian Order of Merit

DE-NW Der Verdienstorden des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen BAR.png Commander of the North Rhine-Westphalian Order of Merit

Voting Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

In 2011, Donnersmark was honoured by the University of Oxford, his alma mater, as one of its 100 most distinguished members from 10 centuries. Other honourees included Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Saint Thomas More, John Locke, Christopher Wren, Adam Smith, Lawrence of Arabia, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien and living university alumni Rupert Murdoch, Bill Clinton and Stephen Hawking. For the cover of the 2011 Prospectus, Oxford University named 100 streets in Oxford's historical centre after these graduates. Upper Oxpens Road was renamed in the prospectus for Florian Henckel von Donnersmark.

Selected awards and nominations

  • 2013 – Named Young Global Leader by the Davos World Economic Forum
  • 2011 – 2 Teen Choice Award wins for The Tourist
  • 2011 – 3 Teen Choice Award nominations for The Tourist
  • 2011 – 3 Golden Globe nominations for The Tourist
  • 2009 – Dante Alighieri Society Gold Medal of Merit
  • 2008 – 4 BAFTA nominations for The Lives of Others
  • 2008 – César Award for The Lives of Others
  • 2007 – Academy Award for The Lives of Others
  • 2007 – New York Film Critics Circle Award for The Lives of Others
  • 2006 – 2 European Film Awards for The Lives of Others
    • Best Film
    • Best Screenplay
  • 2006 – Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Award) for The Lives of Others
    • Best Direction
    • Best Screenplay
  • 2006 – Screenwriter Award within the Cologne Conference
  • 2003 – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation Award for Best Short Film for The Crusader
  • 2002 – Eastman Award at the Hof International Film Festival for The Crusader (shared with Sebastian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
  • 2000 – Universal Studios' Shocking Shorts Award for Dobermann
  • 2000 – Max Ophüls Preis for Dobermann


  • Mitternacht (1997) (short film)
  • Das Datum (1998) (short film)
  • Dobermann (1999) (short film)
  • Der Templer (2002) (short film)
  • The Lives of Others (2006) (writer, director, co-producer)
  • The Tourist (2010) (writer, director)
  • Never Look Away (2018)
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