Bruno Ganz, who died last week at the age of 77, had 121 acting credits to his name, from his debut as a hotel page in the 1960 comedy The Man in the Black Derby to his final role as a judge in Terrence Malick’s yet to be released Radegund. His underworld guide in Lars von Trier’s The House that Jack Built would have been at the very least a fitting send-off, but since that film premiered in Cannes last year he has also played Sigmund Freud in The Tobacconist and starred in a Macedonian war crimes drama, I Witness. Born in Zurich, to Swiss and Italian parents, Ganz was a truly international star, working with Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, and Volker Schlöndorff in Germany, but also Eric Rohmer, Jerzy Skolimowski, Alain Tanner, Gillian Armstrong, Jonathan Demme, Theo Angelopoulos, Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, Atom Egoyan, Barbet Schroeder, Bille August, Sally Potter, and von Trier over his nearly 60 year career. Of course, he was best known for two iconic roles: for playing an angel who descends to earth in Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and Adolf Hitler in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall (2004) and a thousand doctored YouTube videos.
My favorite Ganz posters are a handful from the 70s and 80s in which he is illustrated. The poster for Rohmer’s The Marquise of O (1976), his first major role, is credited to the French designer René Ferracci, though he may not have been the actual artist.
For Wenders’ The American Friend (1977) Ganz was memorably painted by Margrit and Peter Sickert.
The Sickerts also illustrated Ganz for Reinhard Hauff’s Knife in the Head (1978).
But when New Yorker Films released the film in the US (it was nominated for an Oscar Best Foreign Language Film) they commissioned the painter Michael J. Deas, who had also done their US poster for Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and whose best known cinematic work is the 1991 redesign of the Columbia Pictures logo.
And for the French poster for Wings of Desire, his best loved role, he was painted by Wenders’ longtime collaborator, the Belgian artist Guy Peellaert.