Maximilian Schell, the ruggedly handsome Austrian-born actor who won an Academy Award for his role in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” died early Saturday in Innsbruck, Austria. He was 83.
Patricia Baumbauer, his agent, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. She said he was hospitalized for a “sudden illness” but gave no more details.
Stanley Kramer’s “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961), a drama recounting the Nazi war-crime trials in Germany, had an all-star cast, including Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift. But Mr. Schell’s performance as the eloquent and ultimately furious German defense lawyer was the only one honored by the Academy. The film had begun on TV on “Playhouse 90.”
He went on to earn two more Oscar nominations, for the title role in “The Man in the Glass Booth” (1975), a drama inspired by the trial in Israel of the Holocaust criminal Adolf Eichmann, and “Julia” (1977), based on a Lillian Hellman story about the underground in Nazi Germany.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Schell became a director. Two of his films — “The Pedestrian” (1973), about a German businessman’s wartime past, and“Marlene” (1984), a documentary about Marlene Dietrich — received Oscar nominations. He also went on to direct opera, including “Der Rosenkavalier”for the Los Angeles Opera in 2005.
Mr. Schell acknowledged that his career had perhaps been dominated by Nazi-era subjects and characters, and that he had been typecast. He was also an SS captain in “The Odessa File” (1974); a Nazi officer in two 1977 films, “A Bridge Too Far” and “Cross of Iron”; and a Nazi captain, alongside Marlon Brando, in “The Young Lions” (1958), his American film debut.
“There does seem to be a pattern” in his films, Mr. Schell said in a 1975 interview with the film critic Roger Ebert, adding later, “I think there’s an area of subject matter here that has to be faced and seriously dealt with.”
The Third Reich was part of his own experience.
Maximilian Schell was born in Vienna on Dec. 8, 1930, one of four children of Hermann Ferdinand Schell, a Swiss-born playwright and pharmacy owner, and the former Margarethe Noé von Nordberg, an Austrian actress. The family, Roman Catholic, moved to Zurich after 1938.
Mr. Schell made his film debut in “Kinder, Mütter und ein General” (“Children, Mother and a General,” 1955) and appeared in several other West German films before leaving in 1958 for the United States, where his sister Maria Schell was already building a Hollywood movie career. Mr. Schell’s acting roles did go well beyond World War II and Germany. He played Lenin in “Stalin,” a 1992 television film; and the title character in “Peter the Great,” a 1986 mini-series. He also appeared in the films “Topkapi” (1964), about a jewel theft in Turkey; “The Freshman,” a 1990 Mafia comedy; and “Deep Impact” (1998), a comet-disaster movie.
He did three plays on Broadway; his debut was “Interlock” (1958), with Rosemary Harris.
His last film, “Les Brigands,” a multinational production filmed in French, is in postproduction.
Mr. Schell married Natalya Andreychenko, a Russian actress, in 1985; they divorced in 2005. His survivors include Iva Mihanovic, a German-Croatian soprano, whom he married in August; and a daughter, Nastassja Schell, from his first marriage. Maria Schell died in 2005.
Ultimately, Mr. Schell evolved into an international character actor — distinguished and perhaps a bit world-weary. “The world doesn’t change. The balance of evil will always be the same,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001, when he was preparing to appear in a stage version of “Judgment at Nuremberg.” “I think all the poets and artists have always written for peace and love, and it hasn’t changed much in the last two or three thousand years. But we hope.”