Biography

Born in German-occupied Poland, Hanna Schygulla was raised in Munich, studying languages and literature at that city's university. Turning to acting in her early 20s, Ms. Schygulla worked extensively at the experimental Munich Action Theater, where she met the prolific and highly volatile actor/director/writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder. From 1968, Hannah starred in 20 Fassbinder film productions, retaining her professional ties to the director despite frequent and increasingly violent personal and professional disagreements. The Berlin Film Fest honored Schygulla with their best actress prize for her stunning work in the title role of Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). Hardly glamour-girl material, she can best be described as a character star, whose versatility transcends her peasant-stock appearance. During her years with Fassbinder, Schygulla was also well-served in films directed by Schlondorff, Godard, Wajda and Scola. Since Fassbinder's sudden death in 1982, Schygulla has more often than not settled for bread-and-butter roles in conformist projects. In the 1980s, she appeared with frequency on American television; she played Jennie Lynd in the TV biopic Barnum (1986), Catherine Skewonskaya in the multinational miniseries Peter the Great (1986), and the mother of the title character in the made-for-TV feature Casanova (1987) In recent films like Dead Again (1991) and 101 Nights (1995) Hanna Schygulla has chosen to hide her distinctive features in bizarre makeup and elaborate costumes, though her voice remains inimitably hers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi