Bernie in the movies

edited May 2012 in General
Who would you have play Bernie Gunther in a movie series today? I'm surprised there aren't any plans for a Bernie Gunther movie. Maybe the whole "Nazi Germany" thing has film producers leery but still...

I wonder if Johnny Depp would work? Not that he isn't great in everything he plays, but he might be too glamorous for Bernie. Maybe Richard Kind, the friend in "Mad About You" and now plays in Leverage.


  • The best actor to play Bernie Gunther would be Viggo Mortensen IMO.

    If you've watched "Good", you'll see why i'm saying this.
  • I don't normally like the actor Russell Crowe but for some reason he comes to mind when I think of a someone suited for the part of Bernie's hard boiled yet complex character. Interested in hearing other people's thoughts.
  • I would think Russell Crowe is a match physically, better than Viggo Mortensen. Not sure his track record with accents in films is very good though! Stellen Skaarsgard perhaps?
  • I absolutely agree Stellen Skaarsgard would be perfect as Bernie Gunther,and being Swedish the Berlin accent would be much easier for him to replicate
  • I've always thought Peter Stormare ( would be a terrific Bernie Gunther. He's got the right sort of weary, jaded but acerbic kind of presence.

    More to the point, does anyone know if Philip Kerr has sold the screen rights to any of the Bernie Gunther books?
  • I would be surprised if no one had purchased screen rights for at least one of the books, they would definitely make excellent films.

    Not sure about Johnny Depp and really dislike Russell Crow. To be honest I would like to see a European actor. Before anyone had suggested Stellen Skaarsgard I thought about his son Alexander Skaarsgard (Generation Kill, True Blood), although he is a bit young looking. Or maybe Dominic West?
  • Dominic West starred in Philip Kerr's favorite tv show The Wire. So that would be great! But he doesn't look much like Bernie is described - what little description there is. And he doesn't look too German. Terrific actor though.
  • I always thought of him being quite simillar to Harrison Ford though he'd be too old to play Young Gunther, he'd probably be the right sort of age for the later stuff.
  • The film rights to the Bernie books were sold some years ago to a German film producer, and supposedly he searched for an international coproducer to help get the films made. But nothing ever came of it. So any ideas of a film are on hold for now. But you never know -- things can change!
  • Yep. This bit is from a 2006 interview-

    "And a good many of your novels have been sold to movie makers by Bob Bookman at CAA in Los Angeles."

    "Lots sold, very few made. I've been lucky in the sense that I've actually been paid. The best kind of Hollywood experience to have. You get paid well and you don't suffer the ignominy of seeing what you've written reduced to a joke on screen. Which has happened to a couple of friends of mine. I've always regarded Hollywood as a bit of an arts council grant. It has enabled me to keep going. As far as Hollywood, I've learned the best thing really is to forget all about it."

    "Does anybody own the film rights to the Bernie Gunther series?"

    "They were bought a few years ago by a German film producer. Ever since, he's been looking for an international co-producer."
  • the convers. on what bernie looks like suggest daniel craig to play bernie & i second that idea ~ yes craig! get on it rigt away! would be great!
  • If Humphery Bogert was still alive ,grew a few inches taller, and could do a German accent, he would be the perfect one to deliver my favorite Bernie quotes. Our Bernie appears to be a German version of Philip Marlowe with Berlin replacing Los Angeles.
  • In my opinion, and in my head, Bernie Gunther has the face of Ulrich Mühe... but as unfortunately that's impossible, I agree with Daniel Craig would be a great choice. Anyway, I prefer an European actor, too.
  • More on the question of film rights, this excerpt from Robert Birnbaum's interview with Philip Kerr for The Morning News:


    RB: You frequently go to L.A. to see about film work—no one is making films from your work?

    PK: The film rights are owned by a German film producer. Ironically, he is a film producer who originally had an association with FA Babelsburg, which in the ‘30s was managed by Goebbels. He is getting quite old now.

    RB: How long has he held the rights?

    PK: A good 15 years. He hasn’t done anything with it. We are optimistic that we can persuade him to take on a co-producer, at the very least.

    RB: Do you know why he hasn’t done anything?

    PK: Just he is getting on a bit. But none of this surprises me. Over the years I have sold so many things to Hollywood, none of which have got made. It never ceases to surprise me how much people will pay for things that never actually see the light of day.

    RB. Would you like to see your stories made?

    PK: Well, I would and I wouldn’t actually. I tell myself, would it ever be as good as Chinatown?

  • Hopefully they do a Bernie Gunther Film. Personely I preffer Til Schweiger.
  • I could see Stellen Skaarsgard or Russell Crowe -- Daniel Craig, maybe, although there's less of a personality match (particularly as to the quick quips and wisecracks). Of course if we could go back in time 15 or 20 years to get the perfect actor for the part it would have to be Rutger Hauer; regrettably, that's not an option.
  • >>>> vaughan -- I could see Stellen Skaarsgard or Russell Crowe -- Daniel Craig, maybe, although there's less of a personality match (particularly as to the quick quips and wisecracks). Of course if we could go back in time 15 or 20 years to get the perfect actor for the part it would have to be Rutger Hauer; regrettably, that's not an option.

    We agree Rutger Hauer would have been GREAT!
  • Aren't you missing the obvious choice? Sean Bean!
  • How about Jurgen Prochnow, the u-boat captain from Das Boot
  • I was reading Prague Fatale this afternoon, and who I was seeing was a young Bruno Ganz. Remembering that Bernie was born in 1898 during the war in was in his early 40s
  • Prochnow wäre bestimmt klasse aber leider schon zu Alt.
  • Hi All

    First time here, love the books. In the movies in my head when I read them, Bernie is played by Liam Neeson.
  • >>> [quote] jimmitchell
    Aren't you missing the obvious choice? Sean Bean![/quote]

    Damn right. Bean's gruff Yorkshire accent and Aryan looks would be perfect for BG
  • Why not Michael Fassbender. Afterall, he is actually German.
  • I'd say Ryan Gosling if we get to see Bernie in film from the very beginning. Good actor and has an incredible amount of screen presence.
  • How about Michael Fassbender, brilliant as Lt. Archie Hicox in Tarantino's, Inglorious Basterds.
  • I kind of picture him as a young Ray Winstone or Kenneth Branagh.
  • Spoken English with a "German" accent, spoken by a non German posing as a native...that sucks. Skarsgård (both father and son) would be great for the part, but not because they should be able to speak pidgin German better than Craig, which they would. Watch Craig in "The girl with the dragon tatoo". He refused completely to apply a Swedish accent (but was great in the part he played). And why should he? The movie is ENGLISH.

    I wouldn´t mind seeing a proper German version, with German actors of course. I wonder what they could make of the Berlin 1938 ambiance? BTW, are the books translated into German? I would love to try Prague Fatale translated.

    Whoevere makes the movie, it should be dark. Ridley-Scott-dark...
  • All of the Bernie Books are available in German except Prague Fatale, which won't be available until 2013. We hear it will be published sometime between February and July of 2013.
  • Breaking news:

    "HBO and Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are in early talks to acquire the Berlin Noir novel series by Philip Kerr. The plan is to develop this as a series that focuses on the police detective character Bernie Gunther in 1930s Germany, with the political climate and run-up to WWII and then the Cold War as the backdrop. Deal isn’t done yet, but I’m told that it will close. Numerous studios and producers pursued the property as a feature, but the author decided to go for a prestige series. He’s gone through enough development hell on the feature front on past books and HBO can point to enough successes like Game of Thrones to show the merits of an episodic adaptation of novels with storylines that span around 20 years. Playtone just produced the critically lauded Jay Roach-directed Sarah Palin pic Game Change, and after producing with Jann Wenner the 25th Anniversary of the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, Playtone is producing each annual induction ceremony that will air on HBO. CAA repped Kerr in the book deal."


    An HBO series would be beyond fabulous! We'd love to see Hanks pick the books apart and film a long-running series in chronological order, starting in 1932 when Bernie was a still a cop (A Quiet Flame).

    Thank you, Game of Thrones!!

    We're starting a new discussion for this topic.
  • Finally...!!!
  • Being new to the site, I had no idea of the suggestions abounding for an actor to play Bernie. Yesterday, I finished Prague Fatale, and will admit to envisioning Gary Oldman as our anti-hero as I was reading. He does hard-boiled and vulnerable equally well, just like Bernie...
  • Also new to the site and I have been wondering why no Bernie on the big screen yet! Sean Bean first came to mind (briefly). Ray Winstone would have been good 20 years ago. I think a German would be best in the part: Sebastian Koch (Fassbender is too young)!
  • I watched Inglorious Basterds a few months ago and while I was very lukewarm on the movie, I wonder if Christopher Waltz, the actor who played the German Colonel with amazing precision, would work as Bernie?
  • My vote goes to Knut Berger. He is German, has a complex look about him, would be an excellent younger Gunther; and movie magic would age him well.
    cheers, Ron
  • CharactersnCo just published the Bernie-in-the-movies Poll. The Bernie-Gunther-in-the-movies Poll. Who are you voting for?
  • I think Johnny Depp would be a perfect choice, based on his portrayal of John Dillinger in Public Enemies"
  • I think Johnny Depp would be a disastrous choice for Bernie! Much too pretty and his face is totally wrong for this world-weary character. Much better would be Russell Crowe or Stellan Skaarsgard, but perhaps Knut Berger would be the best choice. I read that Tom Hanks is interested in playing Bernie in an HBO TV series - awful choice, sorry Tom!
  • Christoph Waltz for sure.
  • I agree, Tom Hanks would be a terrible choice for the lead role in any BG film or series. Nobody who reads the novels envisions Tom Hanks as Bernie. Probably a European actor would be best for authenticity.
    Thomas Kretschmann. Bernie should be played by a German.
  • I voted for Russell Crowe. He can pull the roll off. He was great in L. A. Confidential: tough, imposing, and you could tell when he was using the ol' noggin, too. I think he'd make a great Gunther.
  • There's no doubt in my mind that Kenneth Branagh would play Gunther with the utmost skill & believability -- he is 59 and has the chops as an actor and would easily shoulder all the distinctions that 'weigh Bernie down' & even though approaching 60 he still has the physical conditioning to, not only, hoist a decent 'pilzener' ... but to sprint the odd 100 yards .... if not Branagh, find one of the many fine Scottish actors, after-all there's nae doubt that Bernie's maternal, great grandmother was from Glasgow ....
  • Kenneth Branagh certainly has the acting chops to pull off the character. I wish HBO would get a deal done to bring the books to the screen.
  • Discovered your site this morning. My vote would also go to Christoph Waltz, an excellent actor, since he has had quite a lot of publicity since winning that Oscar (which should help the production) but wonder whether he looks tough enough?

    Re. comment above on whether the books have been translated. Several of the books are in my local, small town library in Germany and I have just finished reading "The one from the other" which is called "Das Janus Projekt". It works very well although I will try to get hold of the next one in my mother tongue.
  • Waltz is a great choice. Don't know if he has the size but they could fake that. He's certainly got the acting chops to pull off Gunther's chilly exterior.
  • I have always thought Thomas Kretschmann ideal for the part - now he is German and the right age (50) to portray the weariness of Bernie Gunther. I have him in mind for one of my new books but this is the definitive Bernie in my eyes!
  • I think the Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau would make an excellent Bernie. He has a proper Aryan look with the rugged addition of what appears to be a broken nose.
  • I'm amazed no-one has yet mentioned Clive Owen to play Bernie...he would be perfect!
  • Clive Owen is a great choice in every respect to personality. He's tough, sensitive, sexy, nicely insolent, and projects a real intelligence. The problem is that Bernie describes himself as blonde and blue-eyed.
Sign In or Register to comment.