Down-to-earth and self-confident
Senta Berger and Munich have a long-standing connection, in both her private and professional life. Although Berger was born in Vienna, she lived in the Bavarian capital for many years, lives in nearby Grünwald today, and has portrayed some of her most endearing characters here. Her role in KIR ROYAL (1985/1986) is unforgettable. To the same extent as Helmut Dietl’s series has defined the image of Munich’s high society to this day, Senta Berger confidently embodies the urbane character of Mona, who as the unwavering voice of reason always stands above the extravagant escapades of her boyfriend, tabloid reporter “Baby” Schimmerlos, never letting herself get worked up.
While Mona maneuvers through Munich’s high society in a calm and elegant way in KIR ROYAL, DIE SCHNELLE GERDI (1989/2002) makes her own way through the urban jungle. Berger plays the resolute but always lovable cab driver Gerdi, who is full of verve, self-confidence, and humor (“I’m not driving fast. I’m driving efficiently!”). After all, the streets of the Bavarian capital are also the stomping grounds of internal investigator Dr. Eva Maria Prohacek, a character Berger portrayed for many years in the detective series UNTER VERDACHT, who courageously fights for justice, making not only friends in the process. Three roles, three very different characters: Senta Berger is sometimes glamorous, sometimes down-to-earth, but always authentic.
Internal Investigator Eva Maria Prohacek in Unter Verdacht.
Senta Berger at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2015.
From Vienna into the wider world
Berger began her career at the age of 16, when she left high school to study acting at the renowned Max Reinhardt Seminar. Shortly after enrolling, however, she had to leave the drama school because she had accepted a film role in Anatole Litvak’s THE JOURNEY (1959) with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner without the permission of the school principal. This episode not only exemplified Berger’s self-confidence, but also paved the way to her successful career in Hollywood.
Following several major roles in popular German films and her breakthrough with ES MUSS NICHT IMMER KAVIAR SEIN (1961), young Senta Berger was drawn further afield, where she appeared in major Hollywood productions such as MAJOR DUNDEE (Sam Peckinpah, 1965) and CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966) with Kirk Douglas and John Wayne. She also played leading roles in numerous popular Italian genre films while continuing to pursue her stage career. For example, she performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna and took on the role of the lover (Buhlschaft) in the play “Everyman” (“Jedermann”) at the Salzburg Festival. No one else played this role for as long as she did, from 1974 to 1982, opposite several “everymen”, such as Curd Jürgens and Maximilian Schell.
A socially committed recipient of many awards
Senta Berger has received several awards for her eclectic work, including the 2009 German Television Award for best actress in a leading role for the TV movie SCHLAFLOS, in which her character, actress Carla Sagmeister, has to prove that she was wrongly convicted. The character of Rita Böhm in FRAU BÖHM SAGT NEIN (also 2009) also demonstrates an unshakable sense of justice; Senta Berger received the Grimme Preis as well as the Bavarian Television Award for her performance in this film. In 2003, she was a founding member of the Deutsche Filmakademie and served as its first president from 2003 to 2010 alongside Günter Rohrbach. Berger is also a talented dubbing artist and lent her distinctive voice to Catherine Deneuve in François Ozon’s 8 WOMEN (2002). Most recently, she appeared in the TV movie AN SEINER SEITE with Peter Simonischek. Her next work, OSKARS KLEID, directed by Hüseyin Tabak, is scheduled for release in 2022.
Outside of her work in film and theater, Senta Berger has always been committed to social and political causes. In 1971, she participated in a campaign by newsmagazine Stern called “Wir haben abgetrieben!” (“We had an abortion!”), sending a strong signal for female self-determination. She is also an ambassador for both animal welfare and the battle against leukemia.
A great team in their private and professional life: Senta Berger and her husband Michael Verhoeven.
Senta Berger and her son Simon Verhoeven.
Senta Berger and Film husband Heiner Lauterbach in Welcome to germany.
Another constant in Senta Berger’s career is her long-standing artistic partnership with her husband, director Michael Verhoeven. The two met on a film set, during the filming of JACK UND JENNY (1963), in which they both starred. Together they founded a production company, which is still in business, called Sentana; a few years after that, Berger appeared in one of her husband’s films (HE WHO LOVES IN A GLASS HOUSE) for the first time and also produced the film.
The next generation inherited their passion for film. The couple’s two sons, Simon (b. 1972) and Luca (b. 1979) Verhoeven, are now both successful directors in their own right and are otherwise active in the film business. Simon also directed WELCOME TO GERMANY. He wrote its screenplay as well and cast his own mother as the matriarch of the family in the film. Senta Berger is the driving force behind this comedy about an affluent Munich family that takes in a refugee. WELCOME TO GERMANY was the most successful German film at the box office in 2016 with more than four million tickets sold. It will be screened immediately after the CineMerit award ceremony at the personal request of Senta Berger, who will be attending.
FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is thus honoring one of the most renowned actresses in German-language film with the CineMerit Award for her achievement in the art of film.