Austrian actor Helmut Berger, muse of Luchino Visconti, dies at 78

The actor was known for his roles in “The Damned” (1969), or “Ludwig, the twilight of the gods” (1973).

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Austrian actor Helmut Berger during the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, May 17, 2014. (VALERY HACHE / AFP)

Helmut Berger, who was the companion and one of the favorite actors of Luchino Visconti, died Thursday, May 18, at the age of 78 in Austria, announced his agency Helmut Werner.

The Austrian actor, polyglot and long renowned for his beauty, was known for his roles in “The Damned” (1969) and “Ludwig, the twilight of the gods” (1973) by Visconti. He embodies a tormented Prince Louis of Bavaria, alongside Romy Schneider replaying the character of Sissi.

Accustomed to aristocratic characters, in front of his mentor’s camera, Helmut Berger also filmed under the direction of Vittoria de Sica in “Le jardin des Finzi Contini” (1970). He enjoyed a long romantic relationship with Visconti until his death in 1976.

Dolce Vita

His career will then slow down and it is in the people pages that he will stand out the most, leading “la dolce vita all his life”, in the words of his agent. Drugs, suicide attempts, rowdy liaisons and scandals of all kinds punctuate a large part of his life.

He related it all in 1998 in memoirs, soberly titled “Me”, with chapters such as “In the same bed as Mick Jagger” or “I served Fellini”. The opportunity to revive an old but tenacious enmity with Alain Delon, another favorite actor of Visconti. Seen in “The Godfather 3” (1990), Helmut Berger was more recently seen in Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent”. He embodies the aged couturier, while Gaspard Ulliel plays the young Saint Laurent.

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