Swiss actors & Actresses you didn’t know were from Switzerland

Swiss actors & Actresses you didn’t know were from Switzerland

From Hollywood blockbusters to arthouse classics, there are many film productions where Switzerland is used as a backdrop. Perhaps lesser known to avid moviegoers are the people of Switzerland’s contributions to the film industry in the form of top actors and actresses.

Actors and actresses from Switzerland

While not as famous as their German or Dutch counterparts, Switzerland has a tradition of providing Hollywood and European films with some of the best up-and-coming stars and experienced thespians. Here are 10 Swiss actors and actresses we think you should know:

Swiss actresses who made it big

When it comes to Swiss performers, for an English-speaking audience at least, people are more likely to have heard of Swiss actresses than their male counterparts. Here are some of the most famous actresses to emerge from Switzerland, and a few honourable mentions.

Ursula Andress

Perhaps the most famous Swiss performer on the global stage, Ursula Andress is known worldwide as an actress, model and pin-up girl for the teenagers of the 1960s and 70s. Born in Canton Bern in 1936, her first movie appearance was in An American in Rome in 1954. After a number of Italian movie credits, Andress would make the big leap to Hollywood.

And what a leap it was. After two unsuccessful stints at Paramount and Columbia, Andress returned to the screen in her most famous part as Honey Ryder in Dr. No, becoming the first ever “Bond girl.” She later remarked in relation to her part that her “bikini made me into a success” - in 2004, British broadcaster Channel Four named her emergence from the water in Dr. No the “Greatest Sexy Moment” put to film. 

Andress won a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in 1964 for her appearance in the film and would go on to act with a number of the top stars like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Today, she splits her time between Rome and her house in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad.

Video: James Bond 007 / YouTube

Marthe Keller

Another star of the screen is the marvellous Marthe Keller. Born in Basel in 1945, Keller initially studied to become a ballerina but had to give up on that dream after a skiing accident. Soon she switched to the stage, first playing at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin.

Her first foray into movie acting came in the 1966 film Funeral in Berlin featuring Michael Caine - although she wasn't credited for her appearance. Following a series of French and German film credits, her next big break was in 1976 with her performance in Marathon Man as Elsa Opel - she would be nominated for a Golden Globe as a result.

After a number of appearances in films such as Black Sunday and Bobby Deerfield, she would return to Europe to act on the silver screen, which she does to this day.

Marthe Graham

Image credit: Denis Makarenko /

Kat Graham

Born in Geneva in 1989, Kat Graham has had an interesting and diverse career so far. Her first appearance on television was when she was just six years old, acting in advertisements for Barbie, K-Mart and Pop-Tarts. She was soon scouted for her dancing talent, appearing as a backup dancer for Missy Elliot, Pharell Williams, Akon and Justin Bieber. She would also have her own career as a singer, with her song Sometimes reaching number four in the US dance charts in 2017.

Her first acting appearance was in a supporting role in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, where she plays one of the campers. After appearing in a number of American TV shows, her breakout role came in The Vampire Diaries television show, where she played the role of Bonnie Bennett. She would take over as the female lead of the show in 2015.

Kat Graham

Image credit: Andrea Raffin /

Honourable mentions: Renée Zellweger and Tina Turner

Now, although Renée Zellweger is herself an American, her father is from Au near St. Gallen, so we can give her a brief mention here. The Hollywood star needs no introduction, famous for her roles in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago and Cold Mountain, the latter of which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2003.

Secondly, the queen of rock herself, Tina Turner, became a Swiss citizen in 2013, having renounced her American citizenship and passed the Swiss naturalisation test. Despite being better known for her hit songs, the star has appeared in some films like Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, while providing the soundtracks for the second Lion King movie, and of course, the theme to Goldeneye. Tina Turner passed away at her home in Canton Zurich in May 2023.

Video: MrPhilmen / YouTube

Swiss actors you might know

While there are quite a few Swiss actresses that are commonly seen in English-speaking movies, the nation’s actors are perhaps lesser known. Therefore, to help you with your pub quiz trivia, here are five Swiss actors you need to know:

Bruno Ganz

The most famous actor to come out of Switzerland in recent times is the legendary Bruno Ganz. Born in Zurich in 1941, he would begin his career treading the boards of theatres in Germany and Austria, helping to found the Berliner Schaubühne ensemble and earning the title of Actor of the Year in 1973.

He would move into film acting in 1976 and soon find himself in the spotlight, acting opposite Klaus Kinski in the famous Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night and alongside Sir Laurence Olivier in The Boys from Brazil. The Reader and The Baader Meinhof Complex, two films that he starred in, would be nominated for Oscars.

Perhaps his most famous role was his portrayal of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the 2004 German film Downfall. His performance is regarded as one of the most effective portrayals of the figure ever, with The Guardian writing,  "The most convincing screen Hitler yet: an old, bent, sick dictator with the shaking hands of someone with Parkinson's, alternating between rage and despair in his last days in the bunker."

Bruno Ganz would pass away at his home in Au near Zurich in 2019 at the age of 77. During his acting career, he was given the Order of Merit in Germany, made a knight of the French Légion d'honneur and given the Iffland-Ring in 1996 - a ceremonial ring that is passed to the actor judged to be the "most significant and most worthy actor of German-speaking theatre." 

Video: Shout! Factory / YouTube

Daniel Bernhardt

From distinguished method actor to action movie star: Daniel Bernhardt is most famous for his appearances in adrenaline-fuelled films like Future War, Perfect Target and the TV series Mortal Kombat Conquest. The man from Canton Bern’s most famous roles were as Agent Johnson in The Matrix Reloaded and as Kirill, the Russian assassin from John Wick

Daniel Bernhardt

Image credit: DFree /

Mario Adorf

A veteran of stage and screen, Mario Adorf has had the longest film career on this list, acting from 1954 until this day. A German citizen but born in Zurich, the actor rose to fame through his role in the 1979 Oscar-winning film The Tin Drum as Alfred Matzerath.

However, even to the man himself, his career is a story of what might have been. In retrospect, the actor says he regretted declining roles in The Godfather and One, Two, Three.

Mario Adorf

Image credit: Denis Makarenko /

Vincent Perez

As both a director and actor, Vincent Perez has cemented himself as a reliable choice for any part or production. Born in Lausanne, his main achievements include playing the title character in The Crow: City of Angels, Queen of the Damned and his role in Paris enquêtes criminelles - the French version of Law & Order

Vincent Perez

Image credit: Denis Makarenko /

Joel Basman

Finally, perhaps an actor for the future, Joel Basman of Zurich is one of Switzerland’s rising stars, having started his acting career as a teenager named Zizou in the popular SRF weekly soap opera Lüthi und Blanc.

After graduating from the European Film Actor School in 2008, Basman would appear in a number of films including a bit part in the 2014 film The Monuments Men, before bagging a leading role in the TV comedy-drama The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch, which would be picked up by Netflix. His biggest break so far was playing Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassin, Gavrilo Princip, in The King's Man - definitely one to watch!

Famous Swiss people: There’s more than you might realise! 

While perhaps not the most well-known, Swiss actors and actresses have been prominent features of European and Hollywood cinema since its very beginning. Have a star-studded Swiss actor in mind that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Thumb image credit: taniavolobueva /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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