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Hanna Schygulla

Biography partially from Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film

Occupation: Actress

Born: December 25, 1943, Königshütte, Germany (now Poland)

Schygulla was born in Königshütte, Upper Silesia, to German parents Antonie (née Mzyk) and Joseph Schygulla. Her father was an infantryman in the German Army and was captured by American forces in Italy, subsequently being held as a prisoner of war until 1948. In the 1960s, Schygulla studied Romance languages and German studies, while taking acting lessons in Munich during her spare time.

Acting eventually became her focus. Schygulla's career was sparked by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, whom she met while taking an acting class in Munich and with whom she worked at the Munich Action Theater. A luminous, enigmatic beauty in the classic Teutonic mold, Schygulla provided the dramatic cornerstone of many of Fassbinder's finest films, appearing in nearly 20 features directed by him between 1969 (Love is Colder Than Death) and 1981 (Lili Marleen). She has also worked with Volker Schlöndorff (Circle of Deceit, 1981), Jean-Luc Godard (Passion, 1982) and Andrzej Wajda (A Love in Germany, 1984).

During the making of Effi Briest (1974), an adaptation of a classic German novel, Fassbinder and Schygulla fell out over divergent interpretations of the character. Also a problem for Schygulla was low pay, and she led a revolt against Fassbinder on this issue during the making of Effi Briest. Fassbinder's response was typically blunt: "I can't stand the sight of your face any more. You bust my balls". After this, they did not work together for several years until The Marriage of Maria Braun in 1978.

Schygulla has acted in French, Italian, and American films. In the 1990s she also became known and well-regarded as a chanson singer. In Juliane Lorenz's documentary film Life, Love and Celluloid (1998), on Fassbinder and related topics, Schygulla performs several songs.

In 2002, she appeared in VB51, a performance by the artist Vanessa Beecroft. In 2007, she appeared in the film The Edge of Heaven, directed by Fatih Akın, to wide acclaim.


Hanna Schygulla has lived in Paris since 1981.

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