What does Bernie look like?

edited May 2012 in General
Love these books, and love the Bernie Gunther character. An author can't hope to achieve more than readers developing a bond with a particular character. I think it's a mix of things where the author passes over some kind of threshold and you feel like this guy was actually living and breathing during the early/middle part of the twentieth century. (Hats off to Mr. Kerr) Strangely though, I have always had a hard time picturing or giving Bernie a face. The closest thing that comes to mind is Russell Crowe as Bud White in L.A. Confidential. Like Bernie, Bud is stoic and has a good heart despite the moral backwaters he usually finds himself sailing in. He also figures to be Bernie's height and weight. Anybody else have any opinions (doesn't necessarily need to be an actor)



link to a shot of Bud from the movie:



  • I actually LOVE that Kerr doesn't give many details of Bernie's looks. I don't want anyone to tell me what he looks like. I have a vague, shadowy idea of what he looks like -- and somehow it seems appropriate that his face is obscured in my mind. I dread when the first movie come out and some director tries to tell me who Bernie and what he looks like. Whoever they choose to play him on screen, it won't live up to my misty fantasy. ;-)

    That said, I did see a review on Amazon and the reader said Bruce Willis !!!!! NO!!!
  • I think he looks like me, I've come to Bernie only recently and have all six books in MP3 format on my player and listen while walking the dogs, cutting the grass or cooking the supper, and there I am brimming with cyncal integrity in Nazi Germany. Who would have thought?
  • >>> tendogs
    >>> I think he looks like me, I've come to Bernie only recently and have all six books in >>> MP3 format on my player and listen while walking the dogs, cutting the grass or >>> cooking the supper, and there I am brimming with cyncal integrity in Nazi Germany. >>> Who would have thought?

    I know what you mean, ten. These books really "take me there" and I feel like I've actually been in 1930s Berlin. I can't say I quite imagined myself as Bernie -- but I certainly felt like I was there watching and experiencing everything. Very transportive.

    That said I have no idea what he looks like. When I'm reading, I do make mental pictures in my head , but only of those places and people and things that are described. I don't think he's ever really described. Except in one of the later books he does mention that he's blond which was a bit jarring as I definitely do NOT think of him as blond.
  • okay, so im watching the flyers/blackhawks game and it occurs to me that maybe bernie looks like a taller and somewhat less musclebound version of jeremy roenick. anybody?

    oh, and go flyers!
  • I am convinced that he looks like an older gentleman next to whom I was seated on a place from Paris to Zurich last winter. He had the physical traits (handsome and timeworn from the worries that come with having a heart) but more than that, he had a Bernie aura.
  • Berni Gunther gets 'mad laid' so he must be pretty darn gorgeous, albeit in a rough and rugged kind of way — as people have described above. I mean, the way he pulls Ilse's thighs apart in March Violets and 'plugs in'. He's a real man no doubt. Hmmm.

    Anyway, I like the way Kerr is very open and honest about the workings of the male mind. Imagine his wife reading some of the turns of phrase he uses to explain his sexual frustration at times. Anything dark is offset by his ability to remain — just about — on the moral tightrope.

    Back to his looks, though. I agree with Gunther's Girl above. I think Kerr deliberately shrouds his protagonist's physical appearance, perhaps so we can project our own image onto him, or perhaps simply to reflect the smudged and confused times in which he lives. It's as if everything is submerged beneath darkness of the times, just out of sight, never quite as it seems. So too with Gunther...
  • Russell Crowe's Bud White in LA Confidential comes close but perhaps a little to rough and ready. I'm beginning to think 007 Daniel Craig would make an excellent Bernie Gunther in any film version.
  • In the early books, I thought Kerr was deliberately aiming for the effect of transposing Philip Marlowe to Weimar Germany (that's not a criticism - I love it) so my mental image of Bernie was conditioned to some extent by the Marlowe books and films: a slightly Europeanised, and slightly more battered version of Robert Mitchum in 'Farewell My Lovely'. With the postwar books I'm not so sure - Bernie's got a heck of a lot more miles on the clock, he's seen things in Russia and elsewhere that wouldn't feature in Marlowe's worst-ever nightmares; he's lost loved ones. It's got to tell in his visage. In 'The One From The Other' he describes his own face as 'heavier' than his own previous idea of it. I find this later image quite elusive.
  • After reading a few of the books, I think a mid age Michael Caine comes close. Sort of like in the eagle has landed. Somewhat handsome, tough enough to get the job done. For an actor to play him now i would have to agree with Daniel Craig he looks tough enough to do it.
  • Also agree, Daniel Craig would be a good choice for Gunther,
  • Yes, I think Daniel Craig would be good as Bernie. But he better do it soon. He's getting a little long in the tooth.
  • Craig? Meh... I don't mind if they never do films but if they do I hope Bernie is played by an unknown actor. But he has to have that thing. That X factor.
  • It's just amazing that no one has brought a BG story to the big screen.
    GR and OftO (which I am half way through) would be great on film (screen played and cast properly etc). I've read that a German company bought the rights some years ago, but has not yet developed anything. Quite a waste of investment capital IMHO.
  • yes craig!!! htat'd be great movies!
  • I think Craig would be a bad choice. Gunther is too complex a character Clint Eastwood would have been great twenty years ago Russell Crow would be better. Clive Owen?
  • crowes too doughy- all chipmunk cheeks and putty nose - kwim?

    statham wuld be good xcept too bald!

    yeah young eastwood is a good idea

    gotta be someone blond blue eyes chiseled face & mid thirties

    ok mebbe craigs too old… hm
  • >>> robertph
    >>> Russell Crowe's Bud White in LA Confidential comes close but perhaps a little to >>> rough and ready. I'm beginning to think 007 Daniel Craig would make an excellent >>> Bernie Gunther in any film version.

    I totally agree with you. I like Russel Crowe, but he can't be Bernie Gunther. Daniel Craig would be the right one, in my opinion. Although I have always seen Ulrich Muhe as Gunther.
  • Even though BG describes himself as having blond hair and blue eyes..I still see him as having dark hair and brown eyes; no matter how I try to visualize him as described...strange...
  • Neither Daniel Craig nor Russel Crowe would be appropriate. Bernie is a complex character and highly "imperfect" human being. Craig and Crowe do not fit that type at all. For some reason, from the first page, I always pictured Michael Madsen as Bernie (Madson was the the sadistic killer, Mr. Blonde, in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs). I have no idea why I made that association in my mind, but there it is. Madsen is smart, cool, yet vulnerable. If you don't know who I am talking about, check him out.
  • BG has been described in several of the books as being blond haired and blue eyed;if I recall correctly. However, I have always pictured Gunther as dark haired and brown eyed; not sure why. Just can't picture him as a "nordic" looking German for some reason.

    I think Daniel Craig would be a good choice for the BG role.
  • Frankly, I think someone like Bruno Ganz would look good as Bernie. He's Swiss-german, blond, blue eyed..might be a bit old at 71 but it's a model I have in my head when reading the novels.
  • Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany. He'd be great.
  • My first thoughts were Jack Nicholson in Chinatown as my image of Bernie
  • Too late, but Philip Seymour Hoffman would have been a perfect Bernie. Maybe Gary Oldman.
  • All of Bernie's descriptions are of a big man,tall and burly.Remember he killed a Berlin policeman with a punch in the stomach.Leading men see all to be small today;some of the men mentioned are diminutive.At least no one suggested Tom Cruise.
  • Christopher Waltz?
  • He killed a Berlin policeman with a punch in the stomach which is utter bizarre
  • Why not Sebastian Koch ?
  • I'm with GunthersGirl: I actually don't *want* to know what he looks like... the books are written from inside his own skin.
    Occasionally he glances in the mirror to observe damage inflicted by Munich Bulls, Russian soldiers, CIA operatives, Argentinian/Cuban thugs, etc - but, otherwise, he's not a physically self-conscious man. He relies more on relating human-to-human communications rather than surface impressions, whenever reasonable!
    So why should we readers worry? I've enjoyed so many books/series then been disappointed by the actors cast... few exceptions are Dalgliesh & the early Rebus.
  • If you want a successful movie, better let some other country make it. Hollywood is too formulaic.
    Above all they will want to cast box office names in the parts no matter how suitable they are or how well they fit the part. SO yes, Russle Crowe will be up there or Tom Cruise as someone suggested..... Tom Cruise is about as far from Jack Reacher as you can get...... and Russel Crowe was a poor fit for Jack Aubrey (a Boris Jonson clone would have been better).
    Plus they mess with the storyline too much. If they cast Mel Gibson then expect Katyn Wood to be moved to the Forest of Dean. But lots of CGI and car chases even if they don't appear in the books.
  • I like the American actor David Harbour from " Stranger Things" to play Bernie Gunther.
    He's forty-two years old so could play both a younger as well as an older Bernie.
    He's big and handsome enough and also has a hardboiled everyman quality. He's not TOO handsome which is a distraction. He's quite likeable.
    He physical and quick and plays silent emotion. You could imagine him hating the Nazis
    but able to compromise to survive.
  • Bernie Gunther = Jean Gabin
  • Blond, 186 cm so pretty tall.

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