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Bruno Ganz, an Angel in ‘Wings of Desire’ and Hitler in ‘Downfall,’ Dies

The revered Swiss actor was 77.

Bruno Ganz'The Party' film premiere, Berlinale International Film Festival, Berlin, Germany - 13 Feb 2017

Bruno Ganz

Guillaume Collet/Sipa/REX/Shutterstock

Bruno Ganz, the revered Swiss actor best known for his portrayal of a love-sick angel in “Wings of Desire” and an endlessly memed Adolf Hitler in “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Deadline reports that Ganz passed away from colon cancer at his home in Zürich yesterday. The thespian was a world-cinema mainstay for half a century, appearing in everything from “The American Friend” and “Nosferatu the Vampyre” to “The Reader” and “Unknown” throughout his singular career.

He became a favored collaborator of such auteurs as Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Éric Rohmer, and Francis Ford Coppola in the process, reprising his role as Damiel from Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” in 1993’s “Faraway, So Close!” Ganz was arguably even more acclaimed for his theatrical career, so much so that he held the Iffland-Ring — an honor passed from one performer to another reserved for the “most significant and most worthy actor of the German-speaking theatre.” Only eight others have been bestowed with the honor, and Ganz held it for 23 years.

Born in Zürich on March 22, 1941, Ganz made his stage debut in 1961 and was named Actor of the Year by the German magazine Theater Today in 1973. He received a Bavarian Film Award for his performance in “Downfall,” a European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and a star on Berlin’s Boulevard of the Stars the same year, among many other accolades.

Ganz most recently appeared in Lars von Trier’s controversial serial-killer drama “The House That Jack Built” and will next be seen in Terrence Malick’s “Radegund.”

His performance in “Wings of Desire” had such an effect on viewers, Ganz told the Danish film journal P.O.V., that people in planes would come up to him and say, “Ah, no need to be afraid, because with you here, nothing can happen. Now we are safe.’ Or a mother said to her child: ‘Look, there’s your guardian angel.’ They weren’t joking.”

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