“I am married to the theatre, cinema is a mistress,” Peter Simonischek told us when we met him at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. A capricious and generous mistress. She had given that year to the Austrian actor a belated and unexpected international glory thanks to Toni Erdmann, the comedy of Maren Ade, in the running for the palme d'or.
The actor died Monday night at the age of 76. He will no longer wear the famous dentures that made the whole world laugh at Cannes. Winfried, his character as a sixty-eight and whimsical father, wore it in public to make his daughter, an expatriate businesswoman in Bucharest, very little inclined to humor, uncomfortable. She was played by Sandra Hüller, the German actress honored this year on the Croisette with two films at the top of the charts – the palme d'or Anatomy of a Fall and the grand prize The Zone of Interest.
But this grotesque denture, Peter Simonischek, son of a dentist (it can't be invented) had fun in Cannes wearing it during interviews with journalists. We discovered a facetious actor of almost 70 years old, very elegant in his three-piece suit. But above all we met a very famous theater actor in Germany. In the 1980s, he was part of the prestigious Schaubühne company in Berlin. He plays under the direction of the greatest directors: Peter Stein, Klaus Michael Grüber, Bob Wilson, among others. He toured a lot in France, at the Théâtre de la Ville, in Paris, and elsewhere. He plays under the direction of Luc Bondy and Deborah Warner.
When he received the screenplay from Toni Erdmann, he was amazed. He hasn't read anything so crazy and daring. He goes to the casting in Berlin in the hope of landing this magnificent role. “I auditioned a lot of actors but in my head it was clear that Peter was Toni, says director Maren Ade. Even when he puts on his dentures and his wig, he remains attractive. He is tall, full of charisma. Winfried's transformation into Toni worked perfectly. "" On reading the script, everything was possible, drama as comedy, confides for his part the actor. I'm not sure Maren had the finished movie in her head. We searched together but only she knew what she was looking for. I suspected it wouldn't be Feydeau or Labiche but I cried when I saw the film in the hall of the Palais des Festivals. »
Along with Toni Erdmann, Peter Simonischek was a serious contender for the interpretation prize at Cannes. He left empty-handed, like the film, largely forgotten from the charts that year. Anyway, the night of the ceremony, he went on stage in Vienna to play Goldoni. "They'll have to bring me the prize!" “, he said, laughing heartily.