Bruno Ganz, the renowned Swiss actor who portrayed Adolf Hitler in 2004’s Downfall and an angel in 1987’s Wings of Desire, died Friday at the age of 77.
The actor died at his home in Zurich, his management confirmed to the BBC, who added that Ganz reportedly suffered from colon cancer.
“Bruno Ganz was one of the greatest and most versatile actors ‘who inspired generations of film fans,’ the Berlinale Film Festival tweeted Saturday. “We are incredibly saddened by the loss of a long-standing festival companion and outstanding figure of the international film history.”
Ganz appeared in English language films like 1978’s The Boys From Brazil, the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate, 2008’s The Reader and 2013’s The Counselor.
The actor is also known for his collaborations with director Wim Wenders, who cast Ganz in 1977’s The American Friend, 1987’s Wings of Desire and 1993’s Faraway, So Close. Ganz also worked with filmmakers like Werner Herzog (Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night), Francis Ford Coppola (Youth Without Youth), Barbet Schroeder (Amnesia) and, most recently, Lars Von Trier (The House That Jack Built).
In 2004, Ganz delivered perhaps his greatest performance when he portrayed Adolf Hitler confronting the end of the Third Reich in the German film Downfall. For the role, Ganz spent four months researching the dictator.
“I cannot claim to understand Hitler. Even the witnesses who had been in the bunker with him were not really able to describe the essence of the man,” Ganz told the Guardian in 2005. “He had no pity, no compassion, no understanding of what the victims of war suffered.”
Downfall received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. While Ganz’s performance was critically lauded and award-winning at the time, the actor’s riveting performance went viral years later thanks to a series of memes that changed the film’s subtitles to reflect current events.