Klaus Kinski (1926-1991) was one of the most demented German artists of all time. He was born in Poland but moved to Germany with his parents when he was young, and began his acting career shortly after serving in WWII. As an actor, he was considered a genius. Nobody had the manic passion Kinski exuded. Because of that mania, he was a complete horror to work with. There's crazy actors, then there's Klaus Kinski. As these insane Klaus Kinski stories will show, this raving lunatic behind a one man Jesus show was among the nuttiest thespians in the history of cinema.
Only one director could bear to collaborate with Kinski more than once: Werner Herzog. Herzog and Kinski did a total of five films together: Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Cobra Verde (1987). Their frenemy relationship produced some of the most insane stories about Kinski’s life, many of which were highlighted in Herzog’s posthumous documentary tribute to Kinski, My Best Fiend (1999).
Kinski by no means was a good man, as insane celebrities rarely are. He was hated by many, including his own family. As these crazy Klaus Kinski facts attest, he was one of most batsh*t insane actors ever, yet no other thespian brought intensity to a character like he did. Below are some facts and stories about this wild man definitely worth checking out. Some spoilers are ahead if you’re not caught up on your Herzog films.
His Daughters Accused Him Of Sexual Abuse And Rape
The most egregious accusations against Kinski comes from his own daughters. Nearly 12 years after his death, his eldest daughter, Pola Kinski, accused him of repeatedly sexually abusing her as a child in her book, Child’s Mouth. She claimed the abuse started when she was five, and that he raped her for the first time when she was nine.
“I’ve written a book about it because I can no longer bear the fact that a person whose halo gets bigger from year to year is being glorified in this way,” Pola said in an interview with Stern magazine.
Pola’s half-sister, actress Nastassja Kinski, supported her sister’s claims, saying her father also inappropriately touched her.
"He always touched me far too much, held me so tightly against him that I thought I could not escape. At the time I was four or five years old and we were living in Munich," she said in an interview. "Instinctively I recognized that this could not be the loving embrace of a father but that it was more than that.”
Kinski's son Nikolai refused to comment on the issue. Both sisters said they weren't sorry when their father died.
He Shot The Tip Off An Extra's Finger On The Set Of Aguirre
The making of Aguirre, Wrath of God was infamously insane. Director Werner Herzog stole camera equipment for the movie from the Munich Film School, and paid local trappers to capture 400 monkeys, which they tried to sell to someone in the United States; Herzog went to the airport pretending to be a veterinarian and got the monkeys back just before they were flown out of the country.
But that's not as insane as Kinski shooting the top joint off an extra's finger. While in the middle of a tantrum, the actor was irritated by noises coming from a hut where extras and crew members were playing cards. Kinski fired three bullets at the hut, blowing off the top of an extra's finger. Whoops.
He Started His Acting Career As A Prisoner Of War
When Kinski was 16-years-old, he was drafted into the army and served in WWII for all of two days. He was wounded and captured in the Netherlands, and sent to a British POW camp. At least, that's one version of the story. In his autobiography, All I Need Is Love, he claims he deserted and was sentenced to death by the Germans, but escaped and surrendered to the British.
Either way, Kinski was a prisoner of war for nearly a year-and-a-half, and launched his acting career during this time. He and fellow POWs starred in plays meant to help keep up morale among prisoners.
Herzog Almost Set Fire To Kinski’s Cabin On The Set Of Fitzcarraldo
Kinski was a megalomaniac know to throw hours-long tantrums on set. At one point during filming Fitzcarraldo (1982), Herzog reached his boiling point with Kinski’s antics. He planned to set fire to Kinski’s cabin while he was asleep inside. He would have done it if it weren’t for Kinski’s vigilant dog, who attacked the director as he approached the house.
"We had a great love, a great bond, but both of us planned to murder each other,” Herzog said of the late actor at the premier of My Best Fiend at Cannes. “Klaus was one of the greatest actors of the century, but he was also a monster and a great pestilence. Every single day I had to think of new ways of domesticating the beast."