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German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl will be honored at this year’s Zurich Film Festival with the event’s lifetime achievement honor.
Mueller-Stahl will attend Zurich to accept the award on Sept. 28, where he will present a gala screening of Jim Jarmusch‘s Night on Earth (1991), the film that marked the actor’s international breakthrough.
“We are proud to welcome 84-year-old Armin Mueller-Stahl as our guest to this year’s festival. He is, in our opinion, one of the most important German actors of all time,” said Zurich Film Festival co-directors Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spoerri. “His skills as a polyglot performer oscillating effortlessly between stage and screen, Germany and the USA, have more than earned him this award.”
Mueller-Stahl spent the bulk of his early career in East Germany, where he was an acclaimed star of theater, film and TV. He won several awards but, in an interview in 2011 with The Hollywood Reporter, claimed his favorite was being voted East Germany’s favorite actor, or as Mueller-Stahl put it: “the guy people would like to share a beer with.” He won the honor five times in a row.
A dislike of the political regime in East Germany, and frustration with increasingly bad propaganda-ridden scripts, led Mueller-Stahl to leave for the West where, in the 1980s, he worked with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on films such as Lola and Veronica Voss. That got him noticed by European auteur directors including Andrzej Wajda, Patrice Chereau, Istvan Szabo and Agnieszka Holland. His performance in Holland’s Angry Harvest and Szabo’s Colonel Redl — both films were nominated for the foreign-language Oscar — “opened the door to America,” as Mueller-Stahl put it.
He began working in English-language films, including Costa Gavras‘ Music Box, Barry Levinson‘s Avalon and, in 1991, Night on Earth, where, in a scene-stealing turn, he played Helmut, a sad East German clown-turned-New-York-cab-driver.
Mueller-Stahl has rarely been out of work since, with supporting roles in films such as David Cronenberg‘s Eastern Promises, David Fincher‘s The Game and Ron Howard‘s Angels & Demons. He received an Oscar nomination in 1997 for his role in Scott Hicks‘ Shine.
In his later years, Mueller-Stahl has devoted the bulk of his time to music and painting. He tours regularly with his band, playing music he wrote, together with composer Gunther Fischer, for East German TV more than 40 years ago. This year he had what has become a rare onscreen appearance, in a cameo in Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups.
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