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(Appolonia Margarete Steiff)

Scene from "Appolonia Margarete Steiff" (photo © Film-Line)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 03/2005

Producers Arno Ortmair and Dieter Pochlatko started the year with a feature film based on the life of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (with John Malkovich in the title role) and have now followed it with a “TV event” on Margarete Steiff, the inventor of the teddy bear, in Austrian director-cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger’s Appolonia Margarete Steiff.

“I was approached by a young screenwriting duo from Karlsruhe, Susanne Beck and Thomas Eifler, with the idea for the TV movie, but we were clear that we didn’t want to make a biopic on her life,” says Ortmair who works out of the Bayerisches Filmzentrum on the Bavaria Film studio lot.

Loosely based on Steiff’s life, the film tells the story of a woman disabled from childhood who successfully battled through life with an unwavering optimism and determination despite all of the hurdles put in her way. As the creator of the Steiff teddy bears, she goes from being an outsider shunned by many in her community to one of the leading employers in her home town and the founder of a world-famous company.

“We spent a very long time looking for someone to play Steiff,” Ortmair recalls. “It was difficult to find someone who could convincingly play a disabled person. It had to be someone who has to sit in a wheelchair all of the time and yet convey emotions, an actress who can show great expressiveness with just her face. And she also has to have something modern about her person.”

The choice fell on Heike Makatsch, whose previous credits have included the TV two-parter Das Wunder von Lengede, Ed Herzog’s Almost Heaven, and such international feature films as Love, Actually.

“She [Steiff] is an example that one could also keep drawing inspiration from today,” says Makatsch. “Now and then, it is almost good to have to live with restrictions – just like the paralyzed Margarete Steiff. That can also be liberating.”

For Makatsch, the role of Margarete Steiff is “a stroke of luck. It is a role which has many facets including emotional ones, and is one that gives you a lot.”

Genre Drama

Year of Production 2005
Director Xaver Schwarzenberger
Screenplay Susanne Beck, Thomas Eifler
Cinematography Xaver Schwarzenberger
Helga Borsche
Petra Heim
Cast Heike Makatsch, Suzanne von Borsody, Herbert Knaup, Felix Eitner, Hary Prinz, Bernadette Heerwagen, Harald Krassnitzer
Producers Arno Ortmair, Dieter Pochlatko
Production Companies Film-Line/Munich, epo-film/Vienna, in co-production with SWR, BR, ORF/Vienna, ARTE, RAI/Bolzano, Beta Film
Format 35 mm, color
Shooting Dates Schwaebisch Hall, Bad Wimpfen, Giengen an der Brenz, Vienna, May-June 2005
With backing from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern, MFG Baden-Württemberg, MEDIA +, Filmfonds Wien, RTR Fundfunk, Telekom Regulierung

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