Ulrich Muehe, the German actor who captivated movie audiences with his performance as a Stasi agent in the Oscar-winning film “The Lives of Others,” has died. He was 54.
Muehe died Sunday of stomach cancer in Walbeck, Germany, the town’s mayor, Brunhilde Vucke, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
A well-known theater and TV actor in Germany, Muehe had ended weeks of speculation about his health by acknowledging just on Sunday he had cancer.
He was diagnosed with cancer in February, only weeks before Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others,” won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film.
In it, Muehe plays a secret police surveillance expert in communist East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. His stoicism gradually melts as he becomes swept up in the lives of an artistic couple.
The role had particular resonance for Muehe, who was under surveillance by the Stasi when he was a star of East German theater. He later discovered that his then wife, German actress Jenny Grollmann, was registered as an informant for the Stasi during their years of marriage. Grollmann, who died last year of cancer, had denied she was an informant.
For his performance, Muehe last year won a Lola Award, the German equivalent of an Oscar, as well as the European Film Academy’s award for best actor.
Born in Grimma, in communist East Germany, Muehe trained as a construction worker before serving in the military. He then studied acting in Leipzig at the Hans Otto Theaterhochschule, one of Germany’s oldest acting schools.
Muehe was to be buried in Walbeck, where his mother lives, according to German daily newspaper Bild.
He is survived by his wife, actress Susanne Lothar, and their two children, as well as a daughter, actress Anna Maria Muehe, from his previous marriage to Grollmann.