Actor Ganz attends the red carpet event for the movie "Remember" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival
Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who portrayed Adolf Hitler in Oscar-nominated film "Downfall" and the kindly grandfather in "Heidi," died on February 16 aged 77. Ganz had been active in German language theater, film and television for more than 50 years and was the holder of the Iffland-Ring, the most important award for German-speaking actors. In the early 1960s Ganz left Switzerland to work in theater in Germany, and from the 1970s onwards he acted at the Berlin-based Schaubuehne theater. He earned praise for his performances, while also branching out into cinema, where he worked with renowned German directors like Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Volker Schloendorff. In 1987 Ganz played an angel called Damiel in Wenders's film "Wings of Desire," entitled "Sky Over Berlin" in German, who becomes mortal so he can experience earthly pleasures. One of his most famous roles came when he played Hitler in the 2004 film "Downfall," which dramatized the last days of the Nazi dictator in his Berlin bunker, one of Germany's first attempts to characterize the Fuehrer in film. Ganz portrayed Hitler as a ranting and delusional madman, but also as a fatherly figure suffering from Parkinson's disease who fussed about the welfare of his secretaries. Scenes of him ranting furiously at his staff spawned a wave of internet parodies and memes. Immersing himself in that role affected the actor, who later admitted he had been haunted by his portrayal for a very long time. "I tend to identify with my roles to such an extent that I appear to be totally convinced about certain statements that, in real life, I would never believe in," Ganz said. He also continued to work on the stage, playing classic roles like "Faust" and "Hamlet," as well as appearing in films including "The Reader," "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The Tree of Life."