Austrian actor Helmut Berger dead at 78

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Berger died 'peacefully but suddenly' just before his 79th birthday, his agent said
Berger died 'peacefully but suddenly' just before his 79th birthday, his agent said

Actor Helmut Berger, known for starring in films by Italian director Luchino Visconti, died Thursday in his home country of Austria at the age of 78, his agent said.

A polyglot who embraced a jet-setting lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Berger was remembered by his agent for having said: "I have lived three lives. And in four languages! I regret nothing!"

He died "peacefully but suddenly" just before his 79th birthday, agent Helmut Werner said.

Berger was among Visconti's favourite actors. The director noticed him for his dashing looks and cast him to play troubled aristocrats.

He became known for his roles in "The Damned" (1969), about the rise of Nazism, and "Ludwig" (1973), in which he starred as Ludwig of Bavaria, tormented by his repressed homosexuality, alongside Romy Schneider who played Sissi.

He also had a long love affair with Visconti until his death in 1976.

Berger's film career then slowed, and he was more often seen in the pages of celebrity gossip columns for leading "la dolce vita throughout his life," his agent said.

Drugs, attempted suicides, flashy affairs and scandals of all kinds marked his life.

He recounted it all in his 1998 memoire, "Me", with chapters including "In the same bed as Mick Jagger".

His last screen appearance was in the 2014 film "Saint Laurent" by French film director Bertrand Bonello, in which he played the aging couturier.