• Leonie Benesch © Pascal Haas


Leonie Benesch © Pascal Haas

For over 25 years, the “European Shooting Stars” has directed attention to the most promising young actors from all over Europe, proving itself a vital springboard for their international careers. The list of German participants reads like a veritable Who’s Who of the national acting elite. In the last five years, Franz Rogowski, Emma Drogunova, Jonas Dassler, Albrecht Schuch and Emilio Sakraya were the chosen candidates. In February 2023, Leonie Benesch will be stepping into the spotlight as the German Shooting Star 2023 at the Berlinale. Good choice. Through prudence and smart career decisions, the 31-year-old has gradually acted her way to the top, making a name for herself abroad in the process. “That was important to me from the beginning and also the reason why I wanted to go to drama school in the UK,” she says. “The British market is very exciting. It was always one of my big dreams to get a foot in the door over there.”

Her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London honed her ability to think outside the box, ultimately landing her roles in prestigious productions such as THE CROWN and AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS or COUNTERPART. It wouldn’t be going too far out on a limb to predict that her career will take another huge leap forward in 2023. Leonie Benesch is playing one of the leading roles in the event series THE SWARM, based on Franz Schätzing’s international bestseller: one of the most lavish and costly European television productions of all time, it was developed by the American showrunner Frank Doelger (GAME OF THRONES). The most appealing aspect for Benesch was collaboration with colleagues from different countries. “It was incredibly enjoyable, also because it’s an ensemble piece with so many women,” she says. She recalls a dinner with Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Cécile de France and Krista Kosonen. “I sat at the table and I was thinking: Wow, all four of us women are playing fantastic roles. It was also a moment that showed me how the industry is changing, in a good direction.”

The mammoth project, shot mainly in Italy in the early summer of 2021, is celebrating its world premiere at the Berlinale: How fitting! A double reason, then, for Benesch to look forward to the German A-festival. She notes that being chosen as a “Shooting Star” could not have come at a better time: “I think it’s good that I can take part at almost 32, that I didn’t get the award when I was 18 or 20. That would have completely overwhelmed me. Now, I’m looking forward to the opportunity because I’ve developed a good sense of what kind of work and what kind of people interest me. That means I can view a highlight like the “Shooting Stars” programme at the Berlinale as a real gift.”

Leonie Benesch also shows good instinct in her choice of roles, among others with her latest feature film, which will be launched on cinema screens in 2023: She plays the lead role in THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE, the new film by writer and director Ilker Çatak. Here, she can be seen as a young, dedicated teacher who gets herself into a seemingly hopeless situation at her new school due to convoluted circumstances. The actor describes the work as “enriching, one of the most wonderful experiences, because it goes to the very heart of what filmmaking means to me”. It is all about a search, a questioning. “Ilker has captured something totally relevant with his material. It’s a commentary on our current culture of debate. THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE is the kind of project that explains why I do what I do,” Benesch sums up. And she feels comfortable in her current situation, which allows her to realise her idea of an acting career: “What’s important to me is the collaboration, people’s attitudes, the approac

Barbara Schuster