Helmut Berger born 29 May 1944
Helmut Berger is an Austrian actor.
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 this film, in what is perhaps his best known scene, he mimics the role of Lola, as played by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel . However, the role of Ludwig II of Bavaria in Visconti's Ludwig can be considered the pinnacle of his acting career: here he portrays the monarch from his blooming youth, to his dissolute final years – and in the process reveals a nervous and paranoid lord of decay drawn from his own weaknesses and psychological depths.
Visconti also introduced him to new people. Musicians and models first (in London), and then Berger was introduced to international artists - conductor Leonard Bernstein, opera singer Maria Callas, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev - with whom Berger had an affair; Nureyev was sexually hyper-active, but Berger disliked the Russian's passion for garlic and vodka. Nureyev wanted to live with Berger but he could not give him the security of Visconti. For a short time, Nureyev was his lover, but Visconti was his husband and his father-figure.
Visconti's death in 1976 plunged Berger into a deep personal and financial crisis. Visconti's will, in which Berger was apparently named as heir, could not be found. A former friend and companion of Visconti, the director Franco Zeffirelli, has subsequently castigated Berger publicly, accusing him of exploiting his mentor. In addition to a suicide attempt on the first anniversary of Visconti's death, Berger has also had alcohol and drug-related problems.
He has made appearances in various B-movies and smaller prestige pictures such as Ash Wednesday (1973) with Elizabeth Taylor. Berger has also worked in television, most notably in the role of Peter De Vilbis on Dynasty. 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 been a welcome guest on talk shows telling for example of erotic adventures with Marisa Berenson, whom he supposedly wished to marry, and Mick Jagger.
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.
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