He was known for difficult character roles, mainly on television and in the theatre. Now the actor Ernst Jacobi is dead. He died at the age of 88, as his management announced to the German Press Agency on Thursday. He fell asleep peacefully. Jacobi, who was born in Berlin and lived in Munich, played, among other things, the role of Gauleiter Löbsack in Volker Schlöndorff’s Grass adaptation “The Tin Drum”. He was also the narrator in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon.
You never saw him in funny roles. “Yes, I’m just found difficult,” he said in an interview with “BR-alpha” around 2008. He doesn’t think he’s complicated at all. In the interview, he explained that he kept playing the difficult characters: «Either the people had a very good eye and thought that I should actually be able to do it, that I would do it; I don’t know how they saw it. Or it was simply an experiment that they said: ‘Well, let’s try that out now.’ And then it went well and so suddenly you had a specialist for such roles (…).»
Also active in Zurich
Jacobi began his career in theater in the 1950s. After graduating from high school, he completed his acting training in Berlin, and later also took classes in Paris. From Berlin he was drawn to the big houses, including the Burgtheater in Vienna and the Schauspielhaus in Zurich.
He was also seen on television for decades: he embodied well over 200 TV roles. A few years ago he appeared in smaller roles, for example in “Rote Rosen”. He played one of his last roles in 2017 in “Polizeiruf 110”, since then, according to his management, he has lived in seclusion.
Also works as a voice actor
Jacobi also worked a lot with his voice behind the camera. He recorded audio books and set films to music. For example in the cartoon “Peter Pan”: German-speaking voices had to be found for the cartoon from 1953 at the time. “At the age of only 20, I took on the leading role of the boy who never wanted to grow up,” said Jacobi in an interview for the “The Sound of Disney” 2020 exhibition in Frankfurt am Main. He had seen the film again after almost 70 years.
What was it like seeing the film again after such a long time? “I was totally surprised,” he said at the time, sitting in an armchair. Of course he forgot a lot of things, which then came back. He thought the film was wonderful. “And I didn’t even know that I (…) had so much strength and desire and confidence at the time,” he said. “I remember it harder.”
His presence, which surprised Jacobi himself, brought him awards and a lot of praise. The “FAZ” once wrote in the 1990s that you could watch Jacobi assembling figures: “strict and factual”. But you can always see how he tries to get these figures to take off: as if they were destined for something higher. “A lot of things seem more important to him than they are. Other actors strive for profundity. Ernst Jacobi strives for high spirits.»