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Tom Schilling: International Star You Should Know

A former child actor, the thesp has won awards with his less is more style in an uber-slacker role in Germany’s 'Oh Boy'


Recently won the acting prize at the German Film Awards for “Oh Boy,” which follows a twentysomething slacker as he wanders the streets of Berlin in search of a good cup of coffee and a greater purpose in life than the legal career he has just escaped. The film seems to have captured the zeitgeist in Germany, with Schilling as its poster boy. People identify with the character, he says.


Born in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin in the former East Germany, he was 6 when the Wall came down, which coincided with his first thesping role, in a DEFA production. “My mother felt there was a hidden talent inside of me,” Schilling says. His career began when he was 12, when he joined the Berliner Ensemble, a theater group founded by Bertolt Brecht.


Schilling’s film career started when he was 16, with Hans-Christian Schmid’s “Crazy.” Other notable perfs came in Dennis Gansel’s “Before the Fall,” Oskar Roehler’s “Atomized” and Uli Edel’s “The Baader Meinhof Complex.” “It was always learning by doing,” he says.


His role in “Before the Fall” won him an award at Austria’s Undine that came with a three-month scholarship at the Strasberg Institute, where he met Method acting teacher Mauricio Bustamante, a major influence.


Has appeared in two English-language films: Reg Traviss’ 2006 Cold War drama “Joy Division” and Lulu Wang’s romantic comedy-drama “Posthumous,” which is in post. “Most likely the next movie I’m going to act in is an American-English co-production shot in Belgium, but we are still waiting for final confirmation,” Schilling says.


“I followed the ‘less is more’ idea, which happened to succeed. Some co-actors asked me when I would start acting,” Schilling says. “They didn’t realize that I had already.”


“Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are two of my favorite artists. In ‘Revolutionary Road’ you can see some of the finest acting.”


Schilling received plaudits this year for his role in “Generation War,” a TV drama that follows five young German friends during World War II. It attracted an average 7.6 million viewers a night and ignited an intergenerational debate about collective responsibility for war crimes. “It had the courage to try out new ways of storytelling,” Schilling says.


“I play the piano and guitar. At the moment I’m working on some songs with the musicians from the ‘Oh Boy’ soundtrack.”

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