We spoke with Daniel Bruhl about playing a terrorist from his own country, his Marvel future, and more.
In the new film 7 Days in Entebbe, German actor Daniel Bruhl plays Wilfried Bose, one of four terrorists — two Palestinian and two German — who hijacked an Air France flight in 1976 that was headed from Tel Aviv to Paris and rerouted it to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. There they held the passengers hostage for a week, hosted by then-Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, until a daring raid by Israeli Special Forces rescued the passengers and killed the terrorists, Bose included.
Although the incident has been recounted in three previous films, as well as documentaries, TV shows and books, Bose remains an enigma. His group, the Revolutionary Cells, carried out extensive attacks in Germany and was considered extremely dangerous during their peak in the 1970s — yet eyewitness accounts suggest that as the Israelis raided Entebbe, Bose spared the hostages’ lives when he was supposed to instead slaughter them.
That doesn’t make him a good guy by any means, but it adds a layer of complexity to what could be a one-dimensional villain — the kind of work that Bruhl is especially good at, whether as Niki Lauda in Rush or Helmut Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. We spoke with the actor by phone about playing Bose, working with co-star Rosamund Pike (who portrays the other German terrorist, Brigitte Kuhlmann), and whether he’d like to see Zemo return in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When you play someone like Wilfried Bose, do you have a different set of priorities in playing a real life person, as opposed to somebody who’s just made up out of whole cloth?
Daniel Bruhl: Yeah. You feel a much higher responsibility. You’re more cautious than opposed to playing a fictional character. Rosamund and I discussed it a lot. It is a real character, but on the other hand, it’s not that much that we know about those guys. I mean Baader-Meinhof and other terrorists in Germany, are very well known. There’s a lot of material, a lot of books written about them. Not so much on Bose and Kuhlmann. That gave us this certain range of freedom in interpreting these two in our own way. Still, we wanted to be as accurate and realistic as possible.
The most crucial information that I got was from these eyewitnesses, especially from the flight engineer, Jacques Le Moine, who’s still alive and who spent most of the time with Bose in these last days. At least he was the person who knew the most about him, and with whom I felt the information is totally reliable, including the very last moments, because as an actor, I just wanted to know which path to take. When he said to me that he was really looking into the barrel, but then Bose made the deliberate decision not to kill any of the hostages, I believed him and why shouldn’t I? There’s no need for him to not tell me the truth. That was very, very important for me, to have certain aspects and guidelines to hold onto.
I tried to do a little bit of research online about Bose myself, and I just wasn’t able to really come up with much.
The funny thing is that most of the people, and it also happened to me, in Germany, often think at first of another hijacking in 1977. One year after Entebbe, a Lufthansa machine was hijacked, and probably because it was a Lufthansa machine and was German hostages, we remember it better than we do remember the hijacking in Entebbe. As you said, I tried to get hold of material at bookshops, on Amazon, and there wasn’t that much.
Fortunately, Kate Solomon and Gregory Burke are real experts. She’s the producer and he was the script writer, real experts on terrorism in the 70s. I think Kate has also been, for a long time, the advisor of people like (director) Paul Greengrass. She’s a very dedicated and well prepared producer. She gave us a lot of interesting stuff to read and to listen to, like long interviews with Brigitte’s former boyfriend, who lived in Bolivia. He gave long interviews and answered many questions about that terrorist group, the Revolutionary Cells, and about Brigitte and Bose. Kate also found unpublished texts and rare copies of the books of the Revolutionary Cells, and that for Rosamund and me was great and so important in the preparation.
How was Rosamund’s German?
Perfect. I was blown away. When I first met her, I had heard that she had said that she speaks German. Sometimes we actors pretend in our resumes that we can do everything. Many times I experience that on set, all of a sudden some actors, including myself, are not actually able to do certain things that we said we were able to. In that case, I thought, “Wow,” I had my doubts. I thought she wouldn’t be able to, just because I know how hard it is to speak German without an accent. She was so brilliant with that, that on the second day I thought I was working with a German actress.
We both felt that the tension in the room, the energy is so much better when we shot it in German. We always shot it in, just to be safe, in English as well, back to back. We were very happy that also Jose (Padilha, director) supported us in shooting these scenes in German. It wasn’t only the question whether Rosamund could pull it off or not, but also because of other concerns, like the film being an English speaking one, an international film. Some people were a bit scared if that would be a good idea, to shoot it in German with subtitles, but we were both happy that they decided to go for the German version.
What is it about this story that keeps people coming back to it?
I mean it’s the madness of that mission, of these terrorists. Especially having Germans being involved in hijacking a plane with Jewish passengers, that even in the world of left-wing terrorists, caused a lot of trouble. There were many who did not defend that mission at all. On the other hand, it was also an unprecedented raid, a military operation that the world hadn’t seen before, and that had influenced governments and militaries ever since. It is quite remarkable when you think what they did, how incredible that mission was, and that it was successful. That, I guess, makes it interesting. Also the fact that there’s so many different parties involved, even Idi Amin in the midst of it, is quite interesting.
Strangely, for a man that we don’t know a whole lot about, Bose has been played by four other actors in the past. Have you see any of the other performances at any time?
Yes, I had seen the version with Horst Buchholz. I know that Klaus Kinski played him as well. I’d only seen the one with Horst Buchholz, but years prior to the shoot. I’d seen some scenes with Klaus Kinski, but I decided not to re-watch them before the shoot, because that would have been very odd for me, to see the acting and the work of other actors playing my part. That would have restrained me.
When we left you at the end of Captain America Civil War, Zemo was very much alive. Have you gotten any calls about coming back to return to the Marvel Universe again at some point?
The good thing is, Black Panther stopped me from killing myself, and I am very much alive in that prison. For me, it was very good to know that I’m not being killed. I hope that Zemo gets out of that box at some point. It’d be great. Even if I would know something, I would not be allowed to tell you. It’s all pretty secretive. Who knows? Hopefully he’s going to come back.
7 Days in Entebbe is out in theaters now.