Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Lives of Others" Star Ulrich Mühe, 1953-2007

New York TImes
July 26, 2007
Ulrich Mühe, Film and Stage Actor, Dies at 54
FRANKFURT, July 25 — Ulrich Mühe, a popular German actor who won acclaim as a tormented Stasi officer in cold-war East Germany in the Oscar-winning film “The Lives of Others,” died on Sunday in his family home in Walbeck. He was 54.
The cause was stomach cancer, his family said. They said he was buried Wednesday in Walbeck, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where he lived with his wife, the actress Susanne Lothar, and their two children.
Mr. Mühe officially confirmed he had cancer only in the last week, in an interview that first appeared in the online edition of the German newspaper Die Welt on Saturday. He said he first learned of his illness in February and underwent surgery shortly after the Academy Awards ceremony that same month, when “The Lives of Others” was named best foreign film.
The film, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and released last year, received many German and European movie awards, won rave reviews and attracted a worldwide audience. Mr. Mühe won Germany’s golden Lola Award as best actor.
He played Capt. Gerd Wiesler, an agent with the East German secret police, who is assigned to keep a successful playwright and his lover under constant surveillance, only to become fascinated by them and protective of them as he grows disillusioned with the Communist state.
Born in Grimma, in the eastern state of Saxony, Mr. Mühe established his acting career in East Germany’s thriving theater scene and furthered it in the reunified Germany, becoming a popular presence in television and film as well.
The East German playwright Heiner Müller, who died in 1995, discovered Mr. Mühe in 1979 while Mr. Mühe was performing in the East German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt, now Chemnitz. Mr. Müller took him to East Berlin’s renowned Volksbühne theater. Mr. Mühe later joined the ensemble at Deutsches Theater in 1983, where he became a celebrated actor.
This year, Mr. Mühe had a major supporting role in “Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler,” a comedy by the filmmaker Dani Levy, which received a mixed reaction by German critics but did well at the country’s box office.
Besides Ms. Lothar and their two children, his survivors include three other children, one of whom is the actress Anna Maria Mühe, from his two previous marriages.
Last year, Mr. Mühe lost a highly publicized legal battle waged against him about his right to continue to refer to one of his ex-wives, the actress Jenny Gröllmann, as a former Stasi informant, an accusation she denied. Ms. Gröllmann died of cancer last year at the age of 59, before the matter was resolved.
Mr. Mühe fought against the government as one of several artists demonstrating before the Berlin Wall fell. On Nov. 4, 1989, shortly before the wall fell and before a half-million people on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, he declared the Communists’ power monopoly to be invalid.