German TV Director Dieter Wedel Accused of Harassment, Assault

Dieter Wedel

The award-winning filmmaker denies multiple accusations that he lured actresses to his hotel room and sexually assaulted them.

Three German actresses have made separate allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Dieter Wedel, one of Germany's most well-known and successful television directors.

The allegations, first published Wednesday in German newspaper Die Zeit, accuse Wedel, 75, of two separate assaults on actress Patricia Thielemann in 1991 and actress Jany Tempel in 1996. Those accusations are on the record to the newspaper, while a third one is an anonymous claim.

Thielemann said Wedel forced himself on her in a hotel room, ripping open her blouse and trying to push her backwards over a couch. When she fought back, the director began to strangle her, she said. The actress was able to escape.

Tempel said she met Wedel in his hotel room in Munich for what she was told was a casting session. When she arrived, he was wearing a bathrobe.

“He grabbed me violently and pushed me against the wall,” the actress told Die Zeit. Tempel said she told Wedel to stop but he threw her on the bed and forced her to have sex with him.

Two former colleagues of Wedel told Die Zeit of a third actress who refused his sexual advances and was punished on set, with the director screaming at her and psychologically intimidating her. The newspaper says the woman in question confirmed their version of events but has chosen to remain anonymous. 

Wedel, in a written response to Die Zeit, has categorically denied all allegations against him. He admits to having a “short affair” with Tempel but denies he ever forced her to have sex. To the claims of psychological intimidation, Wedel admits to being “loud” on set but denies his actions had anything to do with sexual advances or demands towards the actress in question. Instead, he claims, it was the result of his frustration with her lack of talent and insufficient preparation for the role.

Wedel is the first major figure in the German entertainment industry to be accused of sexual harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement triggered by allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein last year.

Wedel is one of Germany's most prolific television directors, specializing in miniseries, several of which, including The Grand Bellheim (1993) and 1996's The Shadowman, were both ratings hits and critically acclaimed. He is also one of Germany's best-known theater directors and is currently head of the Bad Hersfeld theater festival outside Frankfurt. The fest last year extended Wedel's contract through 2022.

In response to the allegations made Wednesday in Die Zeit, the festival published a statement from Wedel's lawyers denying all allegations against him. The statement calls the allegations against Wedel “inaccurate and unjustified” and denies any accusations of violence against the women in question.

“Our client regrets that in the course of his many years as a producer and director he has exposed actors and actresses, particularly on set, to sometimes harsh and even hurtful criticism," the fest said in the statement. "There was never any connection (between this behavior) and these alleged attacks.”