Family & Companions
A luminous bold-featured, blonde Teutonic beauty, Hanna Schygulla met Rainer Werner Fassbinder while taking an acting class in Munich and began working with him at the Munich Action Theater, where he assembled the nucleus of his cinematic stock company. She appeared in nearly 20 features in 12 years for the workaholic director. Providing the dramatic cornerstone of some of his finest films, Schygulla became established as one of the leading European actresses of her generation, and her facility with languages freed her to work in the idiom of different countries.
Schygulla projected sexuality as strength. In two 1969 films for Fassbinder, she played characters (a prostitute in "Love Is Colder than Death," a possessive girlfriend in "Gods of the Plague") who betrayed the men in their lives, and in his "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" (1972), her insolent working-class model, confident in her ability to break hearts of either sex, used her looks to get ahead while refusing to surrender her independence. The director's "Effi Brest" (1974) married her to a controlling older man whose gentle reign of terror was not enough to prevent her from cuckolding him, a fact which when discovered unleashed all his Prussian fury, and "The Marriage of Maria Braun" (1978), which finally brought Fassbinder the acceptance he sought and confirmed Schygulla as his ideal actress, cast her as a self-made woman whose rise to prosperity paralleled that of postwar West Germany. Performances in his landmark TV epic "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (1980) and the feature "Lili Marleen" (1981), an attempt to cash in on the Maria Braun formula, rounded out their collaboration prior to the director's premature death in 1982.
Immediately post-Fassbinder, Schygulla worked with French director Jean-Luc Goddard ("Passion" 1982) but found considerably more success the following year, winning the Best Actress Award at Cannes for Italian director Marco Ferreri's "Story of Piera" and excelling in her portrayal of strong-willed characters in former Fassbinder colleague Margarethe von Trotta's "Friends and Husbands/Sheer Madness" and Polish helmsman Andrzej Wajda's "A Love in Germany." The friendship between her and another woman in "Friends and Husbands" alienated the men in both women's lives, and for Wajda she threw caution (and her reputation) to the wind to consort with a younger Polish POW. She acted in her first US feature ("Delta Force") and made the NBC miniseries "Peter the Great" in 1986, but her best work in English is undoubtedly her sinister maid for Kenneth Branagh's "Dead Again" (1991). Since then she has remained busy in European features, perhaps most notably Ivan Fila's "Lea" (1996) and as Magda Goebbels in Fernando Trueba's acclaimed "The Girl of Your Dreams" (1998).
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
With mother, fled to Munich when the Red Army approached Kattowitz
Met father (who had been held as a POW during WWII) for the first time at age five (date approximate)
Acted in the short "The Bridegroom, The Comedienne, and the Pimp", written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub; Fassbinder played the pimp
Joined Munich Action Theater, where she worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder (date approximate)
First films with Fassbinder as director, "Love Is Colder Than Death" (as a prostitute), "Gods of the Plague" (initial collaboration with actress Margarethe von Trotta) and "Katzelmacher" (film version of writer-director's first stage play)
Began seven-film acting collaboration with Margit Carstensen with "Die Niklashauser Fahrt", co-directed by Fassbinder and Michael Fengler, and Fassbinder's "Das Kaffehaus"
Once again played a prostitute, the only character who does not exploit the title figure in Fassbinder's "Whity", a tale set in America's antebellum South (but shot in Spain)
Reteamed with Fassbinder and von Trotta in "Beware of a Holy Whore"; this time the whore was cinema
Explored her bisexuality in Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" as a sexually self-confident female who can negotiate social mobility and class difference through her looks; Carstensen starred in title role
Portrayed Fassbinder's "Effi Briest", a woman married off to a Prussian merchant twenty years her senior; when her husband years later learns of an affair she had conducted, he challenges his rival to a duel and kills him, then divorced his wife (who soon dies)
Appeared in Wim Wenders' "Wrong Move", the second and least successful of the director's "road" trilogy
Played title character who exploits men to her success in "The Mariage of Maria Braun", which confirmed her as Fassbinder's ideal actress
Acted in Fassbinder's monumental TV epic "Berlin Alexanderplatz"
Last feature with Fassbinder, "Lili Marleen"
Starred in Volker Schlondorff's "Circle of Deceit", co-written by von Trotta
Appeared in Jean-Luc Goddard's "Passion"
Headlined "Friends and Husbands", written and directed by von Trotta, a film detailing a friendship between two women which threatens to eclipse both women's relationships with the men in their lives
Delivered a strong, heartfelt performance in Andrzej Wajda's "A Love in Germany"
Won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her work in Marco Ferreri's "Story of Piera"
First US feature, "Delta Force"
Portrayed Swedish songbird Jenny Lind in the CBS biopic "Barnum", starring Burt Lancaster
Made American TV debut in the NBC mininseries "Peter the Great"
Starred in "Forever Lulu", a "Desperately Seeking Susan" clone which marked the actress' first time filming in the USA
Played the mother of the title character in ABC movie "Casanova", featuring Richard Chamberlain
Offered a wonderful turn as the sinister maid forever lurking and eavesdropping while painful emotions churned inside in Kenneth Branagh's noirish "Dead Again"
Joined stellar international cast including Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson and Erland Josephson in "Waiting for Sunset"
Acted in Ivan Fila's "Lea", which showed well at numerous European film festivals and earned a Golden Globe nomination as Best Foreign Film
Portrayed Magda Goebbels in Fernando Trueba's "The Girl of Your Dreams"