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Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl

actor, director, writer

Born 17 December 1930 in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany [now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia]

Armin Mueller-Stahl is a German actor with a relatively long film career. He was once nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role as an abusive father in the biographical drama "Shine" (1996). In 1930, Mueller-Stahl was born in Tilsit, East Prussia. The town developed around the castle of Schalauer Haus, which had been founded by the Teutonic Knights. Tilsit was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945, and renamed to Sovetsk. It is currently part of the Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave of Russia located in Central Europe. The town is located close to the Oblast's borders with Lithuania, and has long had an ethnic Lithuanian minority. Mueller-Stahl's father was bank teller Alfred Müller (who later changed the family name to Mueller-Stahl) ,and his mother was university professor Editha Maaß. Editha was born to a Baltic German family from Estonia. During World War I, the Maaß lived in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). They moved to Tilsit in 1918. Mueller-Stahl was born in Germany's Weimar Republic period, and spend his childhood and early adolescence in Nazi Germany. In 1938, he moved with his family to the town of Prenzlau in Brandenburg. During World War II, Mueller-Stahl parted with his father. Alfred was drafted into military service, and later fought on the Eastern Front of World War II. In 1945, Alfred died in a military hospital in Schönberg , Mecklenburg. In 1945, Editha briefly moved her family to Goorstorf, located near Rostock, the largest city of Mecklenburg. They returned to Prenzlau following the end of World War II. Armin continued his school education there. He graduated from school in 1948, at the age of 18. Mueller-Stahl initially aspired to become a professional violinist. In 1948, he moved to Berlin. There he attended the city conservatory in West Berlin, where he studied violin playing and musicology. He graduated in 1949, and acquired qualifications to work as a music teacher. At this point, he decided to become an actor instead. After a few years of studies, Mueller-Stahl made his professional debut at the "Theater am Schiffbauerdamm" of Berlin in 1952. In 1954, he started performing in the Volksbühne ("People's Theatre") , a prestigious theater in East Berlin. For the next 20 years, he was primarily a theatrical actor. During the 1960s, he started a side career as a character actor in East German films. By the 1970s, he repeatedly appeared in polls as East Germany's most popular actor. From 1973 to 1976, Mueller-Stahl played the Stasi agent Werner Bredebusch in the spy thriller television series "The Invisible Visor" (1973-1979). Bredebusch was initially the series' main character, a Stasi agent who impersonates deceased fighter pilot Achim Detjen and infiltrates West Germany. The series achieved high ratings, and Mueller-Stahll received acclaim. He left the series in 1976, and its ratings soon declined. In 1976, Mueller-Stahl signed an open letter, protesting against East Germany's decision to exile singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann (1936-). Consequenly, Mueller-Stahl found himself blacklisted in East Germany. After a few years of being unable to find roles in his country, Mueller-Stahl migrated to West Germany. In 1981, Mueller-Stahl played Von Bohm, the male lead in the romantic drama "Lola" (1981). The film depicted Von Bohm as a building commissioner who struggles against widespread corruption in the town of Coburg, while falling in love with brothel-employed singer Lola (played by Barbara Sukowa). Following the film's relative success, Mueller-Stahl found steady work in West German cinema throughout the 1980s. Although he barely spoke English at this point of his life, Mueller-Stahl was cast as General Petya Samanov in the American television miniseries Amerika. The dystopian series depicted a version of the United States which was under Soviet military occupation, and in which Soviet general Samanov is the de facto ruler of the occupied country. "Amerika" was the second-highest rated miniseries of the 1986-87 U.S. television season. Mueller-Stahl decided to to seek more acting roles in the United States, and made his American film debut in the crime drama "Music Box" (1989). He was cast in the role of Mike Laszlo, a Hungarian-American family man, who is exposed as a wanted war criminal who killed numerous civilians during the Siege of Budapest (1944-1945). The film won the "Golden Bear" at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival. Mueller-Stahl next received the primary role of Polish-Jewish immigrant Sam Krichinsky in the family drama "Avalon" (1990). The film concerned the gradual assimilation of Krichinsky's family into modern American culture. The film was critically praised, and its screenwriter won the "Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay". In 1991, Mueller-Stahl played the role of Inspector Grubach in the mystery thriller "Kafka". The film depicted a conspiracy in 1910s Prague, and was loosely inspired by the works of Franz Kafka (1883-1924). The film under-performed at the box office, but gained a cult following. During the same year, Mueller-Stahl played New York City-based taxi driver Helmut Grokenberger in the anthology film "Night on Earth". In the film, Helmut is an East German immigrant in the United States. He is a former professional clown, whose ineptness as a driver and ignorance of New York geography make him ill-suited for his new profession. The film was critically well-received. In 1992, Mueller-Stahl played Meissen porcelain collector Baron Kaspar Joachim von Utz in the eponymous film "Utz". The film was an adaptation of a 1988 novel by Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989), concerning a passionate collector and his unwillingness to part with his collection, even at the offer of a better life abroad. For this role, Mueller-Stahl won the "Silver Bear for Best Actor" at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival. In 1996, Mueller-Stahl played Peter, the abusive father of concert pianist David Helfgott (1947-). The film concerns the negative effects of long-term physical and mental abuse of David by his father. Mueller-Stahl's role was critically praised, and he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The award was instead won by rival actor Cuba Gooding Jr. (1968-). In 1998, Mueller-Stahl played German scientist Conrad Strughold in the science fiction film "The X-Files", a spin-off of the then-popular television series "The X-Files" (1993-2002, 2016-2018). In the film, Strughold is a member of the Syndicate, a shadow government which collaborates with extraterrestrial would-be colonists. The film was a box-office hit, earning 189 million dollars at the worldwide box office. In 2007, Mueller-Stahl played Semyon, a high-ranking member of the Russian mafia, in the gangster film "Eastern Promises". The film was critically praised, and appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.Mueller-Stahl won the "Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role". In 2009, Mueller-Stah played former Stasi colonel Wilhelm Wexler in the action thriller "The International". In the film, Wexler works with a merchant bank that has secret ties to drug cartels, powerful corporations, corrupt governments, and terrorist organizations,. The film earned about 60 million dollars at the worldwide box office, and was considered notable for drawing inspiration from real-world banking scandals of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Also in 2009, Mueller-Stahl portrayed Cardinal Strauss, Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Papal Conclave, in the mystery thriller "Angels & Demons". The film was an adaptation of a 2000 novel by Dan Brown (1964-). It concerns the assassination of fictional Pope Pius XVI, and a conspiracy trying to influence the election of his successor. The film earned about 486 million dollars at the worldwide box office, the highest-grossing film in Mueller-Stah's career. In 2011, Mueller-Stahl received the "Honorary Golden Bear" at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. His only film role in the 2010s was playing Fr. Zeitlinger in the experimental film "Knight of Cups ". The film uses images from tarot cards as a main theme, while elements of the plot were inspired by the "Hymn of the Pearl" (2nd century) and the "The Pilgrim's Progress" (1678) by John Bunyan. By 2021, Mueller-Stahl was 90-years-old. He lives in semi-retirement in California, where he enjoys its pleasant climate. He has written a number of novels and short stories, and has taken painting as a hobby.

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