Sönke Wortmann

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Sönke Wortmann (Photo: Nikolai Karo)

Sönke Wortmann (* 25 August 1959 in Marl) is a German film director and film producer. He has directed films such as Eine Wahnsinnsehe (1990), Kleine Ha ie (1992), Das Wunder von Bern (2003) and Der Vorname (2018), as well as the first season of the series Charité.


Sönke Wortmann, the son of a miner, initially wanted to become a professional footballer after graduating from high school and played in the third highest division for Westfalia Herne and SpVgg Erkenschwick, among others. In 1980, he scored his first goal for Erkenschwick in a 3-0 victory over Bünder SV for promotion to the 2nd Bundesliga. According to his own statements, it was his only goal scored for Erkenschwick.[1] According to his own statement, he lacked the ambition for a great career, which is why he ended his career after three years in favour of studying.

He first studied sociology for a semester in Münster before enrolling at the University of Television and Film Munich to study directing in 1983. After also spending a year as an exchange student at London’s Royal College of Art, he successfully completed his studies in 1989. Alongside this, he worked as a taxi driver and actor, including in the Bavarian Radio television series Die glückliche Familie. He made his cinema debut as a director in 1991 with the film Allein unter Frauen starring Thomas Heinze, which attracted one million cinema-goers. Kleine Haie (1992), starring Jürgen Vogel, Kai Wiesinger and Gedeon Burkhard as budding drama students, was also a success and helped several actors to their breakthrough. The film Der bewegte Mann (The Moving Man), which was released in 1994, was one of the most successful post-war German films, attracting over 6.5 million moviegoers.

Das Superweib (1997), based on a novel by Hera Lind, was made by Wortmann with Veronica Ferres, ostensibly just to prove that “successful books can also be made into successful films”. Over 2.3 million people saw the film in German cinemas.[2] Campus (1998) had significantly fewer viewers.

Wortmann founded his own production company, Little Shark Entertainment GmbH, in 1998. Films such as Mr. Bluesman and the dramatic episodic film St. Pauli Nacht with Maruschka Detmers, for which Wortmann received good reviews, were commercial flops and lasted only a short time in the cinema. Der Himmel von Hollywood (Hollywood Heaven ), based on the novel by Leon de Winter, which he filmed in America in 2001 with Tom Berenger, Jacqueline Kim, Rod Steiger and Burt Reynolds, was not released in German cinemas until 2004 and did not run for very long either. The Miracle of Bern then became the second most successful German film of 2003 with over three million viewers.[3]

Wortmann accompanied the German national team with his camera during the 2005 Confederation Cup and the 2006 World Cup. Integrated into the team, he sat on the coach’s bench at every match and prepared films during the World Cup on behalf of national coach Jürgen Klinsmann, which were shown to the players before every match and got them in the mood for the game. The two-hour documentary about the World Cup, made from over 100 hours of film material, was shown to the German national soccer team as a preview on August 14, 2006 and was shown in cinemas on October 5, 2006 under the title Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen in the cinemas. The film was a huge success with more than four million viewers.

In 2009, Wortmann’s most elaborate film to date, the best-selling adaptation of The Pope Joan, was released. Wortmann had taken over as director in 2007 from Volker Schlöndorff, who had been developing the project for years. Franka Potente, who was originally slated to play the title role of the alleged Pope Joan, was replaced by Johanna Wokalek,[4] john Goodman and David Wenham were also cast as international stars. In Germany, the film, which cost over 20 million euros, reached around 2.5 million moviegoers, but failed to achieve major international success.[5] In 2015, Frau Müller muss weg, starring Anke Engelke and Justus von Dohnányi, was released, reaching over 1.2 million viewers and winning the Bavarian Film Award for the Best Screenplay category. In 2017, Wortmann shot the television series Charité (TV series). In 2018, the feature film Der Vorname (First Name ) was released in cinemas.Wortmann also directed the play Menschen im Hotel (People in a Hotel) at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus in2018[6] based on Vicki Baum.

He also shot commercials for Nike, Gerolsteiner, Bitburger, Sony, Air Berlin, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Prinzen Rolle, Nivea, DFB, König Pilsener, Früh Kölsch, Vodafone, Honda, Dresdner Bank, SolarWorld with Larry Hagman and HanseMerkur Insurance Group with Mario Gómez. There were also spots for AachenMünchener with Mario Adorf and for the Rewe Group with Lukas Podolski. Wortmann himself appears in a commercial for Deutsche Bahn AG, directed by Wim Wenders.

He was one of the founding members of the German Film Academy in 2003.

Sönke Wortmann is married to the actress Cecilia Kunz and has three children. He lives with his family in Düsseldorf.


Wortmann is an active member of the German national team of authors (Autonama).

From 3 April 2008, he supported the “DeinFussballClub” campaign, which sought to generate 30,000 members within a year, who would pay €39.95 per year. In return, they were to have a say in transfers, the conclusion of friendly matches, shirt colour, merchandising and other internal club matters. This initiative was modelled on Ebbsfleet United in the UK. The concept was presented to several clubs and in the end, SC Fortuna Köln was chosen as a partner (as was Sönke Wortmann). The club was thus saved from insolvency and now plays in the third division. “DeinFussballClub” counted 9,202 members and thus did not reach the hoped-for number of members. The initiative was therefore terminated in 2012.[7]

In 2006, Sönke Wortmann was committed to using proceeds from the film “Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen” were used to support the SOS Children’s Villages campaign “6 Villages for 2006”. All proceeds in the amount of 4.1 million euros were used for the construction and maintenance of the SOS Children’s Village in Recife, Brazil. In 2010, Sönke Wortmann received the Golden Badge of Honour of the SOS Children’s Villages. In 2014, he supported the benefit preview of the musical The Miracle of Bern at the Stage Theater in Hamburg.[8]

Sönke Wortmann is a member of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen. In the election of the German Federal President in 2010 and that of 2012, Wortmann was a member of the 14th and 15th Federal Assemblies, respectively, on the proposal of the Greens of North Rhine-Westphalia.[9]



As director

  • 1984: One and a half (short film)
  • 1985: Night Driver (short film)
  • 1986: Photo Finish (short film)
  • 1988: Marriage of Figaro (short film)
  • 1988: Three D (graduation film)
  • 1990: A mad marriage (TV movie)
  • 1991: Alone among women
  • 1992: Little sharks
  • 1993: Mr. Bluesman
  • 1994: The moving man
  • 1996: The Superwoman
  • 1996: Charley’s Aunt (TV movie)
  • 1998: The Campus
  • 1999: St. Pauli Night
  • 2001: Hollywood Heaven
  • 2003: The Miracle of Bern
  • 2006: Friends forever – Life is round (TV series for Sat.1)
  • 2006: Germany. A summer fairy tale (documentary film)
  • 2009: The Pope Joan
  • 2012: The wedding video
  • 2014: Lap prayers
  • 2015: Mrs. Müller must go!
  • 2017: Charité (Series)
  • 2017: Summer party
  • 2018: The first name
  • 2019: Contra

As a producer

  • 2001: Lammbock – Everything handmade
  • 2003: The Miracle of Bern
  • 2005: Arnie’s World
  • 2008: Hardcover
  • 2009: Hangtime – No easy game
  • 2011: An island called Udo
  • 2012: Glory
  • 2017: Lommbock

As a performer

  • 1987-1991: The Happy Family (Ritchie)
  • 1997: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

As artistic director

  • 2016: Germany. Your Self Portrait (Documentary)


  • 1996: Bullets over Broadway. Wortmann’s world premiere of Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus[10] was a great success with 70,000 spectators.
  • 1999: The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh, Düsseldorf Playhouse
  • 2012: Frau Müller muss weg by Lutz Hübner, Grips-Theater Berlin, was on the playbill for over 6 years.[11][12]
  • 2017: Welcome by Lutz Hübner and Sarah Nemitz, Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus.


  • The Miracle of Bern. Audiobook published by Hörverlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-89940-205-7.
  • Germany, a summer fairy tale. The World Cup Diary. Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-462-03759-5.


  • 1985: Special Award of the London Royal College of Art for Night Driver
  • 1988: Kodak-Eastman-Förderpreis at the International Hof Film Festival for Drei D
  • 1988: Nomination for the Student Oscar for Three D‘s
  • 1988: Film ribbon in gold (short film) for Noblesse oblige
  • 1990: Bavarian Television Award for Eine Wahnsinnsehe (A crazy marriage)
  • 1991: Director’s Award of the HypoVereinsbank for Alone Among Women
  • 1991: German Video Award for Alone Among Women
  • 1992: Film ribbon in gold for Little Sharks
  • 1992: Best Young Director at the World Film Festival for Little Sharks
  • 1992: Best Film at the Quebec Film Festival for Little Sharks
  • 1994: DIVA Award
  • 1994: Bambi for The Moving Man
  • 1994: Jupiter of the magazine Cinema for The Moving Man
  • 1995: German Film Award in the categories Best Film and Best Director for The Moving Man
  • 1995: Ernst Lubitsch Prize 1995 for The Moving Man
  • 1998: Bavarian Film Award for The Campus
  • 2003: Bavarian Film Award for The Miracle of Bern
  • 2004: Herbert Strate Prize for The Miracle of Bern
  • 2006: Bambi in the documentary category for Deutschland. A summer fairy tale
  • 2006: Leibniz-Ring-Hannover of the Presseclub Hannover and the City of Hannover
  • 2006: Honorary membership of Westfalia Herne
  • 2007: Adolf Grimme Award in the category Information & Culture for Germany. A summer fairy tale
  • 2007: Order of Merit of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
  • 2009: Grand Culture Prize of the Sparkassen Cultural Foundation Rhineland
  • 2010: Askania Award
  • 2012: Audience Award of the Week of Young Actors in Bensheim for Frau Müller muss weg (Theatre)
  • 2012: Audience Award of the 1st Festival of German Private Theatres Hamburg for Frau Müller muss weg (Theatre)


  • Manfred Hobsch, Ralf Krämer, Klaus Rathje: Filmszene D. Die 250 wichtigsten jungen deutschen Stars aus Kino und TV. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89602-511-2, p. 483 ff.
  • Tatjana Röber: Sönke Wortmann – Director. In: CineGraph – Lexikon zum deutschsprachigen Film, delivery 25, 1995.
  • Kay Weniger: The great encyclopedia of film. The actors, directors, cinematographers, producers, composers, screenwriters, film architects, set designers, costume designers, editors, sound technicians, make-up artists and special effects designers of the 20th century. Volume 8: T – Z. David Tomlinson – Theo Zwierski. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89602-340-3, p. 467 f.

Web links

Commons: Sönke Wortmann– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. When Sönke Wortmann shot Spvgg. Erkenschwick into the 2nd Bundesliga on from 18 May 2020; retrieved 26 March 2021
  2. Film Hit List: Jahresliste (deutsch) 1997(Memento of 31 July 2012 in Web Archive, Filmförderungsanstalt, retrieved 6 April 2012.
  3. Film Hit List: Jahresliste (deutsch) 2003(Memento of 18 September 2012 in Web Archive, Filmförderungsanstalt, retrieved 6 April 2012.
  4. cf. Peter Zander: First Gudrun Ensslin, now the Pope. In: Berliner Morgenpost. 15. May 2008, p. 21.
  5. cf. European box office figures in the Lumiere Europe-wide box office database and international box office results at Box Office Mojo
  6. D’haus-Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Junges Schauspiel Bürgerbühne:Menschen im Hotel, by Vicki Baum – in a version by Stephan Kaluza | D’haus – Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Junges Schauspiel, Bürgerbühne.Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  7. The end of football democracy. on: Time Online. 29 September 2011.
  9. List of nominations of the parliamentary group of the NRW Greens on the homepage of the parliamentary group chairmen(Memento of 1 May 2012 in the Internet Archive), 8 June 2010.
  10. The made man. In: Der Spiegel. 39/1996, p. 236 f.
  11. Why don’t you leave the kids alone? In: Der Tagesspiegel. 26. January 2012.
  12. Prominent is not enough. In: FAZ. 7. February 2012, p. 29.