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"The ultimate acting is to destroy yourself."
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Klaus Kinski (born Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski, October 18, 1926 - November 23, 1991) was a German actor and clinically verifiable psychopath.

He was well known for his work with director Werner Herzog in such films as Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Woyzeck, and the remake of Nosferatu, along with countless other roles, including playing villains in several Spaghetti Westerns. He is also, alas, remembered for being crazier than Caligula. The man was basically the walking embodiment of id and he saw no shortage of prisons, hospitals, and asylums during his lifetime. That note about him being a clinically verifiable psychopath? Not a joke; that's the conclusion the doctors who treated him came to.

Though hailed as a prolific and capable actor, Kinski had a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with. He raged about anything that did not suit his expectations. Werner Herzog recalls his colorful collaborations with the man in the 1999 documentary My Best Fiend. As the title suggests, the two had a very tempestuous... we suppose 'friendship' is the technical term for their relationship, considering that Herzog once had to pull a gun on Kinski on-set in order to get him to behave and work.

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He was the father of actress Nastassja Kinski. They reportedly had a very unpleasant relationship; her half-sister Pola claimed to have been sexually molested by Klaus for years, and Nastassja alleged that he tried to molest her too but was unsuccessful. She hardly saw him after her parents' divorce when she was ten, and after his death stated that she had lived in terror of him and was glad he was dead.

Kinski got his big break with his one-man show, Klaus Kinski is Jesus Christ Savior (a documentary about it is now on DVD, and footage appears in My Best Fiend). Notably, even while delivering a monologue about Jesus (his personal idol), Kinski still got into several spats onstage and was nearly mobbed by the entire audience.

Kinski parodies - most notably those by Max Gierman of Switch1997 fame - like to play up his sudden angry outbursts Up to Eleven as well as his penchant for doing weird things mimically.

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Selected Filmography:


Tropes associated with this actor:

  • Abusive Parents: His daughters, Natassja and Pola, lived in absolute terror of him. Kinski was physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abusive, raping Pola for years and attempting to do so with Natassja. Neither attended his funeral and both have stated they were glad he died.
  • Ax-Crazy: Besides the maniacal characters he would usually play, Kinski was a real life example.
    • During the production of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, he noticed an extra eating bananas that were meant for the cast (such as himself). His response was to hit him in the head with a sword. The extra was left with a huge gash and would have died if it wasn't for the helmet he was wearing.
    • During the same production, Kinski became irritated by the amount of noise coming from a hut where crew members were playing cards. He grabbed a rifle and fired multiple shots into the hut, blasting off the tip of someone's finger. It was said that it was a miracle that he didn't kill anyone.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Grew up in poverty during the Great Depression. He was also a POW during World War II and came back after over a year in captivity only to find out that his father died during the war and his mother was killed in an Allied bombing attack.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: He typically starred in a successful movie, then spent all his salary on partying with friends, expensive clothing and 5-star hotels (and drugs), resulting in him becoming broke after a short time. After he had to live in a run-down single-room apartment for a few weeks, he often resorted to phoning his old friend Werner Herzog once again to ask if he had any more film roles available. Rinse and repeat.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: He was notorious for his often violent Tantrum Throwing.
    • Herzog would sometime have to get him angry, making him rant and rave for over an hour, before starting the camera, just to tire him out so he could be worked with.
  • Large Ham: The man could get loud both onstage and off.
  • Mad Artist: He was so enraged during the production of Fitzcarraldo that one of the local extras and crew members offered to kill him for director Werner Herzog. And Herzog actually considered it.
    • Some years later, Herzog made a documentary recounting his adventures with Kinski during the making of this movie entitled My Best Fiendnote .
  • The Sociopath: He was actually diagnosed with psychopathy after stalking, and eventually strangling, his theatrical sponsor in 1950. Didn't stop him from getting film roles though.
  • What Could Have Been: He was offered to play Major Arnold Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but he refused after reading the script, calling it "a yawn-making, boring pile of shit".

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