Christian Berkel has attracted attention for his appearances in numerous feature films and has worked with many renowned directors, including Ingmar Bergman, Douglas Sirk and Quentin Tarantino.
He’s also been had leading roles in numerous German television series, and is one of the most popular actors in Germany. On this edition of Talking Germany, the Berlin-born actor speaks with us about his life and career.
Christian Berkel’s acting career got off to a high-profile start when he was cast at the age of 19 by his idol Ingmar Bergman for the movie The Serpent’s Egg. Berkel had always dreamt of becoming an actor, and later graduated from the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin.
The versatile Berkel put his character actor talents to use when portraying former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in two TV dramas. For his performance in the second – about a real-life terrorist hijacking in the 1970s – he won the prestigious Goldene Kamera award. Berkel became known to international cinema audiences through his part in the Oscar-nominated Downfall, in which he played SS doctor Ernst Günther Schenck. He also featured in the US-produced WWII movies Valkyrie and Inglourious Basterds.
Berkel’s mother was Jewish and fled Nazi Germany for Argentina until after the war, while his father was a physician with the Germany military. The focus on the Nazi era in many of Berkel’s movies have made them a special personal challenge.
55-year-old Berkel also enjoys working for television. Since 2006 he has had the lead role as a victimologist in the series Der Kriminalist.
Christian Berkel has many interests outside the world of filmmaking. He is an avid follower of contemporary art and design – a passion he shares with his actress wife Andrea Sawatzki. The couple met while filming in 1998 and have two sons.