Klaus Kinski (born Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski; 18 October 1926
– 23 November 1991) was a German actor.
He appeared in more than 130 films, and was a leading role actor in
the films of Werner Herzog, including Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo
Cobra Verde (1987). He also appeared in many Spaghetti
Westerns, such as
For a Few Dollars More
For a Few Dollars More (1965), A Bullet for the
The Great Silence
The Great Silence (1968),
And God Said to Cain
And God Said to Cain (1970),
Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead
Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead (1971) and A Genius, Two
Partners and a Dupe (1975).
Kinski was a controversial figure, and some of his tantrums on set
were filmed in Herzog's documentary My Best Fiend. He is the father
of Pola, Nastassja, and Nikolai Kinski, born of three different
marriages. They have all become actors and have worked in Germany and
the United States, in film and TV.
1 Early life
2.1 Military service during the Second World War
2.2 Theatrical career
2.3 Film work
3 Personal life
3.2 Mental illness
3.3 Alleged sexual abuse of daughters
5 Filmography and discography
7 External links
Klaus Kinski's parental home
Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski was born to German nationals in Zoppot,
Germany (now Sopot, Poland) in 1926. His father, Bruno Nakszynski, a
German of Kashubian descent, was a failed opera singer turned
pharmacist; his mother, Susanne (née Lutze), was a nurse and the
daughter of a local pastor. Klaus had three older siblings: Inge,
Arne and Hans-Joachim.
Due to the Great Depression, the family was unable to make a living in
Danzig and moved to Berlin in 1931, where they also struggled. They
settled in a flat in the Wartburgstraße 3, in the district of
Schöneberg, and took German citizenship. In 1936, Kinski attended
the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Schöneberg.
Military service during the Second World War
Kinski was conscripted at the age of 17 into the German
time in 1943, and served in the army. He saw no action until the
winter of 1944, when his unit was transferred to the Netherlands.
He was wounded and captured by the British on his second day of
Kinski gave a different version of events in his 1988 autobiography.
He said that he made a conscious decision to desert; he had been
captured by the Germans, court-martialed as a deserter and sentenced
to death, but he escaped and hid in the woods. He finally surrendered
to a British patrol, which had wounded him in the arm before taking
him captive. After being treated for his injuries and interrogated,
Kinski was transferred to Britain. The ship transporting him was
torpedoed by a German U-boat, but arrived safely. He was held at the
prisoner of war "Camp 186" in
Berechurch Hall in Colchester,
There he played his first roles on stage, taking part in shows
intended to maintain morale among the prisoners. By May 1945,
at the end of the war in Europe, the German POWs were anxious to
return home. Kinski had heard that sick prisoners were to be returned
first, and tried to qualify by standing outside naked at night,
drinking urine and eating cigarettes. He remained healthy but finally
was returned to Germany in 1946, after spending a year and four months
Arriving in Berlin, he learned his father had died during the war, and
his mother had been killed in an Allied air attack on the city.
Plaque marking Kinski's birthplace in Sopot
After his return to Germany, Kinski started out as an actor, first
at a small touring company in Offenburg, where he used his newly
adopted name of Klaus Kinski. In 1946, he was hired by the renowned
Schlosspark-Theater in Berlin. The next year he was fired by the
manager in 1947 due to his unpredictable behavior. Other companies
followed, but his unconventional and emotionally volatile behavior
regularly got him into trouble.
For three months in 1955, Kinski lived in the same boarding house as a
13-year-old Werner Herzog, who would later direct him in a number of
films. In the 1999 documentary My Best Fiend, Herzog described how
Kinski locked himself in the communal bathroom for 48 hours and
reduced everything to bits.
In March 1956, he made a single guest appearance at Vienna's
Burgtheater in Goethe's Torquato Tasso. Although respected by his
colleagues, among them Judith Holzmeister, and cheered by the
audience, Kinski did not gain a permanent contract. The Burgtheater's
management became aware of the actor's earlier difficulties in
Germany. He unsuccessfully tried to sue the company.
Living jobless in Vienna, Kinski reinvented himself as a monologist
and spoken word artist. He presented the prose and verse of
William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, among others.
He established himself as an actor touring Austria, Germany, and
Switzerland with his shows.
Kinski's first film role was a small part in the 1948 film Morituri.
He appeared in several German
Edgar Wallace movies, and had bit parts
in the American war films
Decision Before Dawn (1951) and A Time to
Love and a Time to Die (1958). He starred as the doomed Jewish refugee
The Counterfeit Traitor
The Counterfeit Traitor with William Holden. In Alfred Vohrer's Die
toten Augen von London (1961), his character refused any personal
guilt for his evil deeds and claimed to have only followed the orders
given to him. Kinski's performance reflected post-war Germany's
reluctance to take responsibility for what had happened during World
During the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared in various European
exploitation film genres, as well as more acclaimed works such as
Doctor Zhivago (1965), featured in a supporting role as an anarchist
prisoner on his way to the Gulag.
He relocated to Italy during the late 1960s, and had roles in numerous
Spaghetti Westerns, including
For a Few Dollars More
For a Few Dollars More (1965), A Bullet
for the General (1966),
The Great Silence
The Great Silence (1968), and A Genius, Two
Partners and a Dupe (1975). He turned down a role in Raiders of the
Lost Ark, describing the script as "moronically shitty". In 1977
he starred as the guerrillero
Wilfried Böse in Operation Thunderbolt,
based on the events of the 1976 Operation Entebbe.
Kinski's work with director
Werner Herzog brought him international
recognition. They made five films together: Aguirre: The Wrath of God
(1972), Woyzeck (1978),
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Fitzcarraldo
Cobra Verde (1987). He played Kurtz, an Israeli
intelligence officer, in The Little Drummer Girl, a feature film by
George Roy Hill in 1984. It also starred
Diane Keaton as Charlie.
Kinski co-starred as an evil killer from the future in a 1987 Sci-Fi
based TV film
William Devane and Lauren Hutton. His
last film (which he wrote and directed) was
Kinski Paganini (1989), in
which he played the legendary violinist Niccolò Paganini.
Kinski published his autobiography, All I Need Is Love, in 1988
(reprinted in 1996 as Kinski Uncut). The book infuriated many and
prompted his second daughter
Nastassja Kinski to file a libel suit
against him, which she soon withdrew.
For many years, his own writings were the only source for facts about
his life and were not questioned or doubted by independent
analysts. In his retrospective film on Kinski, My
Best Fiend (also called My Favorite Enemy, 1999), Herzog said that
Kinski had fabricated much of his autobiography. The two collaborated
on the insults Kinski included about the director. In his film, Herzog
showed lighter and humorous aspects of Kinski's personality, although
he describes difficulties in their working relationship.
Also in 1999, director
David Schmoeller released a short film entitled
Please Kill Mr. Kinski, which relates stories of Kinski's erratic and
disruptive behavior on the set of his 1986 film Crawlspace. The film
features behind-the-scenes footage of Kinski's various confrontations
with director and crewmembers, along with Schmoeller's account of the
In 2006, Christian David published the first comprehensive biography
of Kinski, based on newly discovered archived material, personal
letters and interviews with the actor's friends and colleagues. Peter
Geyer published a paperback book of essays on Kinski's life and
Kinski married three times, having a child with each wife.
Singer Gislinde Kühlbeck and their daughter Pola Kinski
Actress Ruth Brigitte Tocki and their daughter Nastassja Kinski
Minhoi Geneviève Loanic and their son Nikolai Kinski.
The children had little contact with each other while growing
In 1950, Kinski stayed in a psychiatric hospital for three days
because he stalked his theatrical sponsor, on whom he had a one-sided
crush, and eventually tried to strangle her. Medical records from the
period listed a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia but the
conclusion was psychopathy. Around this time Kinski became unable
to secure film roles, and, in 1955, he reportedly attempted suicide
Alleged sexual abuse of daughters
In 2013, more than 20 years after her father's death, Pola Kinski
published an autobiography entitled Kindermund (or From a Child's
Mouth), in which she claimed her father had sexually abused her from
age 5 to 19.
In an interview published in the online issue of the German tabloid
Bild on 13 January 2013, Kinski's younger daughter, Nastassja, Pola's
half-sister, said their father would embrace her in a sexual manner
when she was 4–5 years old, but never had sex with her. Nastassja
has expressed support for Pola and said that she was always afraid of
their father, whom she described as an unpredictable tyrant.
Kinski died on 23 November 1991 of a sudden heart attack at his home
in Lagunitas, California. His body was cremated and his ashes were
scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
Of his three children, only his son Nikolai attended the funeral.
Filmography and discography
Klaus Kinski filmography
^ Birth certificate, klaus-kinski.de; accessed 24 November 2017.(in
^ Halliwell, Laurie (1997). Halliwell's filmgoer's companion (12th
ed.). London, UK: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780002557986.
IMDb database; retrieved 21 October 2017
^ Kinski, Klaus (1988).
All I Need Is Love (1st ed.). Random House.
ISBN 0-394-54916-3. OCLC 18379547.
^ David, Christian (2008). Kinski. Die Biographie. Berlin:
Aufbau-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7466-2434-1. OCLC 244018538.
^ Geyer, Peter (2006). Klaus Kinski: Leben, Werk, Wirkung. Frankfurt
am Main: Suhrkamp. ISBN 3-518-18220-X.
^ Wise, James E. Jr.; Baron, Scott (2002). International Stars at War.
Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 105–107.
^ a b Jackson, Patrick. "German actor
Klaus Kinski 'abused his
daughter Pola'". BBC News Online. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica
^ a b Wise & Baron 2002, p. 105
^ David 2008, pp. 10–13
^ a b c d e f Wise & Baron 2002, p. 106
^ "Klaus Kinski", Variety, 1991
^ a b David 2008, pp. 14–16
^ Herzog, My Best Fiend, said that Kinski was self-taught as an actor.
^ David 2008, pp. 16–20
^ David 2008, pp. 22–25
^ a b David 2008, pp. 48–59
^ David 2008, pp. 60–61
^ David 2008, pp. 97–102
^ a b c d e
Klaus Kinski on IMDb
^ David 2008, pp. 113–19, 136–41
^ Kinski, Klaus (1996). Kinski Uncut. Joachim Neugröschel (trans.).
London: Bloomsbury. p. 294. ISBN 0-7475-2978-7.
^ Wise & Baron 2002, p. 107
^ "Please Kill Mr Kinski – an interview with film director David
Schmoeller". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
^ Welsh, James Michael; Gene D. Phillips; Rodney Hill. The Francis
Ford Coppola Encyclopedia, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press Inc.,
2010, p. 154
^ "Asylum records confirm Klaus Kinski's madness". thelocal.de. 22
July 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
^ Roxborough, Scott. "Klaus Kinski's Daughter Claims He Sexually
Abused Her". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
^ Biss, Malta. "Jetzt spricht Nastassja". Bild. Retrieved 19 July
^ Klaus Kinski, 65, Actor Known For His Portraits of the Obsessed
^ David 2008, pp. 353–54
^ Edwards, Matthew [Ed.] (2016). Klaus Kinski, Beast of Cinema:
Critical Essays and Fellow Filmmaker Interviews, pg. 174. McFarland
& Company, Inc, Publishers; ISBN 978-0-7864-9897-0 (e-book
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