HELMUT BERGER [born Helmut Steinberger] is an Austrian film and television actor. Berger, who often portrayed narcissistic and sexually ambiguous characters, was one of the stars of the European cinema in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Berger is most famous for his work with his former lover, Luchino Visconti, particularly in his performance as King Ludwig II of Bavaria in Ludwig, for which he received a special David di Donatello award, and his performance in The Damned for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. He appears primarily in European cinema, but has also acted in American productions such as The Godfather Part III as well as a guest appearance on the soap opera, Dynasty.
The death of his partner Luchino Visconti in 1976 plunged him into a personal crisis. Exactly one year after Visconti died, Berger tried to commit suicide but was found in time to be saved. In the following time the abuse of drugs and alcohol shadowed his acting career. In 1980 Berger was cast by Claude Chabrol as Fantomas before he went to America to work in television in the role of Peter De Vilbis in nine episodes of Dynasty, which he said he did only for money. He would later say he was “crying on the way to the set but laughing on the way to the bank”.[ This was his last appearance in a television series. He continued working in the US on various projects, most notably starring in Code Namr: Emerald in 1985. In Europe, he acted the TV-miniseries The Betrothed in 1989.
In 1990, Berger appeared in The Godfather Part III. He later appeared in the music video to Madonna’s song “Erotica” in 1992, and also appeared in Madonna’s book Sex. In 1993, Berger reprised his role as King Ludwig II. in the critically acclaimed film Ludwig 1881. Throughout the second half of the 1990s, he concentrated mainly on European productions, acting in films directed by Christoph Schlingensief, Yves Boisset and many others. In 1997, Quentin Tarantino included some archive footage of the film Beast with a Gun in his film Jackie Brown and thanked Berger in the closing credits for his powerful performance.
Berger is openly bisexual. He was in relationships with his director and mentor Luchino Visconti and actress Marisa Berenson. Berger married Italian writer and model Francesca Guidato in November 1994. They live separately today. Berger lived for many years in Rome, but returned to Salzburg in the 2000s to take care of his elderly mother.