Bruno Ganz: Swiss actor famous for playing Hitler in Downfall dies aged 77

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By Chris Harris  & Reuters
Bruno Ganz at the Berlinale International Film Festival in 2017.
Bruno Ganz at the Berlinale International Film Festival in 2017.

Tributes are being paid to Swiss actor Bruno Ganz who has died from cancer at his home in Zurich.

Ganz, 77, is best-known for portraying Adolf Hitler in the Oscar-nominated Downfall; the kindly grandfather in Swiss family movie Heidi; and the angel Damiel in Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings of Desire.

His agent, Patricia Baumbauer, confirmed his death to AFP saying he passed away in the early hours of Saturday.

Ganz' death has overshadowed the climax of this year's Berlin International Film Festival, who said he was "one of the greatest and versatile actors".

One of his most famous roles came when he played Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall, which dramatised the last days of the Nazi dictator in the Berlin bunker, one of Germany's first attempts to characterise the Fuehrer in a film.

Ganz portrayed Hitler as a ranting and delusional madman, but also as a fatherly figure suffering from Parkinson's disease who fussed about the welfare of his secretaries. His ravings went on to feature in many internet parodies.

Immersing himself in the Hitler role affected the actor, who later admitted he had been haunted by his portrayal for a very long time.

Samuel West (actor)

Kirill Gerstein (pianist)

Heiko Mass (Germany's foreign minister)

“Bruno Ganz is dead. One of the most important actors of our time goes, his brilliant work remains. We mourn with the family and friends.”

Berlin Film Festival