Originally trained as an Olympic swimmer, German actor Thomas Kretschmann began his career in the theater as part of the Schiller Ensemble in Berlin. In 1989, he started working steadily in German-language theater productions, television, and film. He moved to Vienna, Austria, in 1991 and won the Max Ophül prize for Best Young Actor. He broke into international feature films with the German war drama Stalingrad and the Italian thriller The Stendhal Syndrome. At this point, he was developing a knack for playing authority figures and other tough guys in action-packed situations. In addition to his numerous other appearances in European films, he gained pivotal roles in Coppia Omicida, Tease, and the American film Total Reality. In 2000, Hollywood was introduced to Kretschmann with the submarine adventure U-571 and the action thriller Blade II. Though he relocated to Hollywood, he continued working in international features for the historical epic I cavalieri che fecero l'impresa as well as Roman Polanski's The Pianist. Other projects for 2004 included a starring role in the romance Head in the Clouds and a return to submarine action for In Enemy Hands.