Interview with Alexander Scheer: dreamer, rock ‘n’ roller and business type
The contents in the “archives” were created and posted by the previous owners of this website. We are not responsible for any misleading or incorrect content that is posted here.
Since Alexander Scheer appeared on screen in Leander Haussmann’s “Sonnenallee” in 1999, the actor has become an integral part of the German film landscape. Most recently, he sparked enthusiasm among fans and critics alike with appearances in films such as “Gundermann” – as Gundermann – and “Rabiye Kurnaz against George W. Bush” – as lawyer Bernhard Docke.
Now the 46-year-old can be seen as the partly fictional “Kaufhaus Jonass” founder Arthur Grünberg in the new RTL+ series “The House of Dreams”. Scheer talks to ntv.de about his love for good suits, his rejection of elite clubs and what connects the 1920s in his native Berlin with the 1990s there.
ntv.de: Alexander, born in East Berlin, what connection did you have with Torstraße 1 for this recording? Did you already know part of the story of this house told in the series?
Alexander Scheer: In part, yes. I knew it had been built as a department store in the late 1920s. I also knew that after 1933 the Jewish founders were expropriated and the headquarters of the Reichsjugend, ie HJ and BDM, were housed there. After the end of the war it was the party headquarters of the SED and until 1995 the Marxist-Leninist Institute. After that it was empty for a long time. I know because I attended some legendary techno parties there in the late 1990s.
And do you remember them?
Well, I know there was a trestle table, that was the bar – with some cases of beer and harder stuff. And there were two turntables. Other than that I only know that at one point we were on the roof and I had a guitar in my hand. My fingers bled from playing wild and the police drove downstairs in circles with flashing blue lights. We had to disappear over the rooftops. I took a phone that was in one of the offices. A gray Stasi phone with lots of colorful buttons next to the dial. It’s still on my piano.
How is your relationship with Soho House today? Are you a member?
This is an international private club. I agree with Groucho Marx: I don’t want to be a member of a club that accepts people like me as members. (laughs) I think it’s quite beautiful there, but also relatively elitist. The only East Berliners in Soho are the guys who work in the kitchen. That’s quite a suit-and-tie event with a private rooftop pool. From the first credit department store in Europe, ie from the noble idea of giving low-income people in the Scheunenviertel the chance to treat themselves, to the private club for George Clooney and Madonna – that is a beautiful reflection of the last 100 years . It is a house that reflects the history of Berlin – or our country – through the ages like no other.
So we can’t wait to see what happens to the house next?
Well, in this segment the money is not less. Incidentally, the Berlinale parties of Studio Babelsberg always take place in Soho House. If the whole film industry comes together on the first floor balcony to smoke and I become the founder of this house, I’ll be fine. (laughs)
Was it a special incentive for you as an East Berliner to play this role, or what attracted you – apart from the nice suits – in it?
Discover the new series now on RTL+.
I even like to wear suits, hats, shirts, good shoes. I’m probably the only actor walking through Prenzlauer Berg with his grandfather’s pocket watch in his vest. I was wondering why Tom Tykwer didn’t even think about casting me for “Babylon Berlin”. It’s great that I now have my own series set in 1920s Berlin. The decisive factor, however, was the meeting with director Sherry Hormann. We met in Mulackstrasse in Scheunenviertel and she told me about her vision. I immediately jumped on that.
What exactly was that vision?
She wanted to immerse herself in time and unfold a large family panorama. And she did that wonderfully. The series not only tells about Jewish life in Berlin and the looming Nazi threat, but above all about people. She tells stories of young people who come to Berlin – with dreams and hopes. It’s no different today.
Do you think the time was particularly exciting to come to the capital?
Berlin was the city of the moment. The third largest metropolis in the world, the cultural center. what was going on In theatre: Reinhardt, Piscator, Brecht… In film: Murnau, Lang, Caligari… In art: Grosz, Dix, Dada… The 6 Day Race, Döblin’s Alexanderplatz, Erich Kästner, Anita Berber, Rosa Luxemburg , the gay community , Albert Einstein … that is unique!
Sounds like it was your time if you were alive then…
Working on this series was definitely a gift. Of course also because of the suits, some of which are now mine. But what really convinced me was Sherry, who said, “I want to tell stories about faces, about eyes, about dreams, about noble causes, about euphoria, about depression, about a love between classes. And I want to do it in a way that does justice to the times.” What our cameraman Christian Pirjol conjured up… We have old spotlights from the Berliner Ensemble producing this warm silent film light. The reflections, the blur… all that interested me.
And the character of Arthur Grünberg…?
He was born in the Scheunenviertel, disappointed by the First World War as a highly decorated fighter pilot and a scarred veteran, fed up with fighting and destruction and has a dream: a department store not only for the wealthy, but also for the poorer in the Scheunenviertel. He wants equal opportunities and adopts the American idea of hire-purchase. “Everyone has the right to rise above their heritage,” he once said. However, the banks think this is dubious and so he has to come up with something. He is a dreamer and that is close to me. There were also two hearts beating in my chest: rock ‘n’ roll and business.
Looking back, what do you think was the best time in Berlin? Or do you think this feeling has less to do with the place or with East and West than with your own childhood?
I was 14 twice: once in the east and once in the west, and now I’m doing pretty well… The 90s weren’t that bad. I grew up here and Berlin was the wildest, freest city in the world at the time. Here freedom was celebrated and celebrated as if there was no tomorrow. These are certainly parallels to the 1920s from 100 years ago.
When you look at the city today, what bothers you the most?
The real estate prices. (laughs)
Nicole Ankelmann spoke with Alexander Scheer
“The House of Dreams” can be seen on RTL+ from 18 September.