Hanna Schygulla was born on December 25, 1943 in Königshütte, Upper Silesia, Germany. Her father, a timber merchant by profession, was then drafted as an infantryman in the German Army and was captured by American forces in Italy, subsequently being held as a prisoner of war until 1948. In 1945, Schygulla, and her mother, arrived as refugees in Munich following the expulsion of the majority German population of Königshütte by Communist Poland. Much later, in the 1960s, Schygulla studied Romance languages and German studies, while taking acting lessons in Munich during her spare time.
Acting eventually became her focus, and she became particularly known for her film work with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. During the making of “Effi Briest” (1974), an adaptation of a German novel by Theodor Fontane, Fassbinder and Schygulla fell out over divergent interpretations of the character. Also a problem for Schygulla was her low pay, and she led a revolt against Fassbinder on this issue during the making of “Effi Briest”, shot in September 1972 sometime before its commercial release. Fassbinder's response was typically blunt: "I can't stand the sight of your face any more. You bust my balls". After this, they did not work together for several years until “The Marriage of Maria Braun” in 1978. The film was entered into the 29th Berlin International Film Festival, where Schygulla won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for her performance. Her only Euro-western appearance was in another Fassbinder film “Whity” in 1971 playing the role of Hanna.
Schygulla has acted in French, Italian, and American films. In the 1990s she also became known and well regarded as a chanson singer. In Juliane Lorenz's documentary film “Life, Love and Celluloid” (1998), on Fassbinder and related topics, Schygulla performs several songs.
In 2002, she appeared in “VB51”, a performance by the artist Vanessa Beecroft. In 2007, she appeared in the film “The Edge of Heaven”, directed by Fatih Akın, to wide acclaim. In 2007 she received the Honorary Award from the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival and in 2010 she received the Honorary Golden Bear from the Berlin Film Festival.
Today we celebrate Hanna Schygulla’s 70th birthday.