Klaus Kinski

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Klaus Kinski at the 41st Cannes Film Festival (1988)

Klaus Kinski (born October 18, 1926 in Sopot , Free City of Danzig , as Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski ; † November 23, 1991 in Lagunitas , California ) was a German actor and director. He is the father of Pola , Nastassja and Nikolai Kinski .

He specialized in the representation of psychopathic and driven characters and was one of the most sought-after film actors in this role internationally . His many years of collaboration with the German director Werner Herzog , who engaged him in films such as Nosferatu - Phantom of the Night , Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo , is considered artistically outstanding . Klaus Kinski had previously become internationally known through roles in Edgar Wallace films and Spaghetti Westerns.

Kinski was considered to be a difficult personality, prone to extreme outbursts of emotion and anger.

life and career

Childhood, youth and the beginning of a career

Kinski's birthplace in Sopot (today: Sopot )
Memorial plaque on Kinski's birthplace

The son of the pharmacist Bruno Nakszynski and his wife, the nurse Susanne Nakszynski, geb. Lutze, had three older siblings: Inge, Arne and Hans-Joachim ("Achim"). In 1930 the family moved to Berlin and moved into an apartment at Wartburgstrasse 3 in Berlin-Schöneberg. According to his own statements, Kinski had to earn money to support himself while at school. There is no further evidence that he was, as he claimed, a shoeshine boy, runner-up and corpse washer. Kinski's claims that the family were poor are contradicted by his older brothers. The family was "middle class" and Klaus was "particularly cherished".

During the Second World War he was drafted into a paratrooper unit of the Wehrmacht in 1944 and was taken prisoner by the British on the Western Front in the Netherlands . The exact circumstances of his capture are not finally clear, but this probably happened on November 14, 1944 near Helmond by the 2nd British Army . By his own account he had deserted the end of October 1944, however broad and because of desertion was sentenced to death. After offering anal intercourse to the soldier who was posted to guard him and who turned out to be homosexual , he knocked him unconscious and was able to flee again. He said he was hiding unarmed in a hole in the ground, where he was first seriously wounded by British or Canadian soldiers and then taken prisoner. He then spent 14 weeks in a hospital with two straight bullets on his shoulder and arm .

In February or March 1945, Kinski was transferred from a camp in Germany to the "Camp 186" prisoner-of-war camp at Berekurch Hall near Colchester , Essex . Here he played his first theater role on October 11, 1945 in the grotesque “Pech und Schwefel” on the makeshift mezzanine, which was directed by the actor and director Hans Buehl. In the following performances he regularly played female roles. After beating another actor after a theater rehearsal, he had to leave the group and switched to a cabaret group in the camp. In the spring of 1946 he was one of the last prisoners to be sent back to Germany from the camp. According to his own account, he first spent six “wild” weeks in Heidelberg with a sixteen-year-old whore whom he met on the train, but left them and then worked at theaters in Tübingen and Baden-Baden , where he also died from his death Mother learned from an air raid in Berlin. In the fall, he went to Berlin illegally .

From 1946 Kinski worked as an actor on prominent Berlin theaters, although he was not trained in the classical way, initially at the Schlosspark Theater , directed by Boleslaw Barlog . Once when he smashed the windows of the theater in anger, Barlog fired him. Become unemployed, Kinski briefly attended the drama school of Marlise Ludwig , where he, among others, with Harald Juhnke scenes from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet choreographed.

In his private life, Kinski also maintained relationships with Berlin demi-world circles . He temporarily lived with the director, painter and set designer Eduard Matzig in the Berlin artists' colony on Laubenheimer Platz. He received his first film role in Morituri , shot between September 1947 and January 1948. Artur Brauner was the producer and Eugen York was the director . Morituri tells of refugee concentration camp inmates who are hiding from the Germans. The film was controversial; there were threatening letters and a Hamburg cinema was destroyed.

In 1950, Kinski was under psychiatric treatment for three days in the Karl Bonhoeffer Psychiatric Clinic in Berlin after he had molested and physically assaulted a doctor he knew and attempted suicide with medication. This became known in 2008 through the publication of a file found that year, which is controversial under data protection law . Klaus Kinski's widow, Minhoï Loanic, filed a criminal complaint against the Landesarchiv Berlin , the health company Vivantes and "all other eligible persons" after the publication .

From 1952 onwards, Kinski became known to a steadily growing audience as the "one-man traveling stage" in Berlin , Munich and Vienna . He recited on small stages and around 1960 in the Berlin Sportpalast - a large house - Arthur Rimbaud , François Villon , Friedrich Nietzsche , Kurt Tucholsky and the New Testament . He also came into contact with the likes of Bertolt Brecht and the theater director Fritz Kortner . In 1955, Kinski caused a car accident, and there was also a boat accident on Lake Starnberg . Legal proceedings and penalties followed, and the financial consequences weighed on the actor for years.

In the summer of 1955, Kinski shot the film Um Thron und Liebe with Kortner in Vienna . His partner was the Austrian actress Erika Remberg . They fell in love while filming and temporarily became a couple. A scandal that received much attention in the press occurred when Kinski and Remberg kissed in front of a Munich outdoor pool. His career took a turn during this period and he made two suicide attempts.

Kinski's recitations, for example from works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , Friedrich Schiller and Brecht, were recorded on over 25 phonograph records . At the latest through the German Edgar Wallace films, Kinski became known to the cinema audience and thus to the general public. The attention of the international audience especially attracted his impressively played supporting role in David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965). On November 20, 1971, Kinski tried his hand at reciting Jesus with a scandalous performance in Berlin's Deutschlandhalle entitled Jesus Christ Redeemer . After interfering from viewers and a tough argument, the event and the planned tour were canceled early.


Kinski acted in films like Woyzeck , Fitzcarraldo , For a few dollars more , Doctor Schiwago , Nosferatu - Phantom of the Night , corpses pave his way , in 16 Edgar Wallace films and together with Romy Schneider in night blind . In 1979 he received the gold film tape for best German actor, but did not appear at the award ceremony. The film Fitzcarraldo was nominated for the " Golden Globe ". Kinski also acted in several Hollywood films, including starring with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the last Billy Wilder film Buddy Buddy . In Little Drummer Girl ( The Dragonfly ) he starred with Diane Keaton starring. In The Beauty and the Beast he was the main character alongside Susan Sarandon and Anjelica Huston .

Kinski's records sold several million copies worldwide.

In 1983 he appeared on David Letterman's talk show and appeared in US Playboy in 1985 with a cover story. In 1982 the American Film magazine ran the headline: Is Kinski the Greatest Actor in the World? His book Kinski Uncut became a bestseller in the United States.

In the mid-1980s he made the action films Codename: Wild Geese and Leopard Command, with Lewis Collins in the lead role. However, the two actors didn't get along, so not a single scene was shot with both of them in the second film. In 1989 he completed his last film work with Kinski Paganini . After unsuccessfully asking producers and directors for the material for years, he finally took over the direction, script, editing and leading role himself. Werner Herzog had previously also received and rejected an offer, according to his own statement, as the script was "unfilmed". After a few shows in Europe on the occasion of Kinski's death, the film was still released in cinemas in the late 1990s.

As a voice actor, Kinski lent his voice to Pawel Kadotschnikow in Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible and Sabu in The Black Narcissus .

Private life

Kinski was married three times. In 1951 he met Gislinde Kühbeck at the Schwabing Carnival in Munich. After their daughter Pola was born , the two married in 1952. The marriage ended in divorce in 1955. From 1955 to 1960 he lived in Vienna. Then Kinski moved to Berlin and met 20-year-old Brigitte Ruth Tocki there, who was performing in the Eierschale jazz bar . They married in 1960. From this marriage, which was divorced in 1969, the daughter Nastassja Kinski was born. Kinski lived in Rome from 1964 to 1975. At a party in his villa on Via Appia in 1969 he met the 19-year-old Vietnamese language student Minhoï Geneviève Loanic, whom he married in 1971. From 1975 to 1980 he lived in Paris. On July 30, 1976, the son Nanhoï Nikolai was born. In February 1979, Klaus and Minhoï Kinski divorced. At the end of 1980 he moved to Los Angeles in the Bel Air district . In the spring of 1981 he bought a piece of land in Lagunitas-Forest Knolls , Marin County , and had a house built there and moved into. From 1987 onwards, Kinski had a relationship with the then 19-year-old Italian actress Debora Caprioglio , which lasted until 1989.


Kinski had a very changeable temperament, which ranged from gracious gentleness to terrible outbursts of anger with wild public abuse. The term enfant terrible was often used for him .

His mature years were marked by hypochondriac fears. At the same time, he actually suffered from health problems: he collapsed once while filming Cobra Verde , later in South America he was unable to shoot for several days.

In the documentary My Dearest Feind , the director Werner Herzog describes the relationship between himself and Kinski, with whom he lived in the same pension for a short time in his youth. Herzog reports that on the one hand he was despised by Kinski and that he was often humiliated and insulted during filming. On the other hand, a creative and artistic force developed in their relationship, which is based on their joint films Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes (1972), Nosferatu - Phantom of the Night (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Cobra Verde ( 1987) transferred. Herzog also describes Kinski as an extraordinarily hardworking actor who rehearsed his roles for days, but also developed tantrums (often unfounded), especially when he felt he was not getting enough attention. In quiet moments, Kinski described his harsh outbursts and scandals as helpless attempts to attract attention.

The arguments between Herzog and Kinski were particularly intense during the filming of Cobra Verde . Kinski demanded the removal of the cameraman Thomas Mauch . Herzog gave in and had a Czech cameraman flown into Ghana. Herzog's direction was heavily criticized by Kinski. On some days, Kinski tried to direct it himself. A termination of the shooting could be prevented.

Kinski often played villains and psychopaths in films; this definition seemed to allow conclusions to be drawn about his character. In fact, he was very eccentric and often aggressive in public. He attracted attention as the WDR - Talkshow The later the evening in 1977, in which he many questions of the moderator Reinhard Münchenhagen did not respond, but it again and again as "Herr Munchausen addressed" and even docked with a spectator. Equally legendary was the Berlin performance of his polarizing “ Jesus Christ Redeemer ” stage production, in which he furiously insulted hecklers from the audience with “you stupid pig” and “shit rabble”.

Kinski maintained an elaborate lifestyle and, according to his own admission, took over most of his roles out of financial difficulties. He appeared in productions of the European horror film and sex film of the 1970s and the international B-action film of the 1980s.

In an interview with Stern magazine , Nikolai Kinski said that he had never seen his father become aggressive or abusive in his private life: "In private, my father was the gentlest person you could imagine."

Sexual abuse

Kinski's daughter Nastassja, however, describes her father as a "tyrant".

In her 2013 book Kindermund , Pola Kinski describes how she sexually abused her father from the age of 5 to 19.

In response to her sister's allegations of abuse in 2013, Nastassja Kinski stated that as a child she was “terribly afraid” of her father's advances, who “always terrorized” the family. Although he did not hit her, he "insulted her in a vicious way". What happened to her as a four to five year old child was “more” than the “loving hug of a father”. Kinski had "always touched her way too much" and "pressed her very close". She didn't see him as a father: “I would do anything to put him behind bars for life. I am glad that he is no longer alive. "

Klaus Kinski himself had described incester experiences with his mother, his sister and the abuse of his daughter Nastassja in his 1975 autobiography I am so wild after your strawberry mouth . At the time, Kinski's older brothers denied that his statements were true, they accused him of misrepresenting his childhood and youth.

In the summer of 1981, Kinski told Werner Herzog, according to his diary entries, that he would get “twenty years” in the USA just for what he “did with his daughters Pola and Nastassja”. Herzog should be careful that he “will stop at nothing”.


Kinski died on 23 November 1991 at the age of 65 in his estate in Lagunitas ( CA ) of a heart problem. The autopsy revealed that the heart was scarred, which was likely the result of several untreated heart attacks .

"Preliminary autopsy results suggested that Mr. Kinski 'apparently died of natural causes due to a heart problem,' a spokeswoman for the Marin County coroner's office said."

"The preliminary results of the autopsy suggest that Mr. Kinski appeared to have died of natural causes from a heart problem."

- Marin County's Office of Coroner spokeswoman

According to his wishes, his body was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific near San Francisco .


Kinski's Star on the Boulevard of Stars (2011)

With the Filmband in Gold in 1979, Kinski received his only German film award for his performance in Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night . For the same role he also received an Acting Award at the Cartagena Film Festival . On February 5, 1986, the then French Minister of Culture Jack Lang announced the appointment of Kinski as Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres . This medal is one of the highest honors in France for a foreign artist. On April 12, 2011, Kinski was honored with a star on the Boulevard der Stars in Berlin. Kinski was an honorary citizen of the city of Danzig .

Reception in music

Klaus is dead , the debut album by the German band Swoons , is dedicated to Kinski.

The American band Kinski and the Duisburg punk band Die Kinskis named themselves after the German actor, as did the formation Hello Kinski from the USA.

The doctors used quotes from Kinski's "Villon, that's me" as an introduction to their song "Lieber Tee" on the album The Beast in Human Form .

The American band Elastic No-No dedicated the song I am Klaus Kinski to their idol in 2006 .

The Frankfurt DJ and music producer Oliver Lieb released the single Jesus ist da in 2002 , which contains samples from Kinski's Jesus Christ Redeemer .

Samples of Jesus Christ Redeemer are used in the song Glaubenskrieg by the German band Feindflug : "I am not the official Church Jesus , [...] I am not your superstar". Luke Haines used the same quote in 2009; as well as the German rap duo Pimpulsiv in their song "Minimal Klaus" from the album hepatitis P .

Rex Joswig processes the recitation in his piece “Kinski in Dub”.

On his 2010 album "John Bello Story 3", the rapper Kool Savas placed the song "Make your shit", which includes many samples and quotes from Kinski.

The “Jesus Christ Redeemer Sample” was also used in the song “Mohn auf weiß Laken (WITS-Mix)” by the band Samsas Traum as well as in the track “Hybrisma” by the post-rock band Daturah.

The dark romantic music group Adversus starts the piece “The Last Bell” with a quote from Kinski.

In the songs Mann aus Stein and Bei den Sternen by the band Eïs on the album Wetterkreuz , which was released in 2012, Kinsky quotations are used as samples. These come from his reading of Der Steinmann by August Strindberg .

Klaus Kinski was also mentioned in songs by Lou Reed and Udo Lindenberg .

The musician Torch used samples from interviews and films with Klaus Kinski, for example in the song Kapitel 29 .

The metal band Hideous Divinity named the album "Cobra Verde" after the film with Kinski in 2014 and used some quotes as voice samples.

The satire pop band “Traumfresser” released the song “How would Klaus Kinski have reacted?” In 2017, a socially critical song that deals with the question of what Kinski would have said about today's political problems.

Books, films and radio plays about Kinski

Klaus Kinski in a caricature by Hans Pfannmüller

For a long time, apart from a few newspaper articles, Kinski's autobiographies were the only sources on his life. In the two bestsellers I'm so wild for your strawberry mouth (published in 1975) and I need love (1991) he presented himself with a dash of poetic freedom, above all as a libertine and a sexual protagonist. In 1992, Paganini appeared . In the 1980s, Philippe Setbon published a book that dealt primarily with Kinski's films and also provided biographical details. In 1995 Dagmar Cuntze shot the documentary I'm so wild for your strawberry mouth for the SFB and spoke to Kinski's colleagues (e.g. Brigitte Grothum ). In 1998 Kinski, Work of the Passion by Georg Wend , was published, which was primarily dedicated to the films and also offered new information about the person. In 1999 Werner Herzog processed his experiences with Kinski for the first time in the documentary My Dearest Feind , conversed with former actors in his films and visited locations where they had made films together. In 2001, on the tenth anniversary of Kinski's death, two exhibitions were organized that were linked to book publications. The documentary I am not an actor by Christoph Rüter was made for arte and WDR, and Kinski's colleagues (e.g. Mario Adorf ) also had their say . In 2003, Brandstätter-Verlag published the picture and text book “I am as I am”, edited by Peter Reichelt and Ina Brockmann , who also organized a Kinski exhibition that was shown at various locations. In 2006, the WDR produced the radio feature "The Kinksi tapes or God's last interview" from tapes of a preliminary interview between Klaus Kinski and Lorenz Schröter in 1991.

For Kinski's 80th birthday, two books about the actor were published in 2006, which brought new pages to light. The Viennese film scholar and critic Christian David presented Kinski. The biography before, the first big biography, detailed on around 450 pages, with interviews of contemporary witnesses, colleagues and friends (including Bruno Ganz , Peter Berling , Judith Holzmeister , Peter Hajek and others) as well as life using previously unknown documents and private letters and represents the actor's work. Shortly afterwards, Kinski's estate administrator Peter Geyer published the paperback Klaus Kinski , which summarizes his life and work on 160 pages and contains essays on the artist's oeuvre and interpretations of Kinski's films.

In 2011, DLF and hr jointly produced the radio play Klaus Kinski , directed by Michael Farin : It's dark around me - and the light grows in me . The author Peter Geyer only used quotes from Klaus Kinski for the text; the following spoke: Blixa Bargeld , Ulrich Matthes and Nadeshda Brennicke .


Filmography (cinema productions)

Filmography (television productions)

  • 1961: The curve
  • 1963: The moon birds
  • 1973: Occupation
  • 1975: The Secret of Life (Lifespan)
  • 1982: Time for Two (documentary)
  • 1983: Beauty And The Beast
  • 1984: Hitchhiker, Episode 2/3: Blood on Hands
  • 1987: The Time Trap (Timestalkers)


  • 1978: What I am are my films
  • 1982: Burden of Dreams
  • 1987: Duke in Africa (ARD)
  • 1995: I'm so wild for your strawberry mouth (ARD)
  • 1999: my dearest enemy
  • 1999: Please Kill Mr. Kinski (English)
  • 2000: Klaus Kinski - I'm not an actor (WDR, Arte), director: Christoph Rüter
  • 2011: Klaus Kinski - It wasn't even quiet where I wasn't (WDR)
  • 2020: Klaus Kinski - world star and tyrant (ZDF)


Radio plays


  • I'm so wild for your strawberry mouth. Autobiography. Rogner & Bernhard, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-8077-0050-1 .
  • I need Love. Autobiography. Heyne, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-453-04579-3 .
  • Paganini. Autobiography. Heyne, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-453-05637-X .
  • with Peter Geyer: Jesus Christ Redeemer and Fever - Diary of a Leper. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2006, ISBN 3-518-45813-2 .


  • Hanns-Joachim Starczewski: Kinski. Starczewski-Verlag, Munich.
  • Jean-Marie Sabatier: Kinski. Rogner & Bernhard, Munich 1979.
  • Hilmar Hoffmann, Walter Schobert (Ed.): I, Kinski. German Film Museum , Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-88799-063-3 .
  • Peter Reichelt, Ina Brockmann (ed.): Klaus Kinski - I am the way I am. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-423-30840-0 .
  • Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Structure, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-7466-2434-1 .
  • Peter Geyer: Klaus Kinski - life, work, effect. Suhrkamp Verlag , Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-518-18220-X .
  • Peter Geyer, Oliver A. Krimmel: Kinski. Legacies, autobiographies, stories, letters, photographs, drawings, lists, private matters. Edel Germany, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8419-0100-2 .
  • Beat Presser : Kinski: photographed by Beat Presser. Moser, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-9814177-1-5 .

Web links

Commons : Klaus Kinski  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. birth certificate .
  2. a b c d e Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Structure, Berlin 2006, pp. 13–21.
  3. a b Everything is true . In: Der Spiegel . No. 45 , 1975, pp. 189-192 ( Online - Nov. 3, 1975 ).
  4. a b Peter Geyer: Klaus Kinski - Life, Work, Effect , 2006, p. 13.
  5. a b c Klaus Kinski: I need love , 1991, p. 63. Available online at Deaddodo: Klaus_Kinski - Biographie_1926-1949 .
  6. ^ Christian David: Kinski. The biography , 2008, p. 15.
  7. ^ Peter Geyer: Klaus Kinski - Life, Work, Effect , 2006, p. 14.
  8. Klaus Kinski: I need love , 1991, pp. 72–76.
  9. Kinski Psychological Files . In: BZ-Berlin from July 22, 2008.
  10. Kinski File .
  11. Berlin State Archives .
  12. ^ Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 2006, pp. 35–41.
  13. Late Night with David Letterman Episode 203, 1983 on tv.com.
  14. List on klaus-kinski.de.
  15. My Dearest Enemy , Werner Herzog's film about his relationship with Kinski, released in 1999
  16. a b c d e Christian David: Kinski. The biography. Berlin: construction publishing house. Pp. 292-343.
  17. Stern No. 17/2004.
  18. a b derstandard.at: Nastassja Kinski: I'm glad my father is no longer alive , January 13, 2013.
  19. See Pola Kinski: Kindermund , Insel Verlag, Berlin 2013. See also the preliminary reports: Stephan Maus: A mask falls. ( Memento from January 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) In: Stern No. 3/2013. Sebastian Hammelehle, Barbara Hans: The angel and his devil. In: Spiegel Online from January 11, 2013. Dagmar von Taube, Holger Kreitling: “I was afraid of an indefinite threat”. In: Welt am Sonntag p. 13, from January 13, 2013.
  20. kuz / dpa / afp: "It didn't feel good" . In: Spiegel Online from January 13, 2013.
  21. Pola Kinski's "Kindermund" . In: Spiegel Online from January 11, 2013.
  22. Cf. Werner Herzog: Eroberung des Nutzlosen, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2009, p. 302.
  23. ^ Caryn James , The New York Times, Nov. 27, 1991: Klaus Kinski, 65, Actor Known For His Portraits of the Obsessed .
  24. Genius and madness would have turned 80: Klaus Kinski , on n-tv.de (accessed November 4, 2011).
  25. Song on Spotify. June 17, 2016, accessed May 27, 2018 .
  26. Kinski, Klaus: I'm so wild after your strawberry mouth, Heyne Books Verlag, Munich, 1979, pp. 99-103
  27. Kinski, Klaus: I'm so wild after your strawberry mouth, Heyne Books Verlag, Munich, 1979, pp. 199–202
  28. Internet source : http://www.klaus-kinski.de/theat/heinr.htm , last accessed: May 6, 2020