Helmut Berger

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Helmut Berger
Helmut Berger 1972.jpg
Helmut Berger at this home in Rome in 1972
Born Helmut Steinberger
(1944-05-29) 29 May 1944 (age 71)
Bad Ischl, Austria
Occupation Actor
Years active 1964–present
Spouse(s) Francesca Guidato (1994–present) (separated)
Partner(s) Luchino Visconti (1964–1976)

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[edit]

Berger was born in Bad Ischl, Austria, into a family of hoteliers, to whom he remains persona non grata.[1] 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.


Helmut Berger in 1973
Helmut Berger at this 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). 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 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.

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

In the thriller film Iron Cross (2009) he played Shrager, an aging character believed to be an old SS commander responsible for murdering Jews during World War II.

Berger has starred in two films directed by Peter Kern – Blutsfreundschaft (shown at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival (2010), and Mörderschwestern (in post-production).


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.[2]

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".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Berger is openly bisexual. He was in a long-term relationship with Visconti. Another relationship was with Marisa Berenson.[4] Berger has also been romantically linked to Bianca Jagger, Nathalie Delon, and Marisa Mell.[5][6][7] He married Italian writer Francesca Guidato on 19 November 1994. The couple are separated.[8]

Berger is fluent in German (his native language), English, French and Italian and speaks all four in his movies and interviews.


(director in parentheses; all films except as noted)

See also[edit]


  • Coriando, Paola-Ludovika (March 2006). "La poesia del volto: ritratto di Helmut Berger attore viscontiano. Cineforum. Issue #452.
  • Berger, Helmut, with Heuer, Holde: Ich, Die Autobiographie. Ullstein, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-550-06969-3.
  • Coriando, Paola-Ludovika: Helmut Berger – Ein Leben in Bildern. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-89602-872-3.


  1. ^ ""Ich bin ein Weltstar – und wer seid Ihr?"". Die Welt. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Schupp, Karin (17 February 2007). "Teddy Today". Teddy Award. Retrieved 10 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Staff writer (30 March 2011). "Festival Diary: Wednesday 30th". Febiofest. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Marisa Berenson: the It-girl who grew up". Telegraph. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Andersen, Christopher (13 July 1993). "When he looked at Bianca, Mick saw himself". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "Das merkwürdige Phänomen Helmut Berger". Die Welt. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  7. ^ ""Ich bin ein Weltstar – und wer seid Ihr?"". Die Welt. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Das merkwürdige Phänomen Helmut Berger". Die Welt. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 

External links[edit]