German actor Frank Giering dies at 38

Credits include 'Funny Games,' 'Der Kriminalist'

COLOGNE, Germany -- German actor Frank Giering, who played a courteous psychopath in Michael Haneke's 1997 film "Funny Games" and starred in hit German crime series "Der Kriminalist," died Wednesday in Berlin. He was 38.

Born and raised in East Germany, Giering was well known and successful without ever becoming a star. In many ways, his career -- which began in theater before moving mainly to supporting, often small-screen roles -- resembled that of Christoph Waltz before "Inglourious Basterds." And like Waltz he was an actor's actor, often cited as an inspiration by a younger generation of performers.

"Giering is God," is how Robert Stadlober ("Krabat") put it.

But Giering also struggled with alcoholism and self-doubt, issues he discussed publicly. He once described himself as a "remnant" of the GDR and not suited for modern life. German police are investigating the cause of death.

Giering has a series of small roles in German films and TV before Haneke discovered him. The Austrian auteur cast Giering in "The Castle," (1997) an adaptation of the Franz Kafka novel and, later that year, in "Funny Games," which bowed In Competition in Cannes. His shocking potrayal of Peter, a well-mannered psychotic killer, was a breakthrough performance. He specialized in playing the outsider, whether as 1970s terrorist Andreas Baader in Christopher Roth's "Baader" (2002) or as a man caught in a loveless marriage in Romuald Karmakar's "Nightsongs" (2004).

On TV, Giering was a regular on German crime shows and had starred as Chief Inspector Henry Weber in "Der Kriminalist," on public broadcaster ZDF since the series start in 2006. ZDF has stopped production on the new season of the show, which was already under way.
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