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Original film poster Ludwig.
29 May 1944
Bad Ischl, Austria
Helmut Berger (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.
He appears primarily in European cinema, but has also acted in films such as The Godfather Part III.
Early life and education
He was born in Bad Ischl, Austria, into a family of hoteliers. 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 in Perugia, Italy, Berger moved to Rome, Italy.
In 1964, he first met the film director Luchino Visconti, with whom he later had an intimate relationship. 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 mimics Marlene Dietrich in the film The Blue Angel (1930). In Visconti's Ludwig (1972), Berger portrays Ludwig II of Bavaria from his blooming youth, to his dissolute final years. In 1974, Berger starred with Burt Lancaster in Visconti's Conversation Piece.
Berger has worked in television, most notably in the role of Peter De Vilbis in nine episodes (1983–1984) of the prime-time soap opera Dynasty (1981–1989), 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.
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.
(director in parentheses; all films except as noted)
- Coriando, Paola-Ludovika (March 2006). "La poesia del volto: ritratto di Helmut Berger attore viscontiano. Cineforum. Issue #452.
- Helmut Berger at the Internet Movie Database
- Salon for Helmut Berger, unofficial fan site in Japanese and English[dead link]