He was born in Eutin, Germany. After abandoning his studies, he worked as a sailor, taxi driver, drummer and journalist in Hamburg. He played at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg under Gustaf Gründgens. He made his « acting » debut in Immensee (1943), a movie by the infamous Nazi propaganda director Veit Harlan, when he was eight months old. In 1981, his film Desperado City won the Golden Camera in Cannes.He was member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival 1989.