Seven Years in Tibet: About The Cast

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BRAD PITT (Heinrich Harrer)

Brad Pitt who stars as the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, has emerged as one of the most prominent actors of his generation following such diverse performances in recent films such as Legends of the Fall, Seven and Twelve Monkeys.

Pitt's role as the seductive hitchhiker in Ridley Scott's controversial Thelma & Louise first brought him national attention. He then went on to star as the psychopathic serial killer in Kalifornia, the charismatic but doomed Paul Maclean in Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It, and the bloodsucking Louis in Neil Jordan's Interview With A Vampire.

Pitt has been nominated twice for a Golden Globe - for his work as Tristan, the passionate, untamable brother in Legends of the Fall and his co-starring role in Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys. He won the award for his performance in the latter.

The young actor has recently had starring roles in two very diverse films. Barry Levinson's Sleepers, based on the novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra, featuring an extraordinary ensemble cast including Robert DeNiro, Jason Patric, Minnie Driver, Kevin Bacon and Dustin Hoffman, and Devil's Own, directed by Alan Pakula, co-starring Harrison Ford.

Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma and growing up in Springfield, Missouri, Pitt attended the University of Missouri at Columbia where he majored in Journalism with a focus on advertising. Before graduation he moved to Los Angeles to study advertising and graphic design but instead began to pursue an acting career, studying with Roy London. Soon after he began securing roles in various television projects including Glory Days, The Image and the critically acclaimed movie of the week, Too Young To Die.

On film, Pitt has also starred in Johnny Suede, which won the 1992 Golden Leopard Award for Best Picture at the Locarno Film Festival, Ralph Bakshi's Cool World and Tony Scott's True Romance.


DAVID THEWLIS (Peter Aufschnaiter) has as impressive body of work in film, television and theatre.

He made his mark on moviegoers with his starring role in Mike Leigh's Naked, a performance which earned him best actor awards from the Cannes Film Festival, the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics, the London Film Critics, the Evening Standard British Film Awards and runner up for the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Other film credits include Caroline Thompson's remake of the children's classic Black Beauty, David Jones' The Trial, Mark Peploe's Afraid of the Dark, Beeban Kidron's Vroom, Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet and Short & Curlies and Paul Greengrass' Resurrected.

More recently he starred in Michael Hoffman's Restoration opposite Robert Downey, Jr., Agnieska Holland's Total Eclipse and Rob Cohen's Dragonheart. He was the pessimistic earthworm's voice in Henry O. Selick's James and the Giant Peach.

His most recent work includes John Frankenheimer's The Island of Dr. Moreau, with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer and writer/director Paul Chart's thriller American Perfekt.

Thewlis has starred in such quality British television shows as Prime Suspect III with Helen Mirren, Only Fools and Horses and The Singing Detective. His other television credits include director Mike Hodges' Dandelion Dead, Deep Red Instant Love, Frank Stubbs, A Bit of a Do, and Journey to Knock for the BBC for which he won Best Actor at the Rheim Film Festival, Radio Pictures, Filipina Dreamgirls, Skullduggery, Road and Picture Friend.

In addition, Thewlis wrote, produced and directed the BAFTA nominated short film Hello, Hello, Hello for England's Channel 4. Thewlis' theatre credits include The Sea at the National Theatre, Ice Cream at the Royal Court, Lady and the Clarinet at the Kingshead Theatre, Buddy Holly at the Regal for the New Vic Theatre, Ruffian on the Stairs and The Woolley at the Farnham Theatre.

Born in Blackpool, England, Thewlis studied acting at the Guild Hall School of Music and Drama.


B.D. WONG (Ngawang Jigme)

Award-winning actor B.D. WONG stars as Ngawang Jigme. Wong has gone on to accumulate many film and television roles since his Tony Award-winning breakthrough performance in David Hwang's M. Butterfly on Broadway. Currently starring in the HBO dramatic series Oz, he will soon be seen on the big screen in the sequel to the The Substitute as well as lending his voice to a starring role in Disney's next animated feature, Mulan due in theaters summer 1998. Wong was most recently seen starring opposite Kurt Russell in the action-adventure hit Executive Decision and Martin Short in the popular Father of the Bride movies. Additional film credits include Jurassic Park, The Freshman with Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando and the acclaimed HBO telefilm And The Band Played On opposite Matthew Modine and Lily Tomlin.


MAKO (Tsarong) Japanese/American actor MAKO appears as Tsarong, the first man in Lhasa to extend the hand of friendship to Harrer.

Mako's feature film career spans more that thirty years, beginning with his first major film role as Po Han in The Sand Pebbles, opposite Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough. That role would earn him an Academy Award® nomination. Since then he has appeared in such films as Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tucker: the Man and His Dream, An Unremarkable Life, The Hawaiians and Rising Sun.

His expertise in martial arts has also given him roles in action films including Armed Response, Silent Assassins and The Perfect Weapon.

Born and raised in Japan, Mako moved to the United States in 1949. Originally studying for a career in architecture, he gravitated to art and then into directing. He enrolled in a drama class to enhance his directing skills and that led to formal study with Nola Shilsdon, an early disciple of Lee Strasberg.

He is the co-founder of The East/West Players, an Asian American theatre company.


JETSUN PEMA who portrays the Dalai Lama's mother, is actually His Holiness's sister. Five years younger than the Dalai Lama who was recognized as the Tibetan people's spiritual leader in 1939, she only knew her brother through hushed and respectful visists to Potala, Lhasa. She also remembers Heinrich Harrer. "He would carry me on his shoulders, and I would fiddle with his golden hair."

Her mother, known as the Great Mother who gave birth to three incarnate Lamas including the Dalai Lama, recognized the value of education, even for girls in the family. At the age of nine, Jetsun went to a Roman Catholic convent in India and later continued her education in England and Switzerland, where Harrer and his wife used to take her home for a good feed on exit weekends.

In 1964, Jetsun returned from her schooling to find her sister terminally ill. The Dalai Lama asked Jetsun then to take their sister's place in caring for refugee Tibetan children exiled by the Chinese invasion of their homeland. She recalls, "in a room 20 by 15 feet, there would be 200 children". With help from Australia, England, America, the Save the Children Fund and the Red Cross, there are now four children's villages and 17 schools looking after 10,000 children with a staff of 1,200.

After 30 years exile in India, Jetsun proudly explained, "we have educated 40,000 children. Today in the Tibetan community, 98% of our youngsters go to school".

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