Klaus Kinski – One crazy son-of-a-bitch
Klaus Kinski (born Klaus Gunther Nakszynski; 18 October 1926 – 23 November 1991) Klaus Kinski may be somewhat forgotten now, but in the 70’s and 80’s he had a wildly popular run of films with German director Werner Herzog; Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Woyzek (1979), (1982) and Cobra Verde (1987), making him a hugely popular international star.
In 1946, after serving in World War 2 (on the German side) and being captured and imprisoned by the English he gravitated toward acting, appearing in a number of plays in the Berlin theater. He was fired 1 year later for his ‘erratic and volitile’ behavior. Other companies followed, but his unconventional and emotionally volatile behavior regularly got him into trouble. In 1950, Kinski stayed in a psychiatric hospital for three days; medical records from the period listed a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He became unable to secure film roles, and in 1955 Kinski twice tried to commit suicide as he watched his career continue to falter. He slowly rebuilt his career and started appearing in minor roles in German films. His big break came in 1965 with a role in the blockbuster, Dr. Zhavago. In the 70’s he began his great streak of films with Werner Herzog and even turned down a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark claiming the script was “moronically shitty”.
Klaus’s fame slowed in the 80’s, having some hits – (Fitzgaraldo 1982) but tending toward cheap American horror (Crawlspace – 1986) and budget crap (Cammando Leopard – 1985). The fame of the Kinski name would be taken over around this time by his daughter Nastassja (Cat People) , who would later sue him for libel after the publication of his autobiography All I Need is Love (which is quite a read, btw).
Klaus would die of a heart attack in 1991, less than famous but still remembered as the crazy German son-of-a-bitch who made a handful of great movies and a few shitty ones.