BBC News 24.01.2003


Hanks 'meets communist leader'

Actor Tom Hanks has reportedly met the former East Germany's last communist ruler in order to prepare for a film role.

Hanks flew to Berlin for lunch with Egon Krenz, the Berliner Morgenpost reported, according to the AFP news agency.

Krenz, 65, was jailed for his part in the state's shoot-to-kill policy against people who tried to flee to the West.

Hanks, 46, is to play the character of Dean Reed, a US country singer who lived in East Germany until his mysterious death in 1986.

Reed emigrated to East Germany in 1972 to pursue a romance.

He was found dead in 1986, slumped in his car by a lake near Berlin with his throat slit.

East German authorities described the incident at first as "a tragic accident", and later as the suicide of a heartbroken man.

His widow, actress Renate Blume, claimed he was murdered by the Stasi secret police because he was fed up and wanted to return to the US.

The case has never been solved.

Krenz, who was a close friend of Reed, is serving his sentence in an open prison and is allowed out during the day.

According to the newspaper, Hanks chatted with Krenz for an hour-and-a-half in the wine cellar of the Guy restaurant.

They talked about Krenz's memories of his friend, the report said.

"Mr Krenz and Mr Reed were good friends and that is why Mr Hanks wanted to speak with him about his life," Krenz's lawyer Robert Unger reportedly told the newspaper.

"At first Mr Krenz had no idea who Tom Hanks was. Krenz has nothing to do with (Hanks') film."

Hanks is currently starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the conman comedy Catch Me If You Can.

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