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Stars of ‘Babylon Berlin,’ Netflix’s ‘Dark’ Join Effort to Highlight German Cinema (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 4/26/2017 Robert Mitchell
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Six German actors have been chosen to lead the second wave of an effort to highlight German cinema around the world after a year that saw the success of such films as Oscar-nominated “Toni Erdmann” and high-end television dramas like “Deutschland 83.”

Volker Bruch (pictured, far left), star of Tom Tykwer’s eagerly anticipated TV series “Babylon Berlin” from Sky, will join up-and-coming actors Louis Hofmann and Jannis Niewoehner as well as more established stars Alexander Fehling, Ronald Zehrfeld and Tom Schilling in the “Face to Face With German Films” campaign. The initiative by national film-promotion body German Films was first launched last fall with six leading German actresses, including “Toni Erdmann” star Sandra Hueller.

The six actors are to serve as ambassadors of German cinema at festivals and events around the world, and will all attend next month’s Cannes Film Festival for the new phase’s official launch. “It’s a great group. I really love all these other actors,” Bruch said. “I know most of them, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Bruch, who appeared in the award-winning series “Generation War,” said he was “immediately in” after German Films told him what they had planned and what had been done during the campaign’s first phase. Although it was originally envisioned as lasting only a year, German Films managing director Mariette Rissenbeek said the campaign is likely to be extended.

“We feel German films got such a good boost last year from ‘Toni Erdmann’ that we should continue doing more with this initiative,” Rissenbeek said. “It’s an important tool that we feel we can work with for at least the next two to three years.”

Rissenbeek said that debuting the campaign at the London Film Festival last October paved the way to securing a bigger stage at Cannes for the initiative’s next step.

Choosing the new faces of the campaign was tougher: Whereas the six actresses were picked after having already featured at an A-list festival, the men had to be chosen ahead of most key fests.

Rissenbeek said Bruch was a clear choice for his leading role in “Babylon Berlin,” Germany’s biggest-ever TV production and one of Europe’s most expensive, with a reported budget of $45 million. Although Bruch has frequently appeared in small roles in international productions, such as Oscar-winning “The Reader,” his leading role as detective Gereon Rath in “Babylon Berlin” is likely to give a major boost to his international profile.

The show, set in an intrigue-laden Berlin between the two world wars, was shot like a film, from location to location across the entire storyline, out of strict chronological order. “I’ve not been in such a long or intense production before,” Bruch said. “We shot over seven months, almost every day, and there were so many layers to the story. At the beginning, it was difficult to find my way through.”

Hofmann, one of this year’s European Shooting Stars at the Berlin Film Festival, will be seen in Baran bo Odar’s upcoming German-language mystery series “Dark” for Netflix. Niewoehner appears in three German films being released this summer. Fehling is familiar to international television audiences for his regular role in the fifth season of Showtime’s “Homeland” and has just completed shooting on Jan Zabeil’s “Three Peaks,” opposite Berenice Bejo.

Zehrfeld starred in Christian Petzold’s Berlin Silver Bear winner “Barbara” and follow-up “Phoenix.” He is currently shooting 1950s-set political drama “Das Schweigende Klassenzimmer” for ZDF and Studiocanal. Schilling appeared in “Woman in Gold” and “Suite Francaise,” and recently finished playing the lead in “Werk Ohne Autor” by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”).

(Pictured, from left: Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Alexander Fehling, Louis Hofmann, Jannis Niewoehner, Ronald Zehrfeld.)

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