The Reader

Character: Hanna Schmitz
Created by: Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: David Hare
Produced by: Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti, Redmond Morris
Other cast: Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz
Release date: December 12, 2008
Genre: Drama
Running time: 124 minutes

THE READER opens in post-war Germany when teenager Michael Berg becomes ill and is helped home by Hanna, a stranger twice his age. Michael recovers from scarlet fever and seeks out Hanna to thank her. The two are quickly drawn into a passionate but secretive affair. Michael discovers that Hanna loves being read to and their physical relationship deepens. Hanna is enthralled as Michael reads to her from "The Odyssey," "Huck Finn" and "The Lady with the Little Dog." Despite their intense bond, Hanna mysteriously disappears one day and Michael is left confused and heartbroken. Eight years later, while Michael is a law student observing the Nazi war crime trials, he is stunned to find Hanna back in his life - this time as a defendant in the courtroom. As Hanna's past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. THE READER is a story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another.

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How far would you go to protect a secret?
Unlock the mystery.
Behind the mystery lies a truth that will make you question everything you know.


To avoid legal consequences, the crew delayed the filming of sexually explicit scenes until after actor David Kross’ 18th birthday on July 4 2008.

Stephen Daldry’s first choice for the lead role was Kate Winslet, who originally turned down the offer due to a scheduling conflict with Revolutionary Road (2008). When Nicole Kidman accepted the role, the producers built in a hiatus in order to allow her to finish filming Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008). However, by the time Kidman was set to begin her scenes on the film, she withdrew because of her pregnancy, vacating the role. Winslet, who was now available, agreed to replace Kidman.

David Kross learned English specially for the film.

Kate Winslet’s omission of Harvey Weinstein in her Oscar win acceptance speech was intentional. Even though she’d not been sexually propositioned by him, she found his aggressive ‘business behavior’ with her over the years to be downright repugnant and therefore purposefully did not thank him.

Ralph Fiennes was always first choice to play the adult Michael.

When selling the rights to his novel, Bernhard Schlink insisted that the film be shot in English.

Author Bernhard Schlink always envisioned Kate Winslet as playing Hanna.

Producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella both died before the completion of the movie. As the film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the Academy made an exception from their rules not to name more than three producers as nominees because of this rare circumstance. In the end the two producers Donna Gigliotti and Redmond Morris who took over duties were nominated as well as the posthumously honored Minghella and Pollack.

When Michael narrates: “I’m not frightened. I’m not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I’ll love. Danger will only increase my love, it will sharpen it, it will give it spice.[…]” he is quoting from “Intrigue and Love” by 18th Century German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller.

Shot over a period of a year.

Production designer Brigitte Broch emigrated from her native Germany in the early 1990s, mainly out of protest at the atrocities that her previous generation committed or tolerated during World War II, settling in Mexico. The Reader (2008) marks the first time she returned to Germany.

In the film version of The Reader, young Michael Berg’s sickness is scarlet fever, while in the book he got hepatitis.

The Reader is the first English speaking role of German actor David Kross although he had previously played lead roles in German movies such as Tough Enough (2006) and Krabat and the Legend of the Satanic Mill (2008).

Kate Winslet originally campaigned in the Supporting Actress category so as not to upset her chances in the Lead Actress category where she was up for her role in Revolutionary Road (2008). That worked in her favor at the Golden Globes but Academy voters overwhelmingly went for her as Lead for The Reader (2008).

The film’s original cinematographer was Roger Deakins. From September to October 2007, he shot scenes that didn’t feature the character Hanna and shot all the sequences with Ralph Fiennes as the adult protagonist. After filming was shut down (to give Nicole Kidman, who had been cast as Hanna, time to finish filming Australia (2008) before joining the production), Deakins left to shoot Doubt (2008) and begin pre-production on A Serious Man (2009). Once Kidman withdrew from the film and was replaced by Kate Winslet, filming resumed in March 2008; the new cinematographer, Chris Menges, shot all of Winslet’s scenes.

Before Kate Winslet accepted the role of Hanna, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard and Naomi Watts were considered for the part.

Despite the poster showing Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes’ characters together when Winslet’s is still young, Fiennes only has one scene with her when she is much older.

Kate Winslet’s Best Actress Oscar winning performance was the only nominee in the category in a Best Picture nominee that year.

Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this film, but Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes for the same film. All four of her fellow nominees (Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo and Anne Hathaway) in the Best Actress category at the Academy Awards that year have won Best Supporting Actress Oscars at one point in their careers.

Anthony Minghella snapped up the film rights before the novel was published with the intention of writing and directing the film himself. David Hare was very keen to adapt the novel but Minghella refused. Eight years later Minghella went to Hare and asked him to write the screenplay as he simply couldn’t find the time to do it himself. Ironically, Minghella died prematurely following an operation during the film’s production.

Juliette Binoche was considered for the role of Hanna Schmitz.

Three composers were considered to compose the original music – Nico Muhly, Ozren K. Glaser and Alberto Iglesias.

Angelina Jolie was considered for the lead role.

In 2009, Winslet and Oprah chatted about her nude and sex scenes in The Reader and Oprah told her, “God bless your real breasts!” and thanked her for not using a body double.

The only film that year to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but not at the Producers Guild of America Awards.

Talking with The Sun in 2012 about her nude scenes in this and other films, Kate Winslet admitted “I look like the people that walk down the street. I don’t have perfect boobs, I don’t have zero cellulite. Of course I don’t, and I’m curvy. If that is something that makes women feel empowered in any way, that’s great. On a deeper, subconscious level, it’s one of the reasons why I’ve allowed my stupid self to be so naked on screen,” Winslet said. “It’s partly because I do believe that it’s right for the character and it’s right for the story but it’s also knowing that not many people do that, actually, and not just that, but I’m a normal person.”

Character Quotes:

“It doesn’t matter what I feel. It doesn’t matter what I think. The dead are still dead.”

“You don’t have the power to upset me. You don’t matter enough to upset me.”

“Kid, you thought we could make love in a tram?”

“We’re changing the order we do things. Read to me first, kid. Then we make love.”

“You don’t have the power to upset me. You don’t matter enough to upset me.”