Johanna Penski died: She was an extra in over 1000 films


She had them all. Johanna Penski has stood at the side of the big stars in over 1000 films. She didn’t speak much. The Berliner was Germany’s most famous extra.

Last Monday, at the age of 93, she fell asleep peacefully in her small senior apartment.

Her life could have been a script: Born on July 3, 1927 in what is now Poland, at the age of 17 she played an extra role in the Nazi propaganda film “Kolberg” (1944). Nevertheless, it took 45 years before Johanna Penski was drawn back to film.

“Because it always takes me a long time to learn the text,” she later recalled. So the young woman in West Berlin became a sports teacher, got married and had two children. Her husband died in the late 1960s.

Penski with Matthias Schweighöfer

Photo: Stefanie Herbst

After retiring, the agile widow started her second career. Her first role: “Der Spatzenmörder” (1989) with Hans Clarin. A short time later, Wim Wenders became aware of her and hired her for “In weit Ferne, so nah!” (1993).

In “1 1/2 Ritter” (2008) Johanna Penski shot alongside her idol Johannes Heesters.

Teaser picture

Johanna Penski on the set with Johannes Heesters and Til Schweiger (l.)

Photo: Stefanie Herbst

She made her biggest appearance at 86 in telecom advertising, which was about her own life story. The sprightly senior was in front of the camera until 2017. In 2018 she moved from her Tempelhof apartment to a retirement home and gave up acting.

Perhaps also because she “died 1,000 deaths” from stage fright until the very end before every performance …

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