Birth Name: Nikolaus Günther
Born: October 18, 1926,
One of the most eccentric
and colourful personalities in the entire film history,
in a way the last real German "Star", Klaus
Kinski´s life was as strange as his films.
As he once said himself, the roles he played were actually
part of his real life. Kinski was a fanatic in everything
he did. His biography is not that far from a script:
Born the youngest of four
children, Kinski grew up in poverty.
Forced into theft in order to feed himself and his family,
Kinski was in constant trouble with the law.
World War II only brought
more pain for the Kinski family with Klaus being forced
into the Polish army and subsequently being captured and
serving under the German army. Kinski spent his short
term in the military flagging down American planes and
begging them to shoot him. Losing a close friend, Klaus
went AWOL. Dressed in children clothes, Kinski fed on
rotten apples for days until his capture by the English
army and a stint in POW camp, where he soon started to
play for his fellow prisoners.With the war over, and his
release from the POW camp, Kinski went in search of his
family. However, soon enough he discovered that most of
them had passed away during his time away. The biggest
blow was the loss of his mother, whom Kinski loved dearly.
Kinski spent the following years with a traveling drama
troupe. His fevered and emotional portrayals on the stage
foreshadowed his success to come. However, his lack of
understanding to authority created great tension with
his bosses and Kinski constantly found himself without
a job and homeless.
By the late forties, Kinski jumped into film. With 1948's
"Morituri", Kinski's life as an established
actor was about to begin.
Kinski spent the fifties being introduced to film. He
worked on several German pictures and continued working
on stage. He was a common sight in clubs reciting poetry
and performing Dostojevsky on stage. Kinski was perfecting
his craft, using the raw emotion and his life experiences,
Kinski was becoming recognized.
Kinski's physical appearance: bulging eyes and creepy
smirk, helped him take a niche as the perennial villain.
The Edgar Wallace films made in Germany was where Kinski
was found in the early sixties. Though they were supporting
roles, Kinski was stealing the pictures away from the
handsome leads and starlets.
Kinski's personal life
was also changing. He was married and with child: Biggi,
his wife, and Natassja, his daughter. However, Kinski's
excesses with other women did not cease. In his autobiography,
"Kinski Uncut", his affairs are constant and
never ending. Biggi and Klaus divorce early on with Kinski
leaving Natassja with her mother.
The 1960's represented
a decade of things to come for Kinski. His life is a never-ending
ride from one film to another and one woman to another.
Kinski's choice of movies, at first which are thought
out, soon become just opportunities for money. Great films,
like "Dr. Zhivago" and "For a Few Dollars
More" are mixed in with flops and horrible cinema.
Klaus Kinski does over 60 films, alone, in the 1960's,
and never looks back once.
The 1970's continued as
a decade of extravagance for Kinski. He spent money furiously
forcing him to continue taking on horrible films. "I
am a whore" he explained, "I´m doing this
crap for money, for nothing else."
However, the decade also spawned the creative partnership
between him and Werner Herzog. Herzog invited Kinski on
the project of "Aguirre, the Wrath of God",
which turned out to be one of the highlights of Kinski's
long career. Kinski conclude the decade with two other
projects under Herzog: "Nosferatu" and "Woyzeck".
Kinski's final decade of
film making was the 1980's. The highlight of the decade
was 1982's "Fitzcarraldo", which was another
collaboration with Herzog. However, by this time the relationship
was so strained that Kinski pledged never to work with
the director again. This turned out not to be the case.
They teamed up once more for "Cobra Verde" in
1988, one of Kinski's last films. The set turned violent
when Kinski attacked Herzog and left the set leaving the
film unfinished. The film has been released but the story,
the result of missing footage, does not stand up to the
Kinski-Herzog collaborated films.
Kinski concluded the 1980's
with his directorial debut and the last film he completed:
"Paganini". "Paganini", however, was
a commercial and critical flop. Kinski planned on making
it a 16 hour series for Italian television, but when the
producers got hold of what was filmed so far, it was taken
away from him.
Kinski spent the last years
of his life in Lagunitas, California working on his auto-biography
"Kinski Uncut", chronicling his chaotic life.
Klaus Kinski passed away
on November 23, 1991 from a massive heart attack.