German acting talent David Kross first shot to fame as the teenage lover of Kate Winslet’s character Hanna Schmitz in the Görlitz-filmed drama The Reader (2008). Ever since then, he has travelled the world to star in various German and international films.
In his latest film The Keeper, which has just been released at cinemas in the UK, David portrays Bremen-born goalkeeper Bert Trautmann (1923 – 2013) – a former German soldier, who first came to England as a prisoner of war, but later on became one of England’s most beloved football heroes ever.
In the summer of 2018, I met David Kross at a football stadium in Berlin to talk about football, films and film-inspired travel…
1. What attracted you to this film and the part of Bert Trautmann?
David Kross: Prior to being asked to participate in this film, I had never heard anything about Bert Trautmann. But I immediately thought that playing a footballer would be a pretty exciting thing to do. And then there is also this truly amazing story of a German soldier who ends up in a prisoner of war camp in England during World War 2 and gets discovered to play football for one of the best clubs in the country. During the war, he has experienced a lot of trauma, but cannot talk about it. And then of course, he not only has to cope with his own guilt, but that of his country and nation as a whole.
My film review of The Keeper – filmed in Northern Ireland, UK and Bavaria, Germany
David Kross at Bert Trautmann. © SquareOne Entertainment
2. I read in the production notes that the director of the film met with the real Bert Trautmann in 2010 for an interview. Have you had a chance to meet him, too?
David Kross: Yes, that’s correct. The director met him. But unfortunately, I have not been able to meet Bert Trautmann anymore. I was already aware of the film project when I heard that he had passed away in 2013. I was very sad to hear that and it was of course disappointing that I was not able to meet him anymore. This, however, also gave me a motivation boost. After that, I just wanted to make the best possible film, especially because it is such an important and touching story.
3. How did you prepare for the role of Bert Trautmann and especially for the football scenes?
David Kross: There are a few videos with Bert Trautmann available on YouTube, for example the scene in which he breaks his neck in the 1956 Cup Final. I tried to copy and imitate everything that can been seen in those videos. Then, I also had to get some physical goalkeeping training of course. I used to play football myself when I was younger, but never the goalkeeper position. So I had to start from scratch and learn things like: How do I stand inside the goal? How do I hold the ball? Where do I look? You just have to constantly stay on track so you eventually know these things by heart.
4. The film was shot in English. How did you know what Trautmann sounded like?
David Kross: There are a few video recordings in which the young Trautmann speaks English, so I used those to prepare for the film and get his accent right. At the beginning of the film, he still has a very heavy German accent, but as the film continues, he increasingly adapts to his surroundings and the Lancastrian accent that is spoken in Manchester. In real life, he eventually spoke a mix of a German accent and a Lancastrian accent. This little detail also tells a story in itself and was therefore quite important for the film.
5. What did you find particularly difficult regarding the role of Bert Trautmann?
David Kross: Playing a footballer was definitely a challenge. Plus, he was one of the best goalkeepers at that time. I had to work hard for all of that. That kind of physical work was new to me. But it was also a great challenge and it helped me getting into character. On one side, there were the football scenes which I wanted to play as accurately as possible. On the other side, there was this range of emotions with all those feelings of guilt and forgiveness, which is told through the love story between Bert and his wife Margaret (Freya Mavor). So there were these two different parts and they were both very demanding. But in the end, it was a great challenge.
"That kind of physical work was new to me."
Bert Trautmann and his British wife Margaret. © SquareOne Entertainment
6. You mentioned that you used to play football yourself. Is it true that as a child you either wanted to become an actor or a footballer?
David Kross: Yes, that’s true. That’s what I wrote into a questionnaire book that we passed around at school. The question was: What do you want to become one day? And my answer was: footballer or actor. I ended up becoming an actor. But with this film, I also got the opportunity to become a footballer after all (laughs).
7. Which position did you play back then?
David Kross: I usually played right midfield. I never was a goalkeeper.
8. Is it true, that your granddad was a big football fan, too?
David Kross: Yes, that’s true. In Todendorf, the small village where I grew up, he was kind of our coach. He always drove me to the training sessions, and I used to love watching a game with him.
9. Most of the filming for The Keeper took place in Bavaria, Germany and Northern Ireland, UK, notably Belfast. How long were you there for filming and what do you remember most about your time in Belfast?
David Kross: I think we were there for one or two months. After that, we continued shooting in Munich and Augsburg, Bavaria. What I remember most about Belfast is the harbour and the gym (laughs). After all, I had to stick to my training schedule for most of the time. There were some kind of special cranes that I remember. These were near the “Titanic Belfast” experience and the Game of Thrones studios.
10. Did you shoot some of the scenes in the Game of Thrones studios? For example those that take place in the small grocery shop?
David Kross: Those scenes were actually filmed in the Glockenbachviertel in Munich. So not in a studio at all. It looks like we are in Manchester, but we were in fact in Munich. Thanks to modern technology, these illusions work today (laughs).
Shooting "The Keeper" in Munich, Germany. © Aidan Monaghan/Zephyr Films Ltd
11. But the beach scenes were filmed in Northern Ireland, right?
David Kross: Yes, they were filmed in Northern Ireland. I don’t remember the name of the place though.
12. Your previous film projects have taken you all around the world. The filming for Same Same But Different (2009) took place in Kambodscha and Kuala Lumpur, Race (2016) was filmed in Canada and The Reader (2008) in Görlitz, East Germany. Is there a place that you particularly liked and would like to return to?
David Kross: When we were filming Race, I lived in Montréal, Canada for a while. That’s a beautiful city for sure. On one hand, Montréal is a North American city, but on the other hand it has that European influence because a lot of people speak French there. And then there is this mountain called “Mount Royal”. On Sundays, everyone goes there. There is a lot of music and just so much going on. I thought that was a really amazing place.
13. When you were shooting in Belfast, did you go out with the team sometimes to the local pubs?
David Kross: Of course. That’s always a big part of filming. After all, you do spend a lot of time with each other. So the pubs in Northern Ireland were really good fun because of all that music and everything that’s going on. I just had to watch my alcohol intake a bit because I had to stick to my strict training routine (laughs).
"Montréal was a really amazing place."
Scene from "The Keeper" filmed at a beach in Northern Ireland. © SquareOne Entertainment
14. How do you relax after filming has finished? Do you like to go travelling in your free time or do you prefer to stay at home in Berlin?
David Kross: Definitely travelling. I think travelling gives you a lot, particularly because you get so many new impressions from other parts of the world. After The Keeper was wrapped, I went surfing in Portugal. I didn’t have much time before I started shooting my next film, so it was good to get a break during which I could completely “switch off”.
15. What other countries are on your travel bucket list?
David Kross: The next country that I will visit is Costa Rica. I am really looking forward to that trip because I think there is a lot to discover, especially in terms of the nature and beaches.
16. Have you ever tried to find any film locations while you were travelling?
David Kross: When we were filming The Keeper in Belfast, the production crew pointed out some of the filming locations from Game of Thrones to us, for example the so-called “White Wall”. I think it’s pretty cool to see places you have already seen on screen. But I have never specifically looked out for any film locations myself.
"Berlin just is this super diverse city."
David Kross in "The Keeper". © SquareOne Entertainment
17. Are there any films or TV series that you like to watch in your time off?
David Kross: I have been on quite a long break from watching a TV series, so I haven’t watched anything lately. But I like to “binge watch” every now and then. The last Netflix series I watched was the one about Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar: Narcos. That was a really gripping series and I liked it a lot.
18. Are there any actors who you admire and that you look up to as role models?
David Kross: Yes, definitely. I was a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who unfortunately passed away in 2014. I also like Joaquim Phoenix and Daniel Day-Lewis. I do admire these actors for both their performances and their choice of roles.
19. Originally from a small town near Hamburg, you have been living in Berlin since 2010. Why did you move here?
David Kross: When I was 15 years old, I shot the German drama Tough Enough (OT: Knallhart) in Berlin and spent a lot of time in the city. Back then, I lived on my own for the very first time. The production company provided me with my own apartment and that was just great. From that moment onwards, there was no other option for me than Berlin. And of course, living in Berlin has been convenient for my acting work, too.
20. What do you like about Berlin?
David Kross: Berlin just is this super diverse city. I like the many different areas and neighbourhoods here. Plus, there is so much culture. I really like the fact that I’ve got so many good theatres to choose from and that there is always so much happening all around the city.
Thank you for the interview and good luck with your upcoming films and travels!
My film review of The Keeper – filmed in Northern Ireland, UK and Bavaria, Germany