Helmut Berger – Austrian born film actor, mostly known for starring in Luchino Visconti’s films, which are now considered modern classics. Born Helmut Steinberger in Salzburg in 1944, he turned down a prospect of running a family hotel business and went to London where he worked as waiter to pay his way through drama school. Later he attended the University of Perugia in Italy and spent some time in France. His acting career began with French and Italian commercials and showed no signs of progress until he was picked up by Luchino Visconti out of pool of “extras” during the shooting of Sandra (1965) in 1964. Berger’s relationships with Visconti, whose partner he remained for 12 years, brought him to the attention of press and allowed him to act in some Visconti’s films such as The Damned (1969) (“The Damned), Ludwig (1973) and Conversation Piece (1974) (“The Conversation Piece”). Visconti is said to view Berger as the very image of his idea of a “demonic, insane and sexually perverted” man. As a matter of fact Berger often portrayed anguished souls and sinister villains. His acting career continued throughout the 1970s but was temporarily broken up in the early 80s when he battled alcohol problem. He appeared in numerous French, Italian, German films and spent one season on American soap Dynasty (1981) but few directors used his gifts with the same skill as Visconti. His autobiography “Ich” (Me), in which he famously referred to his relationships with Visconti as “marriage” and claimed to be the director’s widow, appeared in 1998. Berger is still very active appearing in TV series regularly. He also very modestly attributed his acting achievements to Visconti’s directing.
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