Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in Downfall, dies aged 77

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GanzImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ganz was well-known in German-language cinema and theatre

Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall, has died aged 77.

The Swiss actor died at home in Zurich on Friday night, his management said.

Ganz was well-known in German-language cinema and theatre and also had roles in English-language films including The Reader and The Manchurian Candidate.

His most famous role, however, was as Adolf Hitler in Downfall. One particular scene depicting Hitler in apoplectic fury became a meme and spawned thousands of parodies online.

The film, called Der Untergang in German, told the story of Hitler's final days in his Berlin bunker. It grossed $92m (£71.3m) at box offices around the world when it was released.

It was named winner of the BBC Four World Cinema award and was nominated for an Academy award for best foreign language film, but since then it has become almost as famous for a wave of internet parodies of its final scene, poking fun at numerous news events.

A New York Times reviewer called Ganz's performance "intriguing" and "creepily charismatic".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Tributes were paid to Ganz at the end of the Berlin film festival on Saturday, hosted by actress Anke Engelke

In 2005 Ganz told The Guardian newspaper that he spent four months preparing for the role, studying historical records including a secretly-recorded tape of Hitler and observing people with Parkinson's disease, which he came to believe the dictator had.

But he said: "I cannot claim to understand Hitler. Even the witnesses who had been in the bunker with him were not really able to describe the essence of the man.

"He had no pity, no compassion, no understanding of what the victims of war suffered."

Ganz, probably the most famous Swiss actor, had a rich and varied career. He appeared in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and played an angel in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987) and its sequel Faraway, So Close! (1993).

He also starred in noir film The American Friend (1977) and science fiction movie The Boys from Brazil (1978), which starred Sir Laurence Olivier.

In 2008 he had a role in The Baader Meinhof Complex and his last role was in Lars von Trier's 2018 film The House that Jack Built.

At the time of his death, Ganz was the holder of the Iffland-Ring, an accolade to the German-speaking actor judged "most significant and worthy".

The ring is passed from person to person, and it is not yet clear who Ganz had intended to transfer it to after his death.

It was reported that Ganz had been diagnosed with colon cancer.