COLOGNE, Germany – Peter Sehr, a scientist turned award-winning German film director who had an eye for young talent and a feel for political period drama, has died of a brain tumor. He was 61.
German media Friday reported that Sehr died May 8 after a prolonged illness.
Sehr's breakthrough was Kaspar Hauser (1994), the true story from 19th century Bavaria of a boy who claimed to have been raised in total isolation in a dark cell and who might have been an heir to the royal family. He followed it up with two international productions: the romantic drama Obsession (1997), starring a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig, and the crime story Love the Hard Way (2001), featuring a pre-Oscar Adrien Brody.
Sehr's last film, the royal biopic Ludwig II, showed he hadn't lost his touch when it came to finding up-and-coming talent. The 29-year-old Sabin Tambrea, who played the lead, received a best actor nomination at the German Film Awards this year. The film, which Sehr co-directed with his wife and production partner Marie Noelle, was released in Germany in December.
Sehr's path to filmmaking was an unusual one. He was finishing a doctorate in biophysics at Oxford University when he caught the directing bug and filmed his first short. Science and cinema continued to divide his attention for the next decade. While he was working as a researcher at the Institut Curie in Paris, he began to train as a director's assistant and worked under such filmmakers as Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman) and Carl Schenkel (Knight Moves).
In 1988, he and Noelle set up a film production company, P'Artisan Filmproduktion. Sehr's first feature as a director, The Serbian Girl (1991), received a best film nomination at the German Film Awards. Kaspar Hauser won three German Film Awards: for best film, director and actor for star Andre Eisermann, another of Sehr's discoveries.
The long list of Sehr's trophies included a Silver Leopard in Locarno for Love the Hard Way and the Munich Film Festival's Bernhard Wicki Award for The Anarchist's Wife (2008), another period drama he co-directed with Noelle.
A truly European filmmaker, Sehr was a member of the German and European film academies and received the rare honor (for a German) of being named a Chevalier of France's order of arts and letters.