Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor who portrayed Adolf Hitler in Oscar-nominated film “Downfall” and the kindly grandfather in “Heidi”, died of cancer at his home in Zurich on Saturday, aged 77, his agent said.

Ganz had been active in German Language Theatre, film and television for more than 50 years and was the holder of the Iffland-Ring, the most important award for German-speaking actors.

“One of the most important actors of our times goes, his brilliant work remains. We mourn with the family and friends of Bruno Ganz,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a tweet.

Born to a Swiss mechanic father and a northern Italian mother, Ganz grew up in Zurich and decided to become an actor after a friendly lighting technician allowed him into a local theater.

It was not an easy path, with his family opposed to his career choice. “As a boy I was morbidly shy,” he recalled in one interview.

As a teenager Ganz dropped out of school to attend evening acting classes in Zurich where he also worked as a bookseller and trained as a paramedic.