Actor Til Schweiger on what drives him – and his passion for playing host.
„I want to do everything as well as possible.“
Mr. Schweiger, your drive seems to be inexhaustible. Where do you get all that ambition?
Ambition has too many negative connotations for me. I want to do everything as well as possible. When I tackle something, I take it seriously – I have never liked dabbling in this and that. Unlike my two brothers, for example, I revised painstakingly for my school-leaving examination. I got up at five in the morning, did my workout routine from beginning to end, reviewed, went to school, and then reviewed and reviewed again after that. No parties, no going out. I’m just as determined when it comes to making my films – or actually everything in my life.
Do you ever allow yourself to make mistakes?
Particularly in the Barefood Deli, my restaurant, I have made many mistakes. [Laughs] But only those who are willing to make mistakes achieve anything. Are you familiar with the genius speech that former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt gave, “The Man in the Arena”?
„The Sky is the limit.“
To be honest, no.
[Grins] When I heard it, I thought, that’s me. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.” An amazing speech.
Even off the set, there are not many actors in Germany who compare when it comes to activity. It’s more likely in the U.S.: Robert De Niro with his sushi restaurants, but especially Paul Newman with Newman’s Own, his organic food empire. Did you model yourself after those fellow actors?
I don’t have any true models, but I consider Paul Newman to be one of the greats. And I tell my people, “The sky’s the limit. Think Newman’s Own”. He started with a salad dressing and built an empire from it. Anything is possible.
Turning films into a tangible experience.
Production studio, restaurant, your own beer, fashion collections, soon a hotel – you are a one-man corporation. How did you get there?
In boxing we talk of “rolling with the punches”. One thing led to another. I only became an actor because I was embarrassed that my dream profession – teaching – didn’t work out. At the beginning of the 1980s, there was a glut of teachers. It wouldn’t have made any sense to join the end of the line.
But isn’t being an actor, a writer and a director of blockbuster films enough?
I never planned to open a restaurant or a hotel. But when someone came to me with the idea of turning my films into a tangible experience – that is, starting my online shop, Barefoot Living – while I thought it was a good idea, it struck me as somewhat virtual.
Then, in an interview, I mentioned in passing how cool it would be to develop a whole hotel. Mirko Stemmler read that interview and called me. We became business partners – and, two years later, we have a hotel. It will open in June.
Peace and quiet is not your thing, is it?
Well, spending two weeks at my home in Majorca, relaxing by the pool and playing with my dogs – that’s great. But then I get bored. I start making plans again, like for Barefoot Bakery.
Til Schweiger mixes with bakers?
That will open in Hamburg this year, too.
„Two things are important: honesty and passion.“
How easy is it for you to relax by the pool on your own for two weeks?
The older I get, the worse it is for me to be alone. Just getting a chance to breathe and be alone for a day – OK. But I am just not made for that kind of thing. When I was a child, I used to read a lot, but now I hardly get a chance to. I have friends who do the Camino de Santiago trail. Me, though, I just like having people around me. I bring people together at dinner, at my house in Majorca, and in Malibu, too – people who don’t yet know one another, but who I have a feeling would get along. The best thing is when they then make friends. Now many of them work together or pass jobs on to one another.
Is that what motivates you in everything you do: being a good host?
I get huge satisfaction from being productive, when something is being created, even if it’s just a good feeling. For example, I constantly have people visiting at my finca in Majorca. I myself don’t go there often. But it makes me happy to get photos and stories on WhatsApp.
„I trust my gut.“
No one builds a corporate empire on their own – you need a team. What criteria do you use to pick people?
Two things are important to me: honesty and passion. My intuition tells me pretty quickly whether or not someone is honest. And passion, that turns up in everyday dealings with them: Does someone enjoy coming to work? Does what they do really fire them up? I try to surround myself with people who are not just good, but also have a glow in their eyes.
Are there people who argue with Til Schweiger and with whom you discuss business decisions – in other words, real sparring partners?
I don’t need a sparring partner, or possibly only when I’m boxing. [Laughs] I trust my gut. My ex-wife sometimes criticised me for being “too opinionated” and blurting out my judgements too quickly. But looking back on my life to date, I have to say that I only made the wrong decisions when I didn’t trust my gut feeling.
„I was born under a lucky star.“
There is almost no one else who has as much appeal for so many people in Germany’s living rooms and cinemas. Where do you get this confidence?
I think I have an unusually mainstream personality. I like mainstream music and mainstream films. For my most recent films, I picked four songs that later became number one hits. And although lots of things go wrong at my restaurant, no one comes in and says, “This doesn’t feel good”. Female reporters tell me that I have feminine taste. I don’t mind. Many might call it feminine, but I just call it timeless.
Would it be fair to describe Til Schweiger as happy?
Absolutely. I was born under a lucky star.
How do you mean that?
That doesn’t mean that I wake up laughing every morning – the world does not seem absolutely bright right now. But I can say that I lead a rich life. Hardly ever in my life have I wondered, “When will the weekend finally get here?” I enjoy what I do every day. And that is the main thing that drives what I do: enjoyment.