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Helmut Berger

Helmut Berger, born in Austria, was one of the most popular actors of European cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. With his seductive beauty, he portrayed cruel, cursed, corrupt characters, marked by a disarming psychological and sexual ambiguity.

Berger is the son of a hotelier family. At the age of 18 he moved to London, where he worked as a waiter while studying at the school of dramatic art. Later he attended the University for Foreigners of Perugia and spent some time in France. In 1964 he met the director Luchino Visconti in Volterra while shooting Vaghe Stelle dell’Orsa, an event that represented a turning point in his private and professional life. Berger and Visconti went on to have a long relationship that ended with the death of the Milanese director. Directed by Visconti, Berger had his first role as an actor in the episode The Witch Burned Alive of the movie The Witches (1967). His international breakthrough came as Martin von Essenbeck in Visconti's The Damned (1969). Berger’s probably most well-known scene stems from this film, in which he parodies Marlene Dietrich, prompting Billy Wilder’s statement: “It's a pity that Italy's best actor was actually an Austrian”. With Ludwig (1972), in which Berger played the king of Bavaria Ludwig II, Berger reached the pinnacle of his fame. Playing alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda in The Rival (1972) cemented Berger’s place in international productions.

Berger became a world-wide star. He was the first man to grace the cover of Vogue and well-known photographers such as Helmut Newton, Mary Ellen Mark or David Bailey published pictures of him. Andy Warhol took polaroid pictures of Berger and reproduced them as screen prints.

The death of his partner Luchino Visconti in 1976 plunged him into a personal crisis, but Berger eventually returned to film in Claude Chabrol’s Fantômas in 1980. In 1990, Berger appeared in Coppola’s The Godfather Part III. Throughout the second half of the 1990s Berger mainly appeared in European productions. 1994 saw his return as Ludwig II of Bavaria in Ludwig 1881 by Fosco and Donatello Dubini and he later starred in the cult film DIE 120 TAGE VON BOTTROP (1996) by Christoph Schlingensief.

Berger’s last role was in Bertrand Bonnello’s Saint Laurent as old Yves Saint Laurent, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2014.

Liberté is Berger’s first time playing a main role on stage.

Past productions

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