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Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: December 17, 1930 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: actor, pianist, violinist, screenwriter, director, music teacher, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An overnight success years in the making, Armin Mueller-Stahl spent the post-World War II era in East Berlin studying and playing the violin. The former music teacher made his stage acting debut at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (home of the famous Berliner Ensemble) in 1953 and worked for more than two decades with another noted East Berlin company, Volksbuehne (People's Stage). After making a smooth transition from stage to screen in "Heimleche Ehe/The Secret Marriage" (1958), he became one of DEFA's (the state-run film conglomerate) outstanding young actors. His three-picture collaboration with director Frank Beyer culminated with "Jakob der Luegner/Jakob the Liar" (1974), the only DEFA picture to ever receive a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, and he also consolidated his popularity with frequent television appearances. His decision to sign the Biermann Resolution, a manifesto critical of the government, however, led to his blacklisting in 1976. "When you lived in the G.D.R., you were political, even if you didn't want to be," he told Premiere (November 1990). "I felt I had a responsibility to the public."A renaissance man who is also an accomplished writer and painter, Mueller-Stahl...

An overnight success years in the making, Armin Mueller-Stahl spent the post-World War II era in East Berlin studying and playing the violin. The former music teacher made his stage acting debut at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (home of the famous Berliner Ensemble) in 1953 and worked for more than two decades with another noted East Berlin company, Volksbuehne (People's Stage). After making a smooth transition from stage to screen in "Heimleche Ehe/The Secret Marriage" (1958), he became one of DEFA's (the state-run film conglomerate) outstanding young actors. His three-picture collaboration with director Frank Beyer culminated with "Jakob der Luegner/Jakob the Liar" (1974), the only DEFA picture to ever receive a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, and he also consolidated his popularity with frequent television appearances. His decision to sign the Biermann Resolution, a manifesto critical of the government, however, led to his blacklisting in 1976. "When you lived in the G.D.R., you were political, even if you didn't want to be," he told Premiere (November 1990). "I felt I had a responsibility to the public."

A renaissance man who is also an accomplished writer and painter, Mueller-Stahl spent the next three years writing a memoir, "Ordered Sunday" (1979). When the government finally permitted him to leave East Germany, he immigrated to West Germany in 1980 and resumed his career under the aegis of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, appearing in "Lola" (1981) and "Veronika Voss" (1982). His role as a storm trooper in Andrzej Wajda's "Love in Germany" (1983) earned him his best reviews yet in the West and introduced him to Polish screenwriter-director Agnieszka Holland, who cast him to great effect as the working-class Polish farmer who shelters an aristocratic Viennese Jew in her "Angry Harvest" (1985). That performance earned him the Montreal Film Festival Best Actor Award, and he also shone that year as the doomed Franz Ferdinand in Istvan Szabo's Oscar-nominated "Colonel Redl". These films plus a regular role in West Germany's long-running TV series "Black Forest Clinic" had brought him recognition throughout Western Europe, but he was still a virtual unknown in the USA (despite having played a Russian General in ABC's controversial miniseries "Amerika" 1987) when Costa-Gavras cast him in "Music Box" (1989).

The balding, paternal-looking Mueller-Stahl with his large, sad eyes was perfect as the enigmatic, dissembling war criminal of "Music Box", but the director and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas let the opportunity for a first-rate political thriller get away from them when they opted for a far-fetched melodrama instead. Barry Levinson served him much better with the nostalgic "Avalon" (1990), in which he was marvelous as family patriarch Sam Krichinsky. Unlike on "Music Box" where the script was changing daily, Levinson's script was set, allowing the actor a greater comfort level and ultimately more freedom in finding the character. Mueller-Stahl also gave heartfelt performances in Jim Jarmusch's episodic "Night on Earth" (1992, as an East German cab driver in NYC), George Sluizer's "Utz" (1992, as a millionaire porcelain collector), Bob Balaban's "The Last Good Time" (1994, as a widower who befriends a troubled young woman) and as the old pastry shop owner in the dark romance "A Pyromaniac's Love Story" (1995).

In 1996, Mueller-Stahl enjoyed one of his best roles as the demanding father of real-life pianist David Helfgott in Scott Hicks' "Shine". His three-dimensional portrayal of a Holocaust survivor who alternately encourages and berates his talented son, eventually alienating the youth, earned him the 1996 Australian Film Institute Best Supporting Actor Award, as well as an Oscar nomination. That same year, he wrote, directed and co-starred (with Balaban) in "Conversations With the Beast", which depicted an imagined interview with a century-old Adolf Hitler, a part he played with relish. 1997 then saw the busy actor featured in "The Peacemaker", "The Game" and "The Assistant", but he may have done his best work that year for the small screen. First he gave a stellar performance as a compassionate rabbi struggling to retain his faith in Showtime's "In the Presence of Mine Enemies", a remake of Rod Serling's drama of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and he later turned up amidst the talented ensemble of another Showtime remake, William Friedkin's acclaimed "12 Angry Men".

Now a resident of Los Angeles, Mueller-Stahl has continued to be a frequent face on both the large and small screens. After appearing appropriately menacing as the German leader of a cabal bent on global domination in the feature version of "The X-Files" (1998), he delivered arguably the best performance (as a dapper time-traveler) in the disappointing thriller "The Thirteenth Floor" (1999), despite logging less screen time than any of the other principals. Twenty-five years after acting in the original, he portrayed a doctor who encourages Robin Williams' character to keep lying because it gives the Jews hope in the remake, "Jakob the Liar", and he reteamed with Holland for "The Third Miracle" (both also 1999), providing a formidable presence as the devil's advocate, a Catholic archbishop adamantly opposed to a modern-day canonization. As for TV, "The Commissioner" (TMC, 1999) and "Inferno" (Cinemax, 2000) were unreleased features showcasing their dubious merits, but Mueller-Stahl did lend his powerful presence to the role of Joseph in the CBS miniseries "Jesus" (also 2000).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Angels & Demons (2009)
3.
4.
 Local Color (2007)
5.
 Eastern Promises (2007)
6.
7.
 Dust Factory, The (2004) Grandpa Randolph
8.
 Long Run, The (2002) Bertold Bohmer
9.
 Thirteenth Floor, The (1999) Hannon Fuller
10.
 Third Miracle, The (1999) Archbishop Werner
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Was a noted concert violinist as a teenager
:
Family moved to East Berlin after WWII
1953:
First stage role was at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in East Berlin
:
Performed with the East Berlin Theater Company, Volksbuehne for 25 years
1958:
Film debut, the East German movie, "Heimliche Ehe"
1962:
Starred in the political thriller, "Flucht aus der Holle" for German Television
1962:
First film with director Frank Beyer, "Konigskinder/Invincible Love"
1963:
Re-teamed with Beyer for "Nackt unter Wolfen/Naked Among Wolves"
1974:
Third film with Beyer, "Jakob der Luegner/Jacob the Liar"
1976:
Banned from acting by the East German government after signing the Biermann Resolution
1976:
Penned memoir, <i>Ordered Sundays</i>
1980:
Moved to West Germany
1981:
Made West German film debut in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Lola"
1982:
Re-teamed with Fassbinder for "Veronika Voss"
1983:
Acted in Andrzej Wajda's "Love in Germany"
1985:
Portrayed a Polish farmer who shelters a Viennese Jew in Holland's Academy Award-nominated foreign film, "Angry Harvest"
1985:
Portrayed doomed Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Istvan Szabo's "Colonel Redl"
1987:
Made US television debut as Russian General Samanov in the ABC miniseries, "Amerika"
1989:
Played a man accused of being a brutal Nazi collaborator in Costa-Gavras' "Music Box"
1990:
Received critical acclaim for his role as the family patriarch in Barry Levinson's "Avalon"
1991:
Played a police inspector investigating Jeremy Irons' title character in Steven Soderbergh's "Kafka"
1992:
Played a dying man whose lifelong obsession has been collecting porcelain figurines in "Utz"; son Christian was the younger version of the character
1994:
First collaboration with Bob Balaban, "The Last Good Time"
1996:
Wrote and directed and starred as a 103-year-old Adolph Hitler in "Conversations With the Beast"; Balaban also starred
1996:
Received a Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for his role as the father of pianist David Helfgott in "Shine"
1997:
Starred in the Showtime remake of Rod Serling's drama of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, "In the Presence of Mine Enemies"
1997:
Played Juror No. 4 in Showtime's acclaimed remake of "12 Angry Men"
1998:
Cast as the German scientist, Conrad Strughold, in the feature film "The X-Files"
1999:
Co-starred with Bob Balaban in the remake of "Jakob the Liar"
2000:
Portrayed Joseph in the CBS miniseries, "Jesus"
2001:
Portrayed Thomas Mann in a German historic film production about the Mann family, "Die Manns - Ein Jahrhundertroman"
2004:
Appeared in four episodes of the NBC drama series, "The West Wing" as the Prime Minister of Israel
2007:
Co-starred with Viggo Mortensen in director David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises"
2009:
Teamed with Clive Owen and director Tom Tykwer for "The International"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I played the heroes and sons in East Europe. I played the father and the bad guys in West Europe. Now, I'm going to make a full circle by playing the grandfathers in America." --Armin Mueller-Stahl quoted in the press-kit for "Avalon"

Received the Chaplin Schuh (1982), the prize for a German actor awarded by the Association of German Film and Televison Directors

"We are a throwaway generation. We have writers, but we have no readers anymore. So we have films. I've played parts like Mike Laszlo [in "Music Box"] for two reasons. One is that we must never allow this black point in our history to ever happen again. The second is to show that every man in a similar situation could be capable of the same evil. We actors can't change the world. But we can try." --Mueller-Stahl to Premiere, November 1990

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Gabriele Mueller-Stahl. Dermatologist.

Family close complete family listing

brother:
Hagen Mueller-Stahl. Director.
son:
Christian Mueller-Stahl. Actor. Born in 1974; played his father's character as a youth in "Utz" (1992).

Bibliography close complete biography

"In Gedanken an Marie Louise: Eine Liebesgeschichte"
"Unterwegs nach Hause: Erinnerungen"
"Verordneter Sonntag/Ordered Sunday"
"Armin Mueller-Stahl: Seine Filme, sein Leben"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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