Babelsberg topper Schaper dies at 51

Polanski halted filming for a minute of silence

BERLIN — Babelsberg Studios topper Rainer Schaper died Wednesday morning of complications from a stroke.

Schaper, 51, is widely credited with bringing international projects to Babelsberg. It was largely his intense lobbying that convinced Jean-Jacques Annaud to shoot “Enemy at the Gates” there. Similarly, Schaper managed to bring in Roman Polanski’s current project, “The Pianist.”

‘Laughter and optimism’

Polanski halted filming for a minute of silence Wednesday in remembrance of his friend and colleague. “It is because of Rainer that I am filming here today. I will miss his laughter and his optimism,” the director said.

Schaper, who used to head the studio’s art department, became top exec of production after the departure of Friedrich-Carl Wachs and Arthur Hofer last year.

Thierry Potok, head of Babelsberg parent company and Vivendi subsidiary CGIS, praised Schaper for turning the studio around after a slump in business a few years ago.

“I regret that Rainer Schaper could not harvest the fruits of his extraordinarily successful labor,” Potok said. “He cultivated his house very well. Rainer Schaper leaves a very great human and professional gap.”

“His charisma, his ability to inspire and galvanize others, characterized him both privately and professionally. He was treasured by international filmmakers who trusted him with the realization of shared projects,” the studio said in a statement.

Prior to heading Babelsberg, Schaper worked as a production designer and art director on 42 films, winning the 1986 German Film Award for art direction for Annaud’s “In the Name of the Rose.”

Bergfried said the studio will stay on the international course Schaper forged for the studio: “We will carry his vision onward.”

Babelsberg has not announced a replacement.

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