Helmut Berger  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Helmut Berger (born May 29 1944) is an Austrian actor, noted for his performances in serious films such as Visconti's The Damned and in more exploitative films such as Salon Kitty by Tinto Brass.

Berger (whose real name is Helmut Steinberger) was born in Bad Ischl, Austria, into a family of hoteliers and although he had no interest in gastronomy or the hospitality industry, he initially trained and worked in this area. At the age of 18, he moved to London, where he did odd-jobs whilst simultaneously taking acting classes. After studying languages in Perugia, Berger moved to Rome.

In 1964, he first met Luchino Visconti, whose life partner he later became. Visconti gave him his first acting role in the movie Le streghe (1967) (in the episode "La strega bruciata viva"), but he attained international fame playing Martin von Essenbeck in Visconti's The Damned (1969).

In The Damned, in what is perhaps his best known scene, he mimics the role of Lola, as played by Marlene Dietrich in Der blaue Engel. However, the role of Ludwig II of Bavaria in Visconti's Ludwig can be considered the pinnacle of his acting career. In Ludwig, Berger portrays the monarch from his blooming youth, to his dissolute final years –- and, in the process, reveals a nervous and paranoid king of decay drawn from his own weaknesses and psychological depths.

Visconti's death in 1976 plunged Berger into a deep personal crisis. Visconti's will, in which Berger was apparently named as heir, could not be found. In addition to a suicide attempt on the first anniversary of Visconti's death, Berger has also had alcohol and drug-related problems.

Berger has worked in television, most notably in the role of Peter De Vilbis on Dynasty - only for money: "crying on the way to the set but laughing on the way to the bank". This was his last appearance in TV series. Since Visconti's death no director has been able to fulfill Berger's potential again.

Berger, with his dissipated lifestyle and openly acknowledged bisexuality, has always been a welcome guest on talk shows telling for example of his serious relationship with Marisa Berenson, whom he supposedly wished to marry, and erotic adventures with Bianca and Mick Jagger and further rockstars between the seventies and eigthies.

In 2004, to the great interest of the Austrian media, Berger moved from Rome to Salzburg to live with his mother; he denied rumours of financial difficulties, explaining he was merely looking for a new apartment in Rome. He also declared he had come off all drugs.

In 2007, he received the honour of a Special Teddy at the Berlin Film Festival for his overall professional achievements.


  • 1967 - The Witches (Luchino Visconti)
  • 1968 - The young Tigers (Antonio Leonviola)
  • 1968 - Sai cosa faceva Stalin alle donne? (Maurizio Liverani)
  • 1969 - The Damned (Luchino Visconti)
  • 1970 - The Picture of Dorian Grey (Massimo Dallamano)
  • 1970 - The Garden of the Finzi-Contini (Vittorio De Sica)
  • 1971 - Un beau monstre (Sergio Gobbi)
  • 1971 - The bloodstained Butterfly (Duccio Tessari)
  • 1972 - Ludwig II. (Luchino Visconti)
  • 1972 - La colonna infame (Nelo Risi)
  • 1973 - Les Voraces (Sergio Gobbi)
  • 1973 - Ash Wednesday (Larry Peerce)
  • 1973 - Reigen (Otto Schenk)
  • 1974 - Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti)
  • 1975 - Order to kill(José G. Maesso)
  • 1975 - The romantic Englishwoman (Joseph Losey)
  • 1976 - Salon Kitty (Tinto Brass)
  • 1976 - Victory at Entebbe (Marvin Chomski)
  • 1977 - Beast with a Gun (Sergio Grieco)
  • 1978 - Il quinto comandamento (Duccio Tessari)
  • 1978 - The Biggest Battle (Umberto Lenzi)
  • 1979 - Le rose di Danzica (Alberto Bevilacqua)
  • 1980 - Fantomas (Claude Chabrol)
  • 1981 - Mia moglie è una strega (Castellano & Pipolo)
  • 1982 - Deadly Game (K. Makk)
  • 1982 - Victoria! La gran aventura de un poble (A. Ribas)
  • 1983 - Eroina (Massimo Pirri)
  • 1983 - Femmes (T. Kaleya)
  • 1983 - Victoria! 2: El frenesì del 17 (A. Ribas)
  • 1983 - Veliki Transport (V. Bulajic)
  • 1983/84 - Dynasty
  • 1984 - Victoria! 3: La razon y el arrebato (A. Ribas)
  • 1985 - Codename: Emerald (J. Sanger)
  • 1988 - Faceless (Jess Franco)
  • 1988 - Act of Revenge (Salvatore Nocita)
  • 1989 - La puritana (Nini Grassia)
  • 1990 - The Godfather Part III (Francis Ford Coppola)
  • 1992 - Adelaide (Lucio Gaudino)
  • 1993 - Boomtown (Ch. Schrewe)
  • 1993 - Ludwig 1881 (F. Dubini / D. Dubini)
  • 1995 - L'affaire Dreyfuss (Y. Boisset)
  • 1996 - Teo (Cinzia TH Torrini)
  • 1996 - L'ombra del faraone (S. Ben Barka)
  • 1996 - Last Cut (Marcello Avallone)
  • 1997 - Die 120 Tage von Bottrop (Ch. Schlingensief)
  • 1999 - Under the Palms (M. Kruishoop)
  • 2002 - Zapping Alien (V. Zeplichal)
  • 2004 - Honey Baby (Mika Kaurismäki)
  • 2005 - Damals warst du still (R. Matsutani)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Helmut Berger" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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