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German actor lit up for role

Non-smoker Berkel inhaled 80 cigarettes a day

Morgan Spurlock has nothing on German thesp Christian Berkel, who watched his health go up in smoke — literally — while shooting a drama about chain-smoking former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

A non-smoker himself, Berkel lit up 80 cigarettes a day on the set for ZDF’s “Mogadischu” about a 1977 hostage crisis.

“He drank a lot of Coke and smoked unbelievable amounts of cigarettes,” Berkel, 50, says of Schmidt.

“The first day was the worst,” he told newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “I started feeling dizzy by about 6 and couldn’t stand up straight without feeling woozy. I had to go lie down for a while.”

Berkel, who had to scrap his Plan A (avoid inhaling) because it looked inauthentic still has the occasional nicotine urge. Still, playing Schmidt, who even now at age 88 remains an incorrigible chain-smoker who obstinately ignores no-smoking signs and puffs away even in television interviews, was a great honor and worth the sacrifice.

Besides, says Berkel, ginger tea helps overcome his need to light up.

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