June 2, 1932
|Other name(s)||Bruno S.|
The illegitimate son of a prostitute, Bruno was often beaten as a child, and spent much of his youth in mental institutions. He is a largely self-taught musician, who, over the years developed considerable skill on the piano, accordion, glockenspiel and handbells. He would play in back gardens performing 18th and 19th century style ballads at the weekends, while sustaining himself financially working as a forklift driver at a car plant. Schleinstein says he transmits (German: durchgeben) his songs, he doesn’t sing them.
Schleinstein was spotted by director Werner Herzog in the documentary Bruno der Schwarze - Es blies ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (1970). Herzog promptly cast Schleinstein (under the name Bruno S.) as his lead actor in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974), though he had no acting experience. Schleinstein also starred in Stroszek (1977), which Herzog wrote especially for him in four days. Stroszek has a number of biographical details from Schleinstein's life, including the use of his own flat as the home of Bruno Stroszek. He also plays his own instruments.
Herzog has claimed that Schleinstein was deeply suspicious of the director, and nervous of performing in front of the cameras — so had to be "listened to" for several hours on set in order to build his self-esteem. Schleinstein enjoyed fame in Berlin following the release of these films, but says now about himself, that "Everybody threw him away." Schleinstein remains somewhat enigmatic and has not acted since. Instead, he took up painting and music. Some of his artwork was shown at the 2004 Outsider Art Fair in New York City. He has now stopped smoking and drinking, and performs nightly. Recently, he released a CD of his music and songs.