Bernie in the movies



  • Great idea, tourista. We hadn't thought of Coster-Waldau. But HBO would probably like using someone who is in another HBO series. He would be a draw.
  • We finally have a few clues about who Philip Kerr might like to see play Bernie in the HBO series, courtesy of this new little interview he did with Mystery Scene magazine:
  • Whoever recommended Peter Storemare - spot on! Very good call for a Bernie, can see him offering the sardonic stuff very well.
  • Thomas Kretschmann is the perfect fit. He's German (though has acted in Hollywood movies, see King Kong), and he's a fantastic actor. He played Fegelein in the magnificent Downfall, and since then when I read a Bernie Gunther novel he always pops into mind.
  • Couple of great choices here. Thinking it over, I got to go with Kretschmann. He's just got the Gunther look.
  • Kerr says Michael Fassbinder. I must agree. But what about Christian Slater? Way off base? Kiefer Sutherland - looks Aryan ...
  • We sort of got the idea that Hanks is producing but not necessarily starring in the series.
  • With all due respect to Mr Hanks, I agree he would be a poor choice to play Bernie
  • Hanks would produce, but I could see him as Nebe.
  • Given his performance in the recent television series, "The Killing", I nominate Peter Skaarsgard as a potential Bernie Gunther. I think he could pull it off quite well.
  • I would love to see it with German actors with subtitles and filmed in back and white.
  • I mean black and white.
  • Damien lewis for me. He would be an ideal actor for the part. All of the necessary gravitas - as well as British - he's just perfect
  • Tom Cruz was no Jack Reacher. Check out the guy on person of interest. He is perfect to be Bernie. Hanks could be Klug
  • I always liked the idea of Bernie Gunther stories as a TV mini series. And with HBO supporting this I can't wait to see the first season. I like the idea of a German actor playing Bernie. Check out actor Ben Becker. He comes very close to how I always envisioned Bernie in my mind.
  • I kind of understand why Russell Crowe or Clive Owen was suggested before, but I would prefer a German actor and with HBO's casting track record in mind I hope for some new or less popular faces. One German actor I can immediately imagine as Bernie is Ben Becker. His looks and acting fit very well in my mind - maybe you've seen him in Comedian Harmonists.
  • I would love to see Viggo Mortensen. The parts that he played first in the movie "A History of Violence" and then in "Eastern Promises" he can play dark and cynical. He can portray that difficult sense of honour that Bernie has.
  • edited April 2014
    1. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ( Game of Thrones, Black hawk down) from Denmark would be good as Bernie. He was born in 1970 so he is only 44 right now. Thus they would have to AGE him 10 years for the parts that occur in the 1950s. . And they would also have to make him look about ten years younger for the scenes in the 1930s. He is around 6' 2" in height so he could pass for Bernie.

    2. Thomas Kretschmann , he was born in 1962, but looks young enough that he could pull off some of the younger scenes well.

    3. Mads Mikkelsen could do well as a real age Bernie since he is now 50. Assuming you could find somebody who looks like a younger version to film the scenes from 20 years earlier in the 1930s.

    4. Sean Bean looks the part of a 50-55 year old Bernie , since he is really that age now. His size is about right and so is his previous type casting as someone who does not follow rules or go along with the system. But his North Brit accent is very strong and he has never made any attempt to weaken it.
  • Put me down as a Liam Neeson vote (if there is any voting going on). He's got the worn looks, not a pretty boy, that the character needs. I offered this last evening at a book signing, but it didn't seem to impress Kerr, nor do I see Neeson doing a small-screen role.
  • Daniel Craig or someone as gritty as he can be.

    Is this actually going to happen or is it just conjecture?
  • Casting is very hard. It would have been obvious some years ago. Günter Lamprecht was born for it. Born in Wilmersdorf, he is a real Berliner as he proved when he played Franz Biberkopf in Berlin Alexanderplatz. Sadly he is too old. Like the author, I am a Scot (actually grew up mainly in SW19 where he lives and still visit family there) but knew Berlin both sides of the Wall and now. I lived on the Kiez so use a Berliner dialect and have adopted much of the Berliner character in my 'German persona'. Tom Hanks could not be in character in a thousand years, he does not look the part. Ironically I think Ken Stott, despite having been John Rebus, looks right and at 60-ish might still get away with it. He does the shabby image very well, perhaps the Scots input into playing a Berliner would work too.
  • edited June 2014
    I agree that Christof Waltz would be the perfect choice - he's shown flashes of Bernie's sardonic cynicism in both "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained" - in other words he plays a good smart ass. Remember too that Bernie is not always that tough - he tends to get kicked around a bit. That's a bit easier to picture with a guy like Waltz as opposed to the more macho types like Craig, Owen, Neeson or Crowe.
  • Yes I love Waltz he always has this hidden glee. I also think that Viggo Mortensen will be good. I loved him in "Eastern Promises" and "History of Violence", he's morose and has that off beat sense of honour that Bernie has.
  • Perfect! Would be amazing!
  • Hollywood get their hands on this series they will totally dumb down and ruin it as they do most screen adaptations, unless it was Tarantino! :-)
  • Liev Schreiber would be my choice. Complex and dark background, looks German, has weakness to attractive women. Hbo would have wait until Ray Donovan seasons are over.
  • I can't really think that film or TV versions of these books will be good.
  • Sean Bean would be my choice. Gritty and he definitely has "it."
  • Some good choices overall..but allow me to submit Ray Stevenson.

    Big guy, adroit humor (cf. Titus Pullo in 'Rome').

    We will see
  • I offer up 'Kim Bodnia' into the mix, he played a very similar persona in the excellent Danish/Swedish TV Series 'The Bridge'. Come to that how about the whole production team creating the series, my money would be on the result being better than anything coming out of HBO.
  • I would go with Humphrey Bogart, but...
  • edited November 2015
    Given Bogie is no longer available; Rutger Hauer has unfortunately not aged well enough to be credible as the younger Bernie; and Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger are simply not sophisticated or multi-dimensional enough... I'm at a loss to choose! But surely there are some wonderful Scandinavian (if not German or Dutch or Austrian) actors who could realise/add value to the part? (I just can't imagine Bernie with an American accent ;-)
  • I would vote for Gotz George who played the German detective Schimanski on German television but I am not sure how old he is now. I agree Ken Stott would be a good British selection
  • Interesting choices, especially Christoph Waltz. If they were going to cast an American the only one I can think of who'd pull it off would be Willem Dafoe.
  • Jason Isaacs could play the part to perfection, but I think we need a younger actor.
  • I think that the best actor to play Bernie Gunther in a movie is the German actor Daniel Koch.
  • I think for german actor Daniel Koch.
  • Casting Bernie is critical. He is physically imposing and can hold his own in any company intellectually. He should be about 40 years old with the looks of a light heavyweight boxer gone to seed. Liam Neeson is too old, as perfect as he could have been twenty years ago. As the older Bernie he'd be very good. Two actors could be cast as Bernie as has recently been done with the Inspector Montalbano series. The Young Montalbano concept had me worried until I watched it. Not only did they recast the lead but also all the supporting players. They brought it off perfectly. Don't cast a Hollywood pretty boy actor. Bernie is not pretty, he is pretty scary when he has to be and, like a lot of actors cast as policemen, he should be able to be mistaken for a criminal at times. Yves Montand could have played Bernie. Humphrey Bogart could not. Find a new face in Europe. A lot of new faces. Film it in glorious black and white in Europe and Russia and go with colour when the action moves to Argentina, Cuba and Florida. There are few actors that can project a simmering menace. Sean Connery could and so could DeNiro. DeCaprio can do anything but who could afford him. Make sure someone in the casting agencies has read Mr. Kerr's brilliant novels.
  • Has to be all German with subtitles. Like the black and white idea. My choice would be Thomas Kretschmann.
  • Agree with've only got to watch the Bridge to see Kim Bodnia would be perfect!
  • Two items:

    1) Thomas Kretschmann would be great! Good choice.

    2) Can anyone tell me the status of a Bernie film or TV Series? Is this really going to happen?
  • The latest we've heard is that the tv series is on the back burner for now but only for now.

    It's sort of a definitely maybe will happen eventually possibly someday. Like a lot of things in Hollywood.

    If anyone sees Philip Kerr on the upcoming U.S. book tour, you might ask him and report back here !
  • edited April 2016
    There is a bit of an update on the HBO series. Philip Kerr answers an audience member's question about it during the Q&A section at the end of his recent book tour talk in Boston:
  • Do not let Hollywood make the movies.
    They will cast some box office name who, rather than play the character, will play themselves. Anyone ever see Bruce Willis play away from his self characterisation? To be fair, wise cracking Bruce might be a partial fit for Bernie but it would be Bruce Willis wise cracking not Bernie and without the underlying depth.
    Seems you would need an actor skilled at playing a part. An Anthony Hopkins type who knows haw to play different characters. Or an unknown?
    Better to let some other country film it first and watch with subtitles. Hollwood can then remake it if they like but don't expect good casting, them sticking with the story line or keeping the depth.
    Hollywood makes rotten remakes and poor interpretations. They just have to meddle with the story line. Look at their remake of Tinker Tailor...... terrible.
    I have never ever been able to watch more than five minutes of Master and Commander with the poorly cast Russell Crowe and the butchered story and above all the change in the very ethos of the lead character.
    Expect Bernie to become someone quite different.
    But do make it in black and white to capture the sort of atmosphere of "The Third Man". Appropriate to "Berlin Noir".
  • I agree with Victor Tuba, German made in black and white.
    Das Boot was an excellent program and Heimat.
    Then we can be presented with accomplished actors we have never seen before. Subtitles or dubbed? Or made in English to start with?
  • liev schreiber would be excellent in the part. has the toughness & sensitivity. but will HBO ever make it? 4 years & counting, but alas no filming.
  • John Doherty and JMW - you frame the challenges well. Many of the suggestions made in this thread have the usual dilemma of merging two approaches that rarely merge: commercial production and artistic production. I mean, on occasion, maybe something like The English Patient where production values, casting, writing, etc. were all on a high level, but we're more likely to end up with something like The Good German: watered down noir. Kerr's teasing quip about Chinatown sorta says it all and the answer is probably "no" cuz they just don't make 'em like that anymore. Movie producers want to make back their money -so we're gonna get something that throws a wide net. But how to throw a wide net and be able to watch Bernie not the actor? De Niro's and Connery's personae would dominate the role. Skarsgaard and Neeson could persuade me. Hanks - yawn. Damon, Pit - nah. Slater? Are you serious? I like Crowe's energy and he could carry the look but don't think he can pull off the German psyche. Bruce Willis, plucked out of Sin City, has the pipes and cojones for the job and would convey the world weary charm of the insider turned outsider etc. Many of the lesser known European actors mentioned here might have the acting chops for the role but I can’t see them being the choices of producers who want to make back their investment. To the question of dubbed, subtitles etc. this is English work, literally the language, obviously, and psychologically, meaning this is an Englishman’s take on Germany, the war, etc. And that’s no slight to Kerr’s research and craft. The film should be shot in English. It’s about Germany but it’s not a German work. As for production, casting is critical but I can accept a modicum of compromise there more than I can with the script or der geist der sache.
  • For me, it's down to Michael Fassbender, Thomas Kretschmann or Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. I've always heard Bernie's voice as Fassbender's ever since I picked up Berlin Noir, but all three would be more than capable of conveying Bernie's rugged, no-bullshit weltanschauung.
  • i would vote for Bernd Michael Lade for the earlier novells and Axel Milberg for the after-war.
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