About Maximilian Schell
Born on Dec. 8, 1930 in Vienna, Austria, Schell was raised in an artistic household by his father, Hermann, a writer and poet, and his mother, Maria, an actress. Schell's family fled Austria in 1938 around the time of Nazi occupation and took up residence in Zurich, Switzerland. After serving in the Swiss Army and reaching the rank of corporal, he studied art history at universities in Zurich, Munich and Basel. In 1953, Schell began his acting career at the Basel Theater and moved on to theaters in Bonn, Essen and Berlin, among others. He made his onscreen debut in the German-made "Children, Mother and the General" (1955), Laslo Benedek's maudlin look at the futility of war during the last days of World War II Berlin. Schell continued appearing in the classics onstage while making German films like "The Last Ones Shall Be First" (1957) and "Taxi Driver Baenz" (1957) until he was cast as a cynical Nazi officer in the American feature, "The Young Ones" (1958), starring Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin. Schell more than held his own against the Hollywood heavyweights and soon found himself on the path to success in the United States.
After a German-made television production of "Hamlet" (1960), which was redubbed into English and later shown at the San Francisco Film Festival, Schell gave a powerful performance as a relentless defense attorney in Stanley Kramer's "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961), a role that he had originated on the "Playhouse 90" (1959) original. A cinematic classic that earned numerous awards and accolades, "Nuremberg" turned Schell into an international star after he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Refusing to be typecast in World War II movies, Schell next starred in the low-key drama, "Five Finger Exercise" (1962), playing a German teacher brought in to tutor the two children of a married couple (Jack Hawkins and Rosalind Russell), but instead wreaks havoc, resulting in betrayal, wounded feelings and potential suicide. In "The Reluctant Saint" (1962), a biography based on the life of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, Schell was a 17th century Italian man who is seemingly mentally challenged and sent to a monastery by his parents, where he displays strange and wonderful spiritual gifts. He next starred in "Topkapi" (1964), playing a master jewel thief who plans an elaborate heist with the help of his crew and an unwitting dupe (Peter Ustinov).
Though not wanting to make a career out of World War II films, Schell continued to find himself taking roles in precisely that type of film. In "Return From the Ashes" (1965), he was the husband of a concentration camp survivor (Ingrid Thulin) thought to be dead, while in "Counterpoint" (1967), he played a German officer fond of classical music who orders a European orchestra led by a crafty director (Charlton Heston) to play a special concert, after which all the musicians will be killed. After playing the colleague of a British agent (James Mason) sleeping with his wife (Harriet Andersson) in "The Deadly Affair" (1967), he appeared in the television movie, "Heidi" (NBC, 1968), a drama about an orphan girl (Jennifer Edwards) who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. The movie became famous for cutting into the final minute of a regular season game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, in which the Raiders scored 14 points in the final 65 seconds. But no one at home saw the miraculous comeback because the network was determined to air "Heidi" at its scheduled time. The backlash caused networks to later amend their policies, while the game itself became derisively known as "The Heidi Bowl."
Taking more control of his career, Schell produced and starred in the well-made adaptation of Franz Kafka's eponymous novel, "The Castle" (1969), featuring two endings in keeping with the author's inability to complete the work before he died. Schell made his debut as director with "First Love" (1970), which he adapted from a story by Ivan Turgenev about two young lovers (Dominique Sanda and John Moulder Brown) coming of age while pre-war Europe braces for the inevitable. "First Love" earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. In "Paulina 1880" (1972), he was a married nobleman in love with another woman (Olga Karlatos) who is unable to get a divorce and is forced by societal norms to keep the affair secret. Returning to the director's chair, Schell received more international acclaim with "The Pedestrian" (1973), a political drama about an industrialist (Schell) with a past that returns to haunt him. As with his first directing effort, his film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. After playing an SS officer hiding from a German reporter (Jon Voight) after the war in "The Odessa File" (1974), Schell scored his second Best Actor Oscar nomination for his brilliant portrayal of Adolph Eichmann-inspired Arthur Goldman in "The Man in the Glass Booth" (1975).
Diversifying his profile, Schell co-wrote "The End of the Game" (1976) with Friedrich Durrenmatt from Durrenmatt's novel, as well as helmed the complex thriller about a dying police chief (Martin Ritt) who has tried for decades to nail an omnipotent criminal (Robert Shaw). In "Cross of Iron" (1977), directed by troubled auteur Sam Peckinpah, he was a cowardly German officer who takes command of a retreating platoon and needs the help of a non-compliant soldier (James Coburn) to earn the titular medal. After a small role in Richard Attenborough's epic war film "A Bridge Too Far" (1977), he co-starred opposite Jane Fonda and Lynn Redgrave in the underrated period drama, "Julia" (1977), earning him another Oscar nod for Best Actor. Following his well-received directing effort, "Tales from the Vienna Woods (Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald") (1979), he was memorable as a mad scientist who wants to explore a spiraling black hole in search of the universe's energy source in "The Black Hole" (1979). Making the rare appearance as a non-German in a World War II-themed film, he played Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank (Melissa Gilbert), in the well-made television version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (NBC, 1980).
Following a turn as a Jewish intellectual opposite Rod Steiger's orthodox rabbi in "The Chosen" (1981), a first-rate adaptation of Chaim Potok's novel, Schell delivered a scene-stealing take as the disfigured Phantom in the television adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera" (CBS, 1983). Venturing into non-fiction territory, Schell directed "Marlene" (1984), an unorthodox profile on actress Marlene Dietrich. Though for years she refused to be interviewed by Schell, Dietrich finally relented, but only allowed him to use her voice and not film her on camera. The result was a compelling and honest portrayal of the legendary star that earned Schell's film an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. Returning once again to World War II, he was part of an all-star cast that included James Mason and Ben Cross in "The Assisi Underground" (1985), a rather dull look at a group of Europeans who risked their lives saving Jews from the Holocaust. Schell was excellent as the star of the Emmy-winning miniseries "Peter the Great" (NBC, 1986), though he was plagued by numerous behind-the-scenes problems that became the source of a public battle between the star, the director and the studio. Schell felt the director had received preferential treatment over the cast and balked at the hours and conditions under which they were required to work.
Schell next delivered a compelling turn opposite Vanessa Redgrave in "The Rose Garden" (1989), a contemporary courtroom drama in which he played an anguished man accused of attacking a man he recognized as an SS commander responsible for his sister's murder. In a rare regular series role as Amado Guzman during the last season of "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1991), he played Frederick the Great to Redgrave's Empress Elizabeth in "Young Catherine" (TNT, 1991), a two-part miniseries tracing the early life of 18th century Russian empress, Catherine the Great (Julia Ormond). Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Vladimir Lenin, he delivered a powerful performance in "Stalin" (HBO, 1992), starring an equally compelling Robert Duvall as the ruthless dictator. He earned his first-ever Emmy nomination for his role in "Miss Rose White" (NBC, 1992), a heartrending drama about two sisters trying to reunite after surviving the Holocaust. After a supporting turn in an early Reese Witherspoon feature, "A Far Off Place" (1993), he played the pharaoh in the adaptation of the Old Testament tale of "Abraham" (TNT, 1994), starring Richard Harris as the humble shepherd.
Continuing an impressive string of performances, he displayed impressive emotional range in "Little Odessa" (1994) as the rancorous Russian father of a hit man (Tim Roth) grief-stricken over his wife's (Redgrave) battle with a brain tumor. He portrayed Cardinal Vittorio in the miniseries "The Thorn Birds: the Missing Years" (CBS, 1996), which he followed with a supporting turn as a strict father trying make his rapidly Americanized son (Brad Renfro) stick to his Hungarian roots in "Telling Lies in America" (1997). After the forgettable supernatural thriller "The Eighteenth Angel" (1997), he again found himself opposite Vanessa Redgrave in "Deep Impact" (1998), this time as the ex-husband who has abandoned her for the charms of a younger woman, which matters little after an asteroid collides into Earth. In the well-meaning, but ultimately flawed "Left Luggage" (1998), he was the father of a young Jewish woman (Laura Fraser) whose free-spirited nature runs afoul of his adherence to custom and tradition. He followed with a turn as a cardinal in the Catholic Church who guides a team of vampire hunters lead by James Woods in "John Carpenter's Vampires" (1998).
Following a supporting turn in the miniseries "Joan of Arc" (CBS, 1999), he was a formerly successful film director trying to scrounge financing for his next film in the show business farce, "Festival in Cannes" (2001). He returned to previous glory by starring in a Broadway production of "Judgment at Nuremberg" (2001), while he directed a Los Angeles Opera production of Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin" (2001). He returned to documentary filmmaking with "My Sister Maria" (2002), a moving portrait of his sister, actress Maria Schell, who enjoyed brief fame in the 1950s, but fell into obscurity and battled depression that lead to a suicide attempt. After appearing in the road drama "Coast to Coast" (Showtime, 2004), Schell was absent from the screen until he re-emerged in the German-made thriller, "House of the Sleeping Beauties" (2008). He again starred opposite Vanessa Redgrave, this time in "The Shell Seekers" (Hallmark Channel, 2008), which focused on an elderly woman (Redgrave) returning to see her children and re-examining her life after a heart attack. Schell next co-starred opposite Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo in the caper comedy, "The Brothers Bloom" (2009).
|Donyale Luna. In the mid 1960s, Schell was reportedly engaged to marry the African American model, though the wedding never happened|
|Neile Adams McQueen. Reportedly had affair c. 1969|
|Natalia Andreichenko. Married the Russian actress in 1985; acted together in the NBC miniseries "Peter the Great" (1986) and "Little Odessa" (1994)|
|Karl Schell. Born in 1927; acted in Robert Siodmak's "Escape From East Berlin" (1962)|
|Nastia Schell. Born in 1989; mother, Natalya Andreychenko|
|Hermann Ferdinand Schell. Also owned a pharmacy|
|Immy Schell. Born in 1935|
|Maria Schell. Born in 1926; acted with her brother in "The Odessa File" (1974); died from pneumonia on April 26, 2005 at age 79|
|University of Zurich|
|University of Munich|
|University of Basel|
|Served in the Swiss Army, achieving the rank of corporal|
|Began acting at the Basel Theater|
|First film appearance, "Kinder, Mütter und ein General"|
|Made American stage debut in Ira Levin's "Interlock"|
|Made Hollywood debut in Edward Dmytryk's "The Young Lions"; starred Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Dean Martin|
|Played defense attorney, Hans Rolfe in the Playhouse 90 television production of "Judgment at Nuremberg" (CBS)|
|Reprised role of defense attorney for Stanley Kramer's film adaptaion of "Judgment at Nuremberg"|
|Cast as an insane Nazi war criminal in Vittorio De Sica's "The Condemned of Altona"|
|Re-teamed with Dmytryk for "The Reluctant Saint"|
|Co-starred as a gentleman thief in the heist film, "Topkapi"|
|Made London stage debut in John Osborne's "A Patriot for Me"|
|Made debut as writer/producer, "Das Schloss/The Castle"; also starred in the title role of 'K'|
|Reprised stage role in John Osborne's "A Patriot for Me" on Broadway|
|Made directorial debut with "First Love"; also co-produced, co-adapted and starred in; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film|
|Directed "The Pedestrian"; again produced, scripted and acted; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film|
|Starred in Arthur Hiller's adaptation of "The Man in the Glass Booth"; earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination|
|Co-starred with Charles Bronson in J. Lee Thompson's "St. Ives"|
|First film with Vanessa Redgrave, "Julia"; earned a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination|
|Played Captain Stransky in Sam Peckinpah's only war film, "Cross of Iron"|
|Starred in the sci-fi feature, "The Black Hole"|
|Played the part of Anne Frank's father (played by Melissa Gilbert) in the NBC TV-movie, "The Diary of Anne Frank"|
|Starred in the CBS TV-move remake of "The Phantom of the Opera"|
|Directed the documentary film "Marlene," based on his tape-recorded interview with Marlene Dietrich who refused to appear onscreen; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature|
|Played the title role in the NBC miniseries, "Peter the Great"; also starred Vanessa Redgrave and Laurence Olivier|
|Acted opposite Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick in the comedy, "The Freshman"|
|Joined the final season of CBS' "Wiseguy" as wealthy businessman Amado Guzman|
|Played 'Frederick the Great' opposite Redgrave's Empress Elizabeth in the TNT miniseries, "Young Catherine"|
|Cast as Lenin, opposite Robert Duvall in the title role of "Stalin" (HBO)|
|Received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the NBC movie, "Miss Rose White"|
|Directed and acted in the Family Channel movie, "Candles in the Dark"; also starred with wife Natasha|
|Once again collaborated with Redgrave in "Little Odessa"|
|Appeared as a concentration camp survivor in Jeroen Krabbe's directorial debut, "Left Luggage"|
|Once again acted with Redgrave in Mimi Leder's "Deep Impact"|
|Played Catholic clergymen in both "The Eighteenth Angel" and "John Carpenter's Vampires"|
|Acted in a Broadway production of "Judgment at Nuremberg"|
|Co-starred in the PBS production, "The Song of the Lark"|
|Directed a Los Angeles Opera production of "Lohengrin"|
|Filmed "My Sister Maria," a documentary about the career of and his relationship with Maria Schell|
|Appeared in the German TV series, "Der Fürst und das Mädchen"|
|Cast in the German mini-series, "The Return of the Dancing Master," based on Henning Mankell's novel|
|Acted in the comedy caper film, "The Brothers Bloom"|