Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who gave masterful performances as Adolf Hitler in “Downfall” has died, his agent said.
Ganz, 77, who was suffering from cancer, died on Saturday morning at his home in Zurich, the agent added.
Considered one of the greatest German-speaking actors in the post-World War II era, Ganz had a distinguished career on screen and stage before his 2004 appearance in “Downfall”, which unfolds over the final, suffocating days inside Hitler’s underground bunker.
For many critics, his nuanced portrayal of the fascist tyrant that veers between explosive and sombre was unparallelled.
Hitler is a figure that German-speaking actors have historically been reluctant to take on and the Zurich-born Ganz conceded that being Swiss provided a necessary buffer.
Ganz won acclaim, and some criticism, for a performance shaped by historical records that showed a complex Hitler — at once unhinged and quivering as he berated his defeated generals, but who later displayed tenderness towards a frightened aide.
Ganz told The Arts Desk that he was amused by those who chastised him for “humanising” the Nazi leader instead of portraying a caricature of evil.
People “need an intact icon of the evil itself”, he said. “I don’t know what evil itself is.”
When asked if he approached the part with the mindset that Hitler was, in the end, a human being, Ganz said: “Of course he is. What else should he be?”