Choynski, Carl-Heinz


Carl Heinz Choynski was born in Brooklyn, USA, on May 31, 1936. His father had moved to the USA from Germany to look for work in the 1920s. When Carl Heinz was one year old, his parents took him to visit family in Berlin and never returned to the USA. 


Choynski apprenticed as a telecommunications technician and worked for the Deutsche Reichsbahn. In his free time, he performed at Eberhard Kube’s newly founded Berlin Pantomime Studio. His strong interest in pantomime and performing, made him change careers in the early 1960s and he studied acting at the Staatliche Schauspielschule Berlin (now: Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch) from 1962 to 1964. In 1963, while still a student, he appeared in a supporting role in the Volksbühne production of The Captain of Köpenick (dir. Hannes Fischer). After graduating, he worked at the touring Elbe Elster Theater in Wittenberg. A year later, he joined the prestigious Berliner Ensemble, where he worked for the next three decades with well-known directors including B. K. Tragelehn, Einar Schleef and Matthias Langhoff. 


Choynski has always combined the art of pantomime with the art of language in his performances. His film debut was not as an actor, but as a featured person in Karlheinz Mund’s 1964 documentary Harlekin, Pantalone und wir. In this humorous and entertaining short, Mund follows Choynski’s story from being a worker, to becoming a lay mime and then a professional actor. Over the course of his film career, Choynski has played in almost 200 television and cinema productions—in almost all genres from children’s films to historic feature films.


Choynksi’s debut as a screen actor was in Wolf-Dieter Panse’s 1966 TV production Das Jahr davor, a love story set in divided Berlin, in which he shared the screen with Dieter Mann and Christine Schorn. He was also cast in Laurencia (1967), a TV adaptation of a Lope de Vega play set in historic Spain. His first DEFA movie role was in Egon Günther’s WWI story Abschied, a production known for its experimental cinematic style. He worked with many of the best known East German directors, including Heiner Carow, Helmut Dziuba, Roland Gräf, Frank Vogel, Iris Gusner, Ralf Kirsten, Siegfried Kühn, Lothar Warneke and Jörg Foth. Although he mainly played supporting roles in films—from a policeman in Bis dass der Tod euch scheidet), to a father (Die dicke Tilla) and teacher (Biologie!)—he gave each one his all. Critics called him the “GDR king of supporting roles.” 


After German unification in 1990, Choynski continued to act in movies as well as in several popular television series, such as the Tatort crime series and the comedy-drama series Türkisch für Anfänger, in which he was part of the series cast. He also played in two outstanding productions that gained international attention: the US-German coproduction and literary adaptation of The Book Thief, directed by Brian Percival, and Max Färberbäck’s WWII lesbian story Aimée & Jaguar. Both films were nominated for Golden Globes and The Book Thief was also considered for an Oscar. One of Choynski’s recent productions is Catweazle (dir. Sven Unterwaldt), a film adaptation of the successful British TV children’s series, in which he shares the screen with the famous German comedian Otto Waalkes.


Choynski is also known for a long list of audio books, radio plays and film dubbing projects. In 2011, he published his autobiography Det is nich allet Kunst! Ein Schauspielerleben [Not Everything Is Art! An Actor’s Life]. He lives in Berlin.


2021 Catweazle
2017 Der König von Berlin (The King of Berlin, TV)
2017 Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Classroom)
2015 Mängelexemplar (Too Hard to Handle)
2014 Die Deutschlandsaga (The German Saga, TV)
2013 Robin Hood und ich (Robin Hood and I, TV)
2013 The Book Thief 
2010-13 Alle Jahr wieder (Every Year…, TV series)
2009 Männerherzen (Men in the City)
2006-08 Türkisch für Anfänger (Turkish for Beginners, TV series)
2002-06 Absolut das Leben (Absolutely Life, TV series)
2001 Berlin, Berlin (TV)
2000-16 Tatort (Crime Scene, TV series)
2000 Heidi
2000 So lange wir lieben (As long as We Love, TV)
Aimée & Jaguar 
1997 St. Angela (TV)
1996 Kids von Berlin (Berlin Kids, TV) 
1995 Rosa Roth
1993 Ein Bayer auf Rügen (A Bavarian on Rügen Island)
1992 Vater Mutter Mörderkind (Father Mother Murder-Child, TV)
1992 Ein Elefant im Krankenhaus (An Elephant in the Hospital, TV/DEFA)
1990 Biologie! (Biology!)
1989 Über die Grenzen (Crossing Borders)
1988 Fallada - Letztes Kapitel (Fallada - The Last Chapter)  
1987 Dschungelzeit (Time in the Jungle)
1986 Das Schulgespenst (The School Ghost)
1985 Die Gänse von Bützow (The Geese of Bützow)
1983 Das Eismeer ruft (The Arctic Sea Calls)
1982 Mein Vater ist ein Dieb (My Dad Is a Thief)
1982 Der Teufekskreis (Devil’s Circle, TV)
1982 Sabine Kleist, 7 Jahre (Sabine Kleist, Age 7)
1981 Die dicke Tilla (Fat Little Tilla)
1979 Einfach Blumen aufs Dach (Just Put Flowers on the Roof)
1979 Der Baulöwe (The Great Builder)
1978 Bis dass der Tod euch scheidet (Until Death Do Us Part
1977 Die Flucht (The Flight
1975 Das blaue Licht (The Blue Light)
1975 Bankett für Achilles (Banquet for Achilles)
1973 Leben mit Uwe (Living with Uwe
1968 Abschied (Farewell)
1967 Laurentia (TV)
1966 Das Jahr davor (A Year Earlier, TV)
1964 Harlekin, Pantalone und wir (Harlequin, Pantaloons and Us, doc., short)

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