In terms of appreciating Klaus Kinski’s career it might be best to state that he was absolutely dedicated to his work, though when you delve into his personal life you tend to find a few disconcerting things that might lead you to believe that while while he was a great actor he wasn’t much in the way of being a decent human being. How much of what is said about him is true might be up for argument but from what has been written down in his biography and what he has stated himself there are a lot of discrepancies that might make the average person wonder if he was trying to salvage something that might have otherwise ruined him in some way. What you can say about his career is that he was featured in 130 or more movies, which is extremely impressive, and that he was one of the more astute actors of his time.
For anything else you might have to go to those that knew him personally, and then you might get a different story.
He came to acting through his service in the military.
He was taken into the German army when he was 17 years of age, young for any time period, but didn’t see action until around 1944 when he was wounded and then captured during his second day of combat. Klaus told a very different story in his autobiography, stating that he intentionally deserted his unit and was then captured by the British after being wounded in the arm. This was after he’d escaped from the Germans, who had been planning to court-martial and then execute him for his actions. Back in those days deserting the army was punishable in some countries without much of a trial, especially if people were afield and there was no formal court to preside over. They were harder times to be certain. It was after he’d been interrogated and patched up that he was sent to a POW camp in Colchester, Essex. This was where he started acting to boost the morale of the troops.
He wasn’t thought to be the nicest person.
He wasn’t always on the level either it would seem since when the POW’s were about to be sent home he found out that the sick and injured were being sent first. In response to this he would stand outside naked, drink urine, and eat cigarettes. This didn’t cause him to become so violently ill that he earned early passage, but he did manage to get shipped home eventually. While he did manage to find work his unpredictable behavior kept him from being hired on at times since he was rather boorish and didn’t work well with others sometimes. In face one great example is what he said to Steven Spielberg when he was pitched the idea of playing Indiana Jones. He wasn’t shy when he told Spielberg that it was “a yawn-making, boring pile of s***”. He was certainly up front about his feelings but he wasn’t too on the ball when it came to his intuition it seemed as Indiana Jones went on to become one of the most popular films ever made. One has to wonder if Klaus ever kicked himself for saying not to the role or was confident to the end that he’d made the right decision.
He had death threats made against him.
Seeing as how he was kind of a confrontational person it’s not too hard to think that a lot of people just didn’t like him. People that tend to act this way around others don’t always make a lot of long-lasting friendships, but at the very least some of them do manage to find some people that are willing to hang around them. In truth it doesn’t say a lot for one’s character when a frequent collaborator admits to trying to kill them one numerous occasions. Werner Herzog, a man that had worked with Klaus for years, reportedly pulled a gun on Klaus when he threatened to walk off of one set, and even tried to burn his house down but was fended off by Klaus’ dog. While being threatened might make some people seem more like the hapless victim it didn’t really soften Klaus’ image all that much as he was still considered to be pretty brash and even rude to some folks.
Klaus passed away in 1991 from a sudden heart attack. He was cremated and had his ashes scattered in the Pacific ocean. At the funeral only one of his kids attended, which once again speaks volumes about the man and what he was like during his life. He was a great actor for certain and starred in more films than many people alive could claim, but it seems he made a great many enemies along the way.