– November 23
) was a German actor
, famous for his ability to project onscreen intensity, and for his explosive temperament. He acted in over 130 films.
Kinski was born Nikolaus Karl Günther Nakszynski
, Free City of Danzig (today Sopot
in Poland). His parents were Bruno Nakszynski, and Susanne Lutze, a German pastor's daughter from Danzig
. In 1930/31, the family moved to Berlin
and Kinski attended the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Schöneberg
Kinski was drafted into the German Army in 1944 and served in the Netherlands. He reportedly deserted and surrendered to the British forces, spending the rest of the wartime as a prisoner of war. Whilst in a POW camp near Colchester he discovered his acting talent, performing for fellow prisoners.
After the war, he returned to Germany. He began acting and changed his name to Klaus Kinski. He started on stage in Germany, became a legend as a monologist (presenting as a spoken word artist the prose and verse of William Shakespeare and François Villon, among others), and soon moved to films, where financial prospects were better. His last stage appearances were in November 1971, part of his "Jesus Tour", a one-man show in which Kinski reinterpreted the Gospels with Jesus as a ranting psychopath.
He appeared in several German Edgar Wallace movies. His collaborations with director Werner Herzog brought him international recognition. In all they made five films together; Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Woyzeck (1978), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), and finally Cobra Verde (1987). In 1977 he starred as terrorist Wilfried Böse in the Israeli movie Operation Thunderbolt, based on the events of the 1976 Operation Entebbe. His last film (which he also wrote and directed) was Kinski Paganini (1989), in which he played the legendary violinist Niccolò Paganini.
Off-screen, Kinski often appeared as a wild-eyed, sex-crazed maniac. He chronicled his exploits in the autobiography—Kinski: All I Need Is Love, which, according to Werner Herzog's My Best Fiend, a documentary about the pair's experiences working together, was largely fabricated to generate sales. (A libel suit from Marlene Dietrich due to Kinski depicting her as a lesbian resulted in the book being withdrawn from circulation until her death).
He was married three times and had (according to his autobiography) at least five children, three of whom he acknowledged as such: the two daughters Nastassja and Pola and the son Nikolai, who would all become actors as well. His brother Arne lives in Berlin, still bitter about the way Klaus portrayed him in his autobiography. He alienated his family with claims of incest with his sister and his mother.
Kinski died of a heart attack in Lagunitas, California, U.S.A. at age 65. His ashes were strewn in the Pacific Ocean at a funeral attended by his son Nikolai and director Werner Herzog.
His city of birth, Sopot, gave him honorary citizenship .
In the year 2008 were published details in a German newspaper of his therapy-files in which the diagnose schizophrenia was stated.
His international reputation is built on five collaborations with director Werner Herzog
, which are now recognised as masterpieces of European cinema, but the two men's working relationship proved to be a volatile and explosive one. Some of Kinski's and Herzog's arguments during these productions have been preserved on both tape and film, with both apparently threatening to even kill each other during one heated dispute. The love-hate relationship between the two obsessive men drove them to creative heights, but eventually to a final split in 1987. Herzog's retrospective on his work with Kinski was released in the United States as My Best Fiend
Kinski was an extremely hard worker and strove for perfection, but was frequently at odds with collaborators and directors. On one infamous occasion Kinski hurled a lit candelabra from the stage at an audience deemed insufficiently appreciative, almost burning the theatre down. On another, while filming Aguirre: The Wrath of God, irritated by the noise from a hut where cast and crew were playing cards, Kinski fired three shots at it, blowing the top joint off one extra's finger.
Often referred to as a mad genius, Kinski was described by Werner Herzog as "an outright egomaniac." His behaviour may have been influenced by the German theatre directors of his early career, some of whom would frequently scream and shout abuse during rehearsals. Karl Paryla, for example, saw it as part of his methodology to drive his actors close to a nervous breakdown, on the basis that they would then perform better. Fritz Kortner (whom Kinski mentions in his autobiography) was also famous for being very harsh and brutal during rehearsals.
With his fluency in English, German, Italian and French, his unique appearance, and his ability to project onscreen intensity, Kinski was always able to get roles, although the quality of the productions varied wildly, most of them considered "junk" (Schrott) by Kinski himself. When Steven Spielberg offered him the part of one of the Nazi villains in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he turned it down, stating: "[...] as much as I'd like to do a movie with Spielberg, the script is as moronically shitty as so many other flicks of this ilk.", preferring a part in Venom (1981), reportedly because the money was better. Of his film choices he once said "So I sell myself, for the highest price. Exactly like a prostitute. There is no difference."
Books on Klaus Kinski
For many years Kinski's own writings were the only source for facts about his life, especially his 1988 autobiography All I Need Is Love
. In 2006 Viennese film director and scholar Christian David
published a comprehensive biography based on interviews with Kinski's friends or colleagues and personal letters. David uncovered formerly unknown facts about Kinski's life and corrected the actor's public image. This publication was followed by a paperback book by Peter Geyer
containing essays on Kinski's life and work.
- Morituri (1948)
- Decision Before Dawn (1951) (uncredited)
- La Paura (1954) (uncredited)
- Kinder, Mutter und ein General (1954)
- Ludwig II: Glanz und Ende eines Königs (1954)
- Hanussen (1955)
- Um Thron und Liebe/Sarajewo (1955)
- Waldwinter (1956)
- Geliebte Corinna (1956)
- A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)(uncredited)
- The Avenger (1960)
- Dark Eyes of London (1961)
- The Strange Countess (1961)
- The Counterfeit Traitor (1961)
- The Puzzle of the Red Orchid (1961)
- Bankraub In Der Rue La Tour (1961)
- The Devil's Daffodil (1961)
- Die Kurve (1961) (TV)
- Der Rote Rausch (1962)
- The Door with Seven Locks (1962) (uncredited)
- The Inn on the River (1962)
- The Black Abbot (1963)
- The Squeaker (1963)
- Scotland Yard Versus Dr Mabuse (1963)
- The Black Cobra (1963)
- The Indian Scarf (1963)
- The Secret of the Black Widow (1963) (uncredited)
- Picadilly Null Uhr Zwolf (1963)
- Die Mondvogel (1963) (TV)
- Kali - Yug : Goddess of Vengeance (1963)
- Der Letzte Ritt Nach Santa Cruz (1963)
- Estambul 65 (1964)
- Winnetou II - Last of the Renegades (1964)
- The Curse of the Hidden Vault (1964)
- Waiting Room To The Beyond(1964)
- The Secret of the Chinese Carnation (1964)
- Neues Vom Hexer (1964)
- Traitors Gate (1964)
- Doctor Zhivago (1965)
- For A Few Dollars More (1965)
- Our Man In Marrakesh (1965)
- The Pleasure Girls (1965)
- Circus of Fear (1965)
- The Dirty Game (1965)
- Lasciapassare Per L'inferno (1966)
- Quien Sabe? (1966)
- Man, Pride & Vengeance (1966)
- Das Geheimnis Der Gelben Monche (1966)
- I Bastardi (1966)
- Spy Against The World (1966)
- The Ruthless Four (1966)
- The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1966)
- Five Golden Dragons (1967)
- Coplan Saves His Skin (1967)
- Grand Slam (1967)
- The Blue Hand (1967)
- Sigpress Contra Scotland Yard (1967)
- The Great Silence(1968)
- Twice A Judas (1968)
- The Vatican Story (1968)
- If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968)
- Marquis De Sade:Justin (1968)
- Five For Hell (1968)
- Gangsters Law (1969)
- La Peau De Torpedo (1969)
- Venus In Furs (1969)
- The Dirty Two (1969)
- Burden of Dreams (1982)
- Location Africa (1987)
- My Best Fiend (TV) (1999)
- Please Kill Mr. Kinski (1999) online
- Jesus Christus Erlöser (2008)
Kinski released nearly 25 spoken word
records, some of them were re-released on CDs.
- http://www.kinski.info/ (Video Clips and Interviews with Klaus Kinski)
- Klaus Kinski at the Internet Movie Database
- http://www.hatii.arts.gla.ac.uk/MultimediaStudentProjects/00-01/0009135b/fruits/html/Kinski/kinski-bio.htm a segment of Guido Bãhm’s 2001 Multimedia Analysis and Design project at the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) at the University of Glasgow.
- http://www.walther-nienburg.de/Kinski/Post/katovsky.html (on Kinski's final interview)
- http://www.klaus-kinski.de/ (Kinski Fanpage in German)
- http://dantenet.com/er/Kinski/k2contents.html (Guide to Kinski)
- http://thekinskifiles.blogspot.com (Kinski Blog)
- http://www.slate.com/id/2946/ (Review of Kinski Uncut)
- Review of Klaus Kinski: My Best Fiend
- Klaus Kinski: All I Need Is Love (1988), ISBN 0-394-54916-3, re-titled Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski (1997), ISBN 0-14-025536-2.
- Christian David: Kinski. Die Biographie. (2006), Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag 2006. ISBN 3-351-02647-1
- Peter Geyer: Klaus Kinski: Leben, Werk, Wirkung (2006), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2006. ISBN 351818220X