Portrait of Daniel Brühl

Not always the nice young boy

Daniel BrühlDaniel Brühl in Good Bye Lenin! Copyright: X-Verleih AGThere is no doubt that Daniel Brühl is one of the most successful German actors of the moment. Although in Germany he is still very much thought of in connection to his role as the romantically-inclined young man in the film Good Bye, Lenin!, in international productions the young actor has revealed quite another side and is fast developing from a young star into a world star.

'At some point I would like to play a nasty, conniving rat all the way through a film,' admits Daniel Brühl in an interview with the German magazine Galore. 'There seems to be something about me that makes film-makers and the audience look at me and see a romantic. My friends, my girlfriend and my parents on the other hand know only too well that I can be a complete arsehole. But for some reason no one wants to see me like that in front of the camera.' Probably Brühl’s looks are the reason why no one believes he could be the bad guy. He has a slightly dreamy-eyed appearance with regular features that are ever so slightly feminine. Daniel Brühl is attractive but is not drop dead gorgeous like Jude Law or George Clooney.

Totally sympathetic figure

Daniel Brühl in Good Bye Lenin! Copyright: X-Verleih AGIn his roles Daniel Brühl exudes normality and naturalness, so that he comes across as a totally sympathetic figure. Today the 30-year old actor has played a long list of gentle, caring men who understand women. So in Good Bye, Lenin! he plays Alex, who, out of love for his mother, manages to perfectly conserve the German Democratic Republic in his parental flat in post-reunification East Berlin, whilst outside Coca-Cola and McDonalds are on the march. And although in The Bourne Ultimatum he has only the briefest of conversations with Matt Damon and then disappears from the screen, in the Spanish drama Salvador (2006) he is able to prove his credentials as a lead actor. He plays the role of a freedom fighter and ETA-activist who shoots a policeman during his arrest and is then hung by Franco’s henchman in an unbelievably brutal manner. The film also gives Brühl the opportunity to show off his perfect Spanish.

In fact Daniel Brühl is half-Spanish; he was born in Barcelona and grew up bi-lingually. He returned to Cologne to go to school whilst his father Hanno worked as a director in television. Brühl first came to public attention when he played the schizophrenic Lukas in Hans Weingartner’s cinema film Die weiße Rauschen (2001). Three years later his next film with Weingartner, The Edukators (2004), was equally successful. Brühl plays an introverted dreamer longing for the good old days of the late sixties and seventies, who is less interested in discos and girls than he is in his fantasies, and who tries to re-ignite revolutionary zeal in 21st century Berlin through a targeted break-in campaign. This role enables Brühl’s fascination to unfold: he appears at times soft and sensitive, at other times devious and unpredictable. Behind the harmless façade however there are quite clearly other more interesting, perhaps even darker, characteristics that could unleash their destructive potential. Manliness and temperament break out from beneath his reticent manner.

Absolute commitment and perfect physicality

He represents a new type of role for German cinema: he does not belong to the group of angular men teeming with power such as Götz George, Jürgen Vogel or Til Schweiger; instead he brings a sense of melancholy and softness to his roles. The director Weingartner praises Brühl as an actor who enables an audience to identify with him so strongly 'that they start thinking what he’s thinking.' This talent to connect to strangers so quickly disconcerts Brühl himself. 'And that’s why,' Brühl said in an interview with the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, 'when they see me in a film, people feel they know me well.' Wolfgang Becker, the director of Good Bye, Lenin! views the secret of Daniel’s acting in the immediacy of his performance: 'Daniel is a whole-body actor. He does not try to control his body from his mind. I believe entirely in the way he moves. His physicality is just right. And that is because his commits completely to his character, he is not afraid of letting go.'

Brühl’s qualities have now made themselves visible to Hollywood. Although nothing came of a part in Bryan Singer’s drama about Count von Stauffenberg (the man who plotted to assassinate Hitler), Valkyrie (2008), Tarantino has now expressed his interest in the actor. Tarantino is presently casting his new film Inglorious Bastards starring Brad Pitt. Nothing is signed yet, says Brühl’s agent. But there is already a good connection between Tarantino and the German actor. Perhaps this opportunity to work with this unpredictable and exceptional director will enable Brühl to grow up completely and finally discard his image as a nice boy.

Lasse Ole Hempel
is a cultural commentator and journalist. He works as an editor and editorial journalist in Berlin.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion

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September 2008
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