Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick highlights the increasing global appeal of Germany's talent base when he points out that more than 10 German actors and actresses had roles in international productions at this year's festival. These range from Julia Jentsch in Jiri Menzel's I Served The King Of England through Moritz Bleibtreu's appearances in Paul Schrader's The Walker and the Taviani brothers' The Lark Farm to Peter Ketnath's lead role in Brazilian film-maker Paulo Caldas' Happy Desert.

But despite German actors routinely being cast in overseas projects - see also Franka Potente, Thomas Kretschmann and Daniel Bruhl - they are no guarantee of success at home. 'In the cinema, there are hardly any names which by themselves would entice audiences into the cinemas,' suggests talent agent Sigrid Narjes of Above The Line.

X-Filme Creative Pool's Andro Steinborn agrees: 'I don't think we really have anyone now where at least 500,000 people would go to the cinema just because of the name on the poster.'

Til Schweiger is not the draw he used to be: his latest film Where Is Fred' sold a respectable, but hardly earth-shattering 800,000 tickets. Meanwhile, audiences prefer to see top comedian Michael 'Bully' Herbig in the flesh rather than just as the voice of a 3D computer animated character if the box office performance of Hui Buh: The Castle Ghost is anything to go by. It was seen by 2 million cinema-goers whereas his own films Dreamship Surprise - Period 1 and Manitou's Shoe attracted audiences of 9 million and 11 million respectively.

The creation of a star system in Germany is not helped by the reluctance of many German actors to being labelled as stars in the age of Pop Idol and Big Brother. 'The concept has become hackneyed because everything is so short-lived,' says Johanna Wokalek, chosen as Germany's Shooting Star last year. 'People are constantly talking about stars, stars, stars - I often think one should perhaps invent a new definition. But my impetus for this profession is simply that I just have to act.'