Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who played Hitler in 'Downfall', has died

Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who played Hitler in 'Downfall', has died

Ganz had humorously noted that his famous portrayal of an angel in Wings of Desire resulted in fans assuming that he had a direct connection to heaven, to the point of bringing children before him for a blessing and saying to him on airplanes: "Now you are with us, nothing can happen".

For many critics his nuanced portrayal of the fascist tyrant that veers between explosive and sombre was unparallelled.

According to his management team the Swiss actor died at his home in Zurich on Friday night.

The actor also revealed that in taking on the role it was "useful to be able to put my Swiss passport between my heart and Mr Hitler, so that he couldn't touch me".

The historical war drama, which told the story of Hitler's final days, went on to spawn thousands of angry-führer internet memes and online parodies with a scene showing Hitler ranting at his generals overlaid with fake subtitles.

It grossed $92m (£71.3m) at the worldwide box office when released.

The famed actor was a giant of German cinema.

Past year he also starred in serial-killer drama by famed director Lars von Trier The House That Jack Built.

His English-language films included The Reader, The Manchurian Candidate and The Boys from Brazil.

At the time of his death Ganz was the holder of the Iffland-Ring - a diamond-studded ring stamped with the image of German actor August Wilhelm Iffland.

It is not known at present who and if the award has yet been passed on.

An active member of the German film community, Ganz served as president of the German Film Academy alongside actress Iris Berben from 2010 to 2013. His father was a Swiss factory worker and his mother was Italian. "He was in the loving company of his family at the time".

In a statement, Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick called Ganz "one of the greatest and most versatile actors 'who inspired generations of film fans".

However, in a 2005 interview with The Guardian, he said he spent four months preparing for the part but highlighted that he could "never begin 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.

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