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Where are they now? Erich Redman, BA European Business Administration


Erich Redman on the set of RushWith a CV that boasts roles in major Hollywood movies working alongside some of the biggest names in the business, the fact that Middlesex alumnus Erich Redman graduated with a BA European Business Administration (BAEBA) degree might seem unusual.

Most actors begin life at drama school or studying a degree in performing arts, but Erich took an altogether different route and he is the first to admit that becoming an actor was never part of his career plan as a student.

While fellow BAEBA alumni have forged impressive names for themselves in international business or finance, Erich's career took an alternative trajectory and to date his film credits include 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The Illusionist', 'Charlotte Gray', 'United 93' and 'Captain America'.

He has worked with directors including Steven Spielberg, Paul Greengrass and Sir Richard Attenborough and appeared on the big screen alongside the likes of Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon and Edward Norton.

After featuring in Ron Howard's critically-acclaimed 2013 Formula One film 'Rush', Erich is now set to feature in Harvey Weinstein's latest production.

Though details are still closely guarded, Erich reprises the role of a German Officer in the movie mogul's new 'World War Two project', and it is a role he knows only too well.

Due for release later this year 'Allies' is a WWII film based on a true story  which sees him play the bad guy attempting to capture a crack team of US commandos sent on a mission behind enemy lines.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Erich's nationality has meant frequent casting as a German soldier in WWII films but he treats this with trademark good humour.

"Because I'm older my parts have changed a little and it's starting to get more interesting," he explained.

Erich Redman in Saving Private Ryan"I'm too old to play German soldiers now, I'm not really up to throwing myself into ditches anymore. They're very clichéd roles and usually get killed off in the first couple of scenes.

"German officers are a bit older, they have more dialogue and usually survive until the end of the film so it's a bit more interesting to play them!"

Hollywood's love of bad guys with Germanic accents has provided an interesting career for Erich, and it is far removed from the career he could have had.

Born in the former Soviet Union to German immigrant parents, Erich spent his early childhood growing up in Tajikistan and until the age of eight "had a Russian education at a Russian school and had a little red star and a picture of Lenin on my uniform".

In 1972, a treaty between Germany and Russia allowed Erich's parents to return to their native home. The family grabbed the opportunity and moved to Wolfsburg where relatives lived.

Encouraged by his father who "told me not to end up like him working with his hands but to study hard so I could work with my head"; Erich got good grades from a well respected school in Germany and was accepted on to a degree programme at Reutlingen University.

The course included two years studying at Middlesex and undertaking a work placement in London. Erich felt at home in England straight away.

"I liked the English psyche and fell in love with the English way of life. In north Germany people are quite austere, they don't smile a lot and are quite serious. English people were much friendlier."

Looking back, Erich says he realised that perhaps the degree was not the right course for him but he credits it with nurturing a work ethic and discipline that have helped him carve out his acting career.

Though he considered dropping out, growing up as a working-class immigrant had left him determined not to quit and anxious to make his parents proud, so he persevered.Erich Redman in Charlotte Gray

"An acting career was certainly not planned," he revealed. "I did the usual thing after graduation where I applied to various business jobs. I had an introductory interview with the BBC World Service but I didn't get in."

After taking on a number of dissatisfying jobs, he became a German copywriter at a firm in Soho, translating English adverts and adjusting them for the German market. It was here that he accidentally stumbled into acting.

"One day in September 1991 I got a call saying that they needed a voiceover artist for a Häagen Daz advert as one of the actors had pulled out.

"There was an actor from Indiana Jones and another guy, and then there was me with my squeaky little voice. I wasn't as good as them, but I managed to give an OK performance, and found performing in front of an audience - the advertising guys and the producer - exhilarating.

"I went home and didn't think anything more about it, but the next day I got a call and they told me that I could invoice them £60 for the hour's work. This seemed like an amazing rate of pay so I thought 'maybe this is what I should do'."

In his eagerness, Erich headed straight to the library and took out all of the adult education magazines he could find and enrolled on a number of courses, including an acting course.

"Three months later the course came around and in the first hour I was just bitten by the bug. It gave me such a rush, and all I could think was how incredible it was that people made their living doing this.

"I made the decision then and there to just focus on acting and voiceovers and put my business career on the back seat."

Erich Redman in Ghost Recon AlphaOver the next three or four years, Erich took as many different acting classes as he could, found himself an agent and slowly began building his network within the industry, but it hasn't been without its difficulties.

"I've had a few occasions where I've had a bit of a break and I've thought I was close, but it's never quite become the big break that means I can relax a bit and the jobs will just come in. I'm still at the stage where I have to chase things.

"The actor's life can be very up and down. If you're not one of the big stars you have a lot of dry periods and you have to keep yourself going."

German voiceovers, which used to be his "bread and butter", have also become harder to come by as the internet has made it easier and cheaper for casting directors to employ actors based in Germany.

But there certainly aren't any regrets.

"You could be slogging your life away and do 40 years of something you don't believe in. At least if you're doing something you love doing you're going to be happy."

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