Villainous Typecasting? | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 07.09.2004
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Villainous Typecasting?

Sometimes actors play such powerful roles or infamous characters they get typecast for the rest of their careers. Bruno Ganz is worried about falling into that trap after playing the ultimate bad guy -- Adolf Hitler.

Will Bruno Ganz's Hitler follow him for the rest of his career?

Will Bruno Ganz's Hitler follow him for the rest of his career?

"The Downfall -- Hitler and the End of the Third Reich" tells the story of the dictator as a tragic human being, not just a monster, and Ganz's exceptional acting ability has him concerned how he'll be seen after the film, which portrays the last 12 day of Hitler's life in a Berlin bunker, opens on Sept. 16.

"I don't know what's going to happen when the film reaches the public," the 63-year-old Swiss actor told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "There could be some mistaken or disturbed people who confuse me with Hitler. "

If critics are to be believed, he may have something to worry about. While many wonder if the time is right, or could ever be right, for a film showing Hitler as a human being, commentators agree Ganz's portrayal is right on target.

Film über Untergang des NS-Regimes mit Bruno Ganz als Hitler

Ganz as Hitler

"Ganz is Hitler," said historian Joachim Fest, whose biography of the Nazi leader the film drew on.

Ganz needed a long time before deciding to take the role, and his son was nearly successful in dissuading him when he said it wouldn't be healthy "to enter a sick person's mind for so long." But upon seeing himself made up as Hitler, complete with his famous moustache, Ganz was convinced him to take his first leading role in a German movie in 16 years.

But hairpieces and uniforms weren't enough to allow Ganz to convincingly portray the Austrian-born "Führer," he also had to get into the mass murderer's head.

"If I only hate Hitler, then I can't open things up for myself. That only happens with affection," Ganz said. "I was forced to develop an understanding for the man. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I was able to feel sympathy for him during fleeting seconds."

Filmszene - Der Untergang

A scene from "The Downfall"

Moments of understanding are okay, according to the producer of "The Downfall," Bernd Eichinger. But if viewers walk away after the movie's more that two hours feeling general sympathy for Hitler, then "the film has failed in its intention."

After the €13.5 million ($16.3 million) film ends it run in theaters, Ganz wants to put the typecast theory to the test. He said for his next project he'd like a part in a comedy.

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