Throughout his 27-year TV and film career, German actor Hannes Jaenicke has played a variety of roles in both English and German-speaking productions. From American movies such as Venomous and Catherine the Great, in which he starred opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones, to popular German TV dramas such as Sardsch and Post Mortem, the 51-year-old, renowned for his love of BMW motorcycles, has recently taken on a new role: environmental campaigner.
After filming a successful documentary series on endangered species including orang-utans, sharks, gorillas and dolphins, and the destruction of their natural habitats, Hannes was asked to write a book on his experiences. Wut allein reicht nicht (Anger alone is not enough) was published last autumn and is another production for which the actor is entitled to feel proud.
“I was approached by several publishers after the documentaries appeared on ZDF,” says Hannes, “but initially I had to decline due to a lack of time. Then there was a particularly persistent editor at Bertelsmann, who published Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth. So eventually, I gave in. It took a long time to write, but I think it was worth it.”
The book uncovers the environmental crimes committed against the planet on a daily basis, such as the extinction of countless species and the destructive effects of climate change. Although his reports and photographs on expropriation, torture, maltreatment and killings are intended to shock, Hannes’ aim is also to show the first steps to bring about change. He highlights a useful environment and climate protection programme, which will protect the earth from human exploitation.
So what do his fellow actors think about his latest work? “There was an amazingly positive response to the TV series among the general public, but people in my line of work tend to be quite critical,” admits Hannes. “They don’t really understand why an actor should be making a film about animals.
“But the general response was so positive that even companies like REWE [a huge retail and tourism group based in Germany] issued a press release after the shark film was broadcast saying it would remove all shark products from its shelves. When you get results like that, you know you’ve won.”
Although it’s increasingly common for celebrities to campaign for social, political and environmental issues elsewhere in the world, Hannes is one of a few famous faces in Germany willing to put their name to such causes.
“In Germany, people are a little more guarded. I think many are afraid to commit, because you’re bound to get criticised. When I made the first film about orang-utans in Borneo, I really got a bashing in the press. You simply have to live with it, but to be honest, I really couldn't care less.”
Away from the public eye, however, Hannes has another passion, which undoubtedly helps him to escape the pressure. In his free time, the motorcycle enthusiast enjoys riding a K 1300 R, BMW Motorrad’s most powerful naked roadster, and is also a fan of the brand’s GS motorcycles and its S 1000 RR race bike. He has also spent considerable time on the K 1300 S and was even recently seen arriving at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival last month on a six cylinder K 1600 GT. But how does he balance his new role as environmental campaigner with his self-confessed obsession with speed on two wheels?
“One reason I’m a motorcycle fan is because you never get stuck in traffic or have problems finding a parking space,” he says. “If you add it all up, I probably save an hour a day by not driving a car. Motorcycles are more economical to run and it’s actually a very environmentally friendly way to travel. Everyone complains about there being too much traffic. If we all travelled on two wheels, we wouldn't have these problems.”
Aside from the environmental benefits of travelling on two wheels, Hannes also admits he finds it more fun than four. “Ever since I was a kid I've always preferred to travel on two wheels. I simply find it more exciting.”
At a recent book signing at the flagship BMW Motorrad Zentrum dealership in Munich, the actor revealed that he is hoping to join the annual BMW Motorrad Days event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen this July. “I was there for two days last year. It was great to meet BMW riders from all over the world – some of them came on their GS bikes all the way from places like Russia, Italy and Spain. It was simply great to hang out with like-minded people. If I can organise it and don't happen to be shooting at the time, then I'll definitely be there – it really was a lot of fun.”
Finding time for his beloved BMW motorcycles might prove difficult over the coming months, however. Hannes’ next acting role is in a film about the German legal system, “a highly controversial script,” he adds. He is also preparing a documentary about the disposal of carbon dioxide. “Mrs Merkl and Mr Röttgen plan to take the CO2 emitted into the air and inject it into the ground, so we can go on driving 4x4s. It's such a stupid idea, I’d like to make a documentary about it. I definitely intend to go on doing what I do – working as an actor to pay the rent, and making little documentaries on the side. And riding my motorcycles, of course.”
For more information on Wut allein reicht nicht and author Hannes Jaenicke, please visit www.wut-allein-reicht-nicht.de