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Weekly Special: “Germans in Bond Films” #4 – Klaus Maria Brandauer

“Maximilian Largo”
portrayed by
Brandauer was born as Klaus Georg Steng on June 22nd 1943 in Bad Aussee, Styria, Austria. He is the son of Maria Brandauer and Georg Steng (or Stenj), a civil servant. He subsequently took his mother’s maiden name as part of his professional name, Klaus Maria Brandauer. He spent the first years of his youth with his grandparents in Altaussee and later lived with his parents in Kehl at the Rhine River and Grenzach, an idyllic village in Baden-Wuerttemberg near Basel which had a great influence on his acting development.

Brandauer & his first wife Karin
Following his high school diploma in 1962, Brandauer began studies at the State University for Music and Perfoming Arts in Stuttgart but quit after two semesters. That same year, he got married to his first wife Karin, a director and Scriptwriter, who died in 1992 at the age of 47. They both have a son, Christian, born in 1963. Brandauer celebrated his stage debut in 1963 at the State Theatre Tübingen where he portrayed Claudio in Shakespeares “Measure for Measure”. Brandauer went to Vienna for an engagement at the Theater in der Josefsstadt where he was first introduced to a considerably large audience in Fritz Kortners final production “Emilia Galotti” in 1970. Two years later, Brandauer became a company member and director of the famous Burgtheater in Vienna.

Klaus Maria Brandauer has always been a true stage actor and therefor never wanted big parts in movies or act in them in general – two small parts made the exception: “Top Secret” and “Októberi vasárnap”. His view on movies changed in 1981 with the offer of hungarian director István Szábo to play the role of Hendrik Höfgen in “Mephisto”, based on the book of the same name by Klaus Mann. Brandauer did two more films with Szábo – “Oberst Redl” (1985) and “Hanussen” (1988) – all three films were nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film which “Mephisto” won. The three films form the so called “German Trilogy” of Brandauer.

Still from “Mephisto”
Still from “Oberst Redl”
Still from “Hanussen”
Many cinema goers and lovers will best remember Brandauer for his portrayal of Bror Blixen in the 1985 movie “Out of Africa” in which he starred alongside Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and received a Golden Globe as well as Academy Award nomination. He is one of the few Austrians who could make a name for themselves in Hollywood and he received the most american film critic awards compared to any other german-speaking actor.

“Out of Africa” Publicity Still
Brandauer & Connery
Especially we Bond Fans will remember his portrayal of Maximilian Largo in the 1983 rival Bond Film “Never Say Never Again” which was based on the original “Thunderball” screenplay and had Sean Connery back in the tuxedo as agent 007 while, at the same time, Roger Moores Bond film “Octopussy” had been in cinemas worldwide for 9 months.

Renamed to a more german-sounding Maximilian Largo from the original 1965 italian-influenced Emilio Largo, Brandauer still dominates over Adolfo Celis interpretation of the ruthless SPECTRE villain. Despite some rather laughable scenes, Brandauer delivered a solid performance of an insane Bond adversary with many facettes and you can feel at some points in the movie, that his bad side is a really a dangerous place to be (if I may borrow that tagline from the 1989 “Licence To Kill” poster).

Brandauer was not dubbed in the film and you can hear him speaking with a slight German accent and even saying “Ja” (=”Yes”) in several scenes. In one scene he even says “Schöne Unterhaltung” – roughly translated into “have a good time” – to his guests. Interestingly, the German Dub is silent at this point.

Sean Connery and Klaus Maria Brandauer would later team up again for the 1990 movie “The Russia House”, also starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

Today, Brandauer mainly concentrates on theatre work – producing and directing. In 2006 he directed Bertold Brechts “Threepenny Opera” in the re-opened Admiralspalast in Berlin but got mixed reviews. Nevertheless, 70,000 people saw the production within seven weeks. Almost at the same time, Brandauer produced the romantic Richard Wagner opera “Lohengrin” at the Opera in Cologne.

In July 2007, Brandauer married the dramatics professor Natalie Krenn in Berlin. His son Christian was his best man. Now, Brandauer lives in Altaussee, Berlin and New York and just celebrated his 70th birthday.
Brandauer & his wife Natalie Krenn

2013 Interview with the German TV channel ZDF

Montreal Press Conference 2005

This special will return with…KARIN DOR

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