Helmut Berger: Austrian film and television actor (1944-) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Helmut Berger
Austrian film and television actor

Helmut Berger

Helmut Berger
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Austrian film and television actor
A.K.A. Helmut Steinberger
Is Actor
From Austria
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 29 May 1944, Bad Ischl, Gmunden District, Upper Austria, Austria
Age 78 years
Spouse: Luchino Visconti
The details (from wikipedia)


Helmut Berger (German pronunciation: [ˈhɛlmuːt ˈbɛʁɡɐ]; born Helmut Steinberger; 29 May 1944) is an Austrian film and television actor. He is most famous for his work with Luchino Visconti, particularly in his performance as King Ludwig II of Bavaria in Ludwig, for which he received a special David di Donatello award, and his performance in The Damned for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

He appears primarily in European cinema, but has also acted in American productions such as The Godfather Part III.

Early life and education

Berger was born in Bad Ischl, Austria, into a family of hoteliers. After receiving his Abitur, Berger initially trained and worked in this field, even though he had no interest in gastronomy or the hospitality industry. At age eighteen, he moved to London, England, where he did odd jobs while taking acting classes. After studying languages at University of Perugia in Italy, Berger moved to Rome, Italy.


Until 1976

Helmut Berger in 1973
Helmut Berger at his home in Rome in 1974

He first met the film director Luchino Visconti in 1964. Visconti gave him his first acting role in the film Le streghe (The Witches, 1967) (in the episode "La Strega Bruciata Viva"), but he gained international prominence as the amoral Martin von Essenbeck in Visconti's The Damned (1969). In that film, in what is perhaps his best-known scene, he pretends to be Marlene Dietrich in the film The Blue Angel (1930). It was followed by the title role in the Oscar Wilde adaption Dorian Gray (1970) and a leading role in the Oscar-winning Italian drama film The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970). In Visconti's Ludwig (1972), Berger portrays Ludwig II of Bavaria from his blooming youth to his dissolute final years. This performance got him a David di Donatello award and is perhaps his most famous role. In 1974, Berger starred with Burt Lancaster in Visconti's Conversation Piece. The story of Conversation Piece is often considered as an allegory of the personal relationship between Berger and Visconti. On several occasions Berger mentioned this film as his favorite.

In the following he played leading roles in international productions such as Ash Wednesday (1973) alongside Elizabeth Taylor and The Romantic Englishwoman (1975) alongside Michael Caine. Well-known photographers including Helmut Newton, Mary Ellen Mark and David Bailey published series of pictures of him. Andy Warhol made polaroids of him and produced serigraphs. Berger was also, in 1970, alongside his then-girlfriend Marisa Berenson, the first man on the cover of Vogue.

After 1976

The death of his partner Luchino Visconti in 1976 plunged him into a personal crisis. Exactly one year after Visconti died, Berger tried to commit suicide but was found in time to be saved. In the following time the abuse of drugs and alcohol shadowed his acting career. In 1980 Berger was cast by Claude Chabrol as Fantômas before he went to America to work in television in the role of Peter De Vilbis in nine episodes (1983–1984) of the American prime-time soap opera Dynasty, which he did only for money (he would later call it "crying on the way to the set but laughing on the way to the bank"). This was his last appearance in a television series. He continued working in the US on various projects, most notably starring in Code Name: Emerald in 1985. In Europe, he acted the TV-miniseries The Betrothed in 1989.

In the 1990s, Berger acted in the music video to Madonna's song "Erotica" in 1992, and in The Godfather Part III in 1993. He also appeared in Madonna's book Sex in 1992. In 1993, Berger reprised his role as king Ludwig II. in the critically acclaimed film Ludwig 1881. Throughout the second half of the 1990s, he concentrated mainly on European productions, acting in films directed by Christoph Schlingensief, Yves Boisset and many others.

In 1997, Quentin Tarantino included some archive footage of the film Beast with a Gun in his film Jackie Brown and thanked Berger in the closing credits for his powerful performance.


Helmut Berger (right) and Alexander Tuschinski on the set of Timeless (2015)

From the early 2000s to 2009, Berger largely withdrew from the acting world, moving to Salzburg to his mother who was in need of care. She died in 2009. Since then, he has acted in bigger film productions again.

2012, Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag published Helmut Berger – A Life in Pictures, a coffee table book about his life, featuring many previously unreleased photographs of his life and films plus essays in German, English, Italian and French. The book was well received by the press.

In the thriller film Iron Cross (2009) Berger played Shrager, an aging character believed to be an old SS commander responsible for murdering Jews during World War II. In recent years, Berger has starred in two films directed by Peter Kern – Blutsfreundschaft (shown at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival (2010), and Mörderschwestern (2011). In 2014, Berger appeared in Saint Laurent as old Yves Saint Laurent for which he was "celebrated" at Cannes Film Festival. The short film Art!, in which Berger had a starring role, had its world premiere at Paris Independent Film Festival 2015. Most recently, he stars in the role of "Professor Martin" in the film Timeless by Alexander Tuschinski, due to be released in 2016.

In 2015 Austrian filmmaker Andreas Horvath released a feature-length documentary about Helmut Berger called Helmut Berger, Actor. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival. In the magazine Artforum American film director John Waters chose Helmut Berger, Actor as the Best Motion Picture of the year 2015.


In 1969, Berger was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in The Damned, and in 1973, he won a David di Donatello – the Italian equivalent of an Academy Award – for his performance in Ludwig.

In 2007, he received a special Teddy Award at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival (2007) for his overall professional achievements.

In 2010 Berger received two Prix Lumières at the Lumière Film Festival in Lyon and also the "golden key" of the city.

In 2011, he received a Kristián Award, awarded at the Czech film festival Febiofest "for Contributions to World Cinema".

Personal life

Berger married Italian writer Francesca Guidato on 19 November 1994.


Helmut Berger is what I consider a perfect artist – very serious in his craft, intelligent in his thoughts, without any time or patience for "bullshit" or empty phrases that litter many people's everyday lives, conversations and relationships.

— Alexander Tuschinski, article about working with Berger on the film Timeless in 2015.

I think androgyny, whether it's David Bowie or Helmut Berger, that has really really influenced my work more than anything.

— Madonna, interviewed by Vince Aletti in 1999.

I think he's wonderful. A man who says what he thinks.

— Nena, interview about filming her music video "Besser geht's nicht".

He's one of those who leave nobody indifferent.

— Spiegel TV, report about Helmut Berger 1997.


(director in parentheses; all films except as noted)

  • 1967 : Le streghe (The Witches) (Luchino Visconti) as Young man at Hotel (segment "La Strega Bruciata Viva")
  • 1968 : The Young Tigers (it) (Antonio Leonviola) as Dario
  • 1969 : Sai cosa faceva Stalin alle donne? (it) (Maurizio Liverani) as Aldo
  • 1969 : The Damned (Luchino Visconti) as Martin Von Essenbeck
  • 1970 : Dorian Gray (Massimo Dallamano) as Dorian Gray
  • 1970 : The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica) as Alberto
  • 1971 : Un beau monstre (fr) (Sergio Gobbi) as Alain Revent
  • 1971 : The Bloodstained Butterfly (Duccio Tessari) as Giorgio
  • 1972 : La colonna infame (Nelo Risi) as Arconati
  • 1973 : Reigen (de) (Otto Schenk) as Der Junge Herr / The Youngman / Alfred
  • 1973 : Les Voraces (fr) (Sergio Gobbi) as Kosta
  • 1973 : Ludwig (Luchino Visconti) as Ludwig
  • 1973 : Ash Wednesday (Larry Peerce) as Erich
  • 1974 : Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti) as Konrad Huebel
  • 1975 : Order to Kill (José G. Maesso) as Clyde Hart
  • 1975 : The Romantic Englishwoman (Joseph Losey) as Thomas
  • 1976 : Salon Kitty (Tinto Brass) as Helmut Wallenberg
  • 1976 : Victory at Entebbe (Marvin Chomsky) as Wilfried Böse
  • 1977 : Beast with a Gun (Sergio Grieco) as Nanni Vitali
  • 1977 : Paperback
  • 1978 : The Greatest Battle (Umberto Lenzi) as Lt. Kurt Zimmer
  • 1978 : The Fifth Commandment (Duccio Tessari) as Bernhard Redder
  • 1979 : Le rose di Danzica (Alberto Bevilacqua) as Baron Erich von Lehner
  • 1980 : Fantômas (fr) (Claude Chabrol) (TV miniseries) as Fantômas / Nanteuil / Gurn / Valgrand
  • 1980 : Eroina (Massimo Pirri) as Marco
  • 1981 : Mia moglie è una strega (Castellano & Pipolo) as Asmodeo
  • 1982 : Deadly Game (aka Die Jäger, Károly Makk) as Boris
  • 1983 : Femmes (Tana Kaleya) as Helmut
  • 1983 : Veliki Transport (V. Bulajic) as Pukovnik Glassendorf
  • 1982 : Victoria! La gran aventura de un poble (Antoni Ribas) as Tinent Rodríguez Haro
  • 1983 : Victoria! 2: El frenesì del 17 (Antoni Ribas) as Tinent Rodríguez Haro
  • 1983-1984 : Dynasty (television series) as Peter De Vilbis
  • 1984 : Victoria! 3: La razon y el arrebato (Antoni Ribas) as Tinent Rodríguez Haro
  • 1985 : Code Name: Emerald (Jonathan Sanger) as Ernst Ritter
  • 1988 : Faceless (Jess Franco) as Docteur Flamand
  • 1988 : Act of Revenge (Salvatore Nocita)
  • 1989 : La Puritana (Nini Grassia) as Carlo Martora-Doctor
  • 1990 : The Godfather Part III (Francis Ford Coppola) as Frederick Keinszig
  • 1992 : Adelaide (Lucio Gaudino) as Gilas
  • 1993 : Boomtown (Christoph Schrewe) as Richard Schwarzer
  • 1993 : Ludwig 1881 (F. Dubini / D. Dubini) as King Ludwig II
  • 1995 : L'affaire Dreyfuss (Yves Boisset) as Schwartzkoppen
  • 1996 : L'ombra del faraone (S. Ben Barka)
  • 1996 : Teo (Cinzia TH Torrini) as Signor Mastrovito
  • 1997 : Die 120 Tage von Bottrop (Christoph Schlingensief) as Himself
  • 1997 : Last Cut (Marcello Avallone)
  • 1999 : Under the Palms (M. Kruishoop) as David
  • 2004 : Honey Baby (Mika Kaurismäki) as Karl / Hades
  • 2005 : Damals warst du still (R. Matsutani) as Fabian Plessen
  • 2009 : Zapping Alien (V. Zeplichal) as Jack / 00Y / Georg II
  • 2009 : Blutsfreundschaft (Peter Kern) as Gustav Tritzinsky
  • 2019 : Iron Cross (Joshua Newton) as Shrager / Vogler
  • 2011 : Mörderschwestern (Peter Kern) as Dr. Schleier
  • 2013 : The Devil's Violinist (Bernard Rose) as Lord Burghersh
  • 2014 : Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonello) as Yves Saint Laurent en 1989
  • 2016 : Timeless (Alexander Tuschinski) as Professor Martin
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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