20 German Speaking Celebrities That Will Shock You

20 German Speaking Celebrities That Will Shock You

When it comes to celebrities speaking foreign languages, German isn’t one of the ones that might immediately cross your mind.

We can watch videos of famous stars speaking Japanese, or rapid-fire Spanish/French/Italian with an interviewer and be impressed by their command of the language, but famous German actors and people from sports and show business tend to fly under the radar.

That is really a shame, when you notice how many well-known individuals over the world have solid command of the language that formed one of the roots of modern English.

1. Christoph Waltz

Okay, this one is cheating. Waltz, famous in the US for his roles in “Django Unchained,” “Spectre,” and his star-creating turn in Inglorious Basterds, was born in Vienna to German parents and spoke the language as his first.

However, what sticks out to me is the visibility of the actor in the US movie industry: he is famous and identifiable, and yet despite his ancestry, I still see him as an American celebrity. He could speak any language other than English, and somehow that would still surprise me.

2. Pope Francis

Also fairly well-documented, the sitting Pope speaks conversational German…alongside six other languages, and is recognized as a living polyglot, or speaker of many tongues.

Having lived in Argentina and Rome, and serving all over the world, this ability no doubt serves him well in his position, and has allowed him to develop ties with many of the Catholic nations around the world.

3. Claudio Castagnoli

Like the Pope, Castagnoli is also a polyglot. The Swiss born athlete speaks two forms of German (Swiss in addition to “standard”) alongside English, Italian, and French. Unlike the Pope, he earns his living as a weightlifter and well-respected professional wrestler.

Castagnoli competes currently in WWE under the stage name of Cesaro, where his original “gimmick” involved him disparaging opponents in all five of his spoken languages, before “knocking them out” with European uppercuts to cheering crowds.

Claudio Castagnoli Explains Why He Left WWE – TJR Wrestling

© Pixabay

20 German Speaking Celebrities That Will Shock You

4. Bruce Springsteen

This one might b subjective, because the legend of his German speech traces itself back to a famous concert he gave in 1988 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

To a cheering crowd of fans, he pulled out a paper and proceeded to give an impassioned speech against greed, corrupt bankers, and a system designed to oppress the working man, all in shaky, but still understandable German.

It was a moment that crossed language and cultural barriers between audience and performer, and when it comes to rock music, that really is the heart of the matter.

5. Bruce Willis

The famous “Die Hard” actor was born on a U.S. military base in Germany, and his mother was from Kassel. However, the family moved and left Germany when Bruce was just two years old, making it challenging to determine the extent of his language retention.

Despite German being technically his native language by birthplace, German interviewers have characterized the Hollywood actor’s language as “broken.”

6. Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock is famous for being the People magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2015 and Oscar-winning in actress for “The Blind Side.”

Her ability to speak German is very well-documented. Due to her German mother, Bullock spent the bulk of her youth living in Nuremberg, Germany, where she learned and spoke the language all the time. She also has both American and German citizenship.

But after her star turn, she rarely brought it up in public, owing to her own shyness about speaking it imperfectly. That said, her speech when receiving a Bambi award was spot on, and worth the lookup on YouTube.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio

This Academy Award winner is no stranger to German either. His father has German and Italian ancestors, and his mother also has Russian ones.

Leo’s maternal grandparents were both German themselves and he credits his grandmother with teaching him the language, and has conducted numerous interviews in his second tongue. I wonder if he dubbed his own lines in any of his films that have been translated into German?

8. Gene Simmons

This one genuinely surprised me, though in retrospect it really shouldn’t. The famous bass player and songwriter for the rock band KISS speaks fluent German alongside quite a few other languages.

Born in Israel to a Hungarian mother who survived WWII, he also learned Hungarian, Hebrew, and English. But his alter-egos, such as Dr. Love and The Demon, distract from details of his personal life when looking into him.

9. Tina Fey

The talented actress, comedian, producer, and Saturday Night Live writer/alum is herself half-German, and busted out her language skills during an episode of 30 Rock.

She speaks what she calls “less than first grade German,” and her lines on the show reflect as much, but you can’t fault the lady for embracing her roots on TV.

10. Diane Kruger

Originally hailing from the vicinity of the small town of Hildesheim, Diane Kruger initially entered the entertainment industry through modeling in 1993. However, her career trajectory shifted towards acting in the early 2000s, marking the beginning of her successful journey.

Kruger’s portfolio boasts appearances in blockbuster films such as “Troy” and “Inglourious Basterds.” Interestingly, her German film debut occurred in 2017 with Faith Akin’s “In the Fade,” a film that not only marked her return to German cinema but also earned her recognition and an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Fluent in German, French, and English, Kruger holds dual US/German citizenship, adding to the international allure of her career.

11. Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst’s father, originally from Hamburg, Germany, and her American mother of German and Swedish heritage, make up her diverse familial background.

Until the age of eleven, Dunst resided in Brick Township, New Jersey, attending Ranney School in Tinton Falls. Following her parents’ separation in 1993, she relocated to Los Angeles with her mother and brother.

12. Michael Fassbender

One of the most celebrated actors of German descent is Michael Fassbender. Born to a German father and an Irish mother, Fassbender has captivated audiences with his roles in films like “Inglourious Basterds” and “Die Hard.”

Fassbender’s talent has earned him critical acclaim and recognition, including Golden Globe nominations. He speaks some German, but not as well as a native speaker – as could be seen in in his famous role in “Inglourious Basterds.” While he was preparing for “Inglorious Bastards” the actor decided to use the help of a vocal coach to work on his accent, so he didn’t sound so Irish.

13. Klaus Kinski

Klaus Kinski stands out prominently among the renowned German actors on this list. Over a career spanning four decades, he contributed to 130 films, which encompassed a variety of genres, including multiple Spaghetti Westerns.

Notably, Kinski collaborated on five projects with the esteemed German film director Werner Herzog.

14. Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich gained fame for her glamorous, liberated style, distinctive husky voice, and alluring persona. Born in Berlin, Dietrich initially found her footing in the vibrant cabaret scene of 1920s Berlin, showcasing her singing and performing talents.

Her portrayal of the femme fatale showgirl Lola-Lola in Josef von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel” garnered her widespread international acclaim. Subsequently, she became one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s.

15. Udo Kier

Originally from Cologne, Udo Kier is a renowned German character actor with an extensive filmography that surpasses 220 films, many of which are in English.

Born in Germany near the end of World War II, at the age of 18, he relocated to London with the specific intent of mastering English. One of Kier’s earliest notable roles dates back to Andy Warhol’s “Frankenstein” in 1973. Subsequently, he appeared in a series of both low-budget and mainstream vampire movies, including notable titles such as “Blade” and “Shadow of the Vampire.”

A versatile actor, Kier is no stranger to arthouse cinema. He has forged collaborations with acclaimed European and American filmmakers such as Gus van Sant, Lars von Trier, and Werner Herzog.

16. Mark Strong

Marco Giuseppe Salossia, known professionally as Mark Strong, is the offspring of an Austrian mother and an Italian father. Renowned for his nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Strong is also recognized for his proficiency in the German language.

Notably, he spent a year studying German Law at Ludwig Maximilian University before returning to England to focus on his acting career.

17. Boris Becker

Becker, a former professional tennis player from Germany, held the prestigious title of World No. 1 and secured six Grand Slam singles championships.

He is also an Olympic gold medalist and made history as the youngest-ever winner of the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, achieving this remarkable feat at the age of 17.

Becker | IMG Academy

18. Tom Wlaschiha

Tom Wlaschiha, the renowned German actor known for his role in the widely popular TV series “Game of Thrones,” portrayed the enigmatic character Jaqen H’ghar in the second, fifth, and sixth seasons of the show.

Born in East Germany in 1973, Wlaschiha ventured to the US as a foreign exchange student shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fluent in German, English, French, Italian, and Russian, he showcases his linguistic versatility.

Tom Wlaschiha: "Ich will auf dem Eisernen Thron sitzen!" - freenet.de

19. Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney, the bass guitarist and co-singer of The Beatles, acquired proficiency in German during his school years. However, it was at the onset of his musical journey that McCartney truly immersed himself in German culture.

Notably, Hamburg played a pivotal role in the band’s success. Allan Williams, owner of a music coffee bar in Liverpool, had initially arranged a tour in Germany for The Seniors, a Liverpool band.

Surprisingly, Williams opted to replace The Seniors with The Beatles, a decision that significantly altered the course of Paul’s musical trajectory.

20. Vin Diesel

Since I cheated for the first entry, I’m cheating for the last as well. Vin Diesel doesn’t speak German. Or at least he’s never confessed to speaking it.

The multi-ethnic actor, who IS of German ancestry in part, made considerable waves however, for providing the voice for his character in Guardians of the Galaxy in 15 different language tracks.

Now granted, he only speaks five words the entire film, but he went all out with his dub work, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Famous Historical Figures from Germany

Germany boasts a rich history filled with influential figures. Among the notable names are Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach, two of the greatest composers in classical music. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” stands as a testament to the country’s musical legacy.

Martin Luther, a native speaker of German, was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Richard Wagner, another renowned composer, left an indelible mark on the world of opera.

Hermann Hesse, a famous German writer, poet, novelist, and painter, was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Among his notable works are “The Glass Bead Game,” “Steppenwolf,” and “Narcissus and Goldmund.”

In philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, both German thinkers, have significantly shaped intellectual discourse.

We can also mention the Brothers Grimm, famous for collecting popular fairy tales and as the founders of modern linguistics in Germany. Their “Das Deutsche Wörterbuch” (The German Dictionary), published in 1854, was an important step toward establishing a uniform German language.

These figures collectively contribute to Germany’s status as a cultural and intellectual powerhouse.

FAQs about celebrities of German descent

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about celebrities from the film industry who have German origins.

Which celebs can speak German?

Many Hollywood celebrities have the ability to speak German. Some notable examples include Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, and Natalie Portman, among others. Many actors, musicians, and public figures have showcased their linguistic skills in German.

Can Leonardo DiCaprio speak German?

Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio speaks German because his father, George DiCaprio, is half German and his grandparents on his mother’s side were also from Germany.

Who are some of the most famous German actors?

Some of the most famous German actors include Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Hoss, Sebastian Koch, as well as many Hollywood actors of German origin.

Does Angelina Jolie have German roots?

Yes, Angelina Jolie has German and Slovak roots on her father’s side. Additionally, she has mentioned having distant Indigenous (Iroquois) ancestry through her French-Canadian mother.

Does Michael Fassbender have a German father?

Yes, Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and is the son of an Irish mother and German father Josef Fassbender.

Summing Up: German Speaking Actors and Other Celebrities

In the realm of celebrity linguistics, German-speaking stars often fly under the radar.

From Hollywood actors like Christoph Waltz and Sandra Bullock to unexpected polyglots like Pope Francis and weightlifter Claudio Castagnoli, the global stage is enriched by the impressive skills and talents of these famous people whose life and career was marked by their German roots. Even rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Gene Simmons surprise with their German fluency.

Beyond the limelight, historical and philosophical figures like Beethoven, Bach, and Nietzsche, contribute to Germany’s rich intellectual heritage.

By the way, if you haven’t already tried, you will probably find learning German with films and TV shows to be a both fun and educational experience.