The German film industry is in mourning after the death at 54 of actor Ulrich Muehe, the star of Oscar-winning international success The Lives Of Others.

Muehe, who played the secret police officer Gerd Wiesler in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's feature about 1980s East Germany, had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Aside from attending this year's Oscar ceremony in Los Angeles, at which The Lives Of Others took best foreign-language feature, Muehe also won several best actor plaudits for his role in the drama at the European Film Awards and German Film Awards among others. The feature took almost $70m worldwide, including $16m in the US and $17m in Germany.

This year Muehe had originally been attached to take the title role in Florian Gallenberger's World War Two drama John Rabe, a part that will now be taken by Ulrich Tukur.

He was also set to star alongside his wife Susanne Lothar in Michael Haneke's next feature Das Weisse Band Oder Die Erzaehlung Des Lehrers.

A graduate of the Hans Otto Theatre Academy in Leipzig, Muehe appeared on the stage in former East Germany before venturing into roles for television and film. He first came to attention for his performance as the opportunist Theodor Lose in Spider's Web, Bernhard Wicki's adaptation of the eponymous novel by Joseph Roth.

A versatile actor, he also received strong notices for his memorable performances in Michael Haneke's controversial Funny Games, Peter Fratzscher's ensemble film Sieben Monde and the Nina Grosse's historical drama Feuerreiter as well as satirical comedies like Schtonk! and Peanuts.

He also played a scheming state official in Thomas Bohn's action film Straight Shooter, the infamous Nazi war criminal Mengele in Costa Gavras' Amen, and a Jewish actor coaching Hitler in public speaking in Dani Levy's Mein Fuehrer.

Speaking about his work on The Lives Of Others last year, Muehe said: 'Florian didn't make any impression of being a raw beginner. He directed with such incredible energy and professionalism, and it was remarkable how he managed to shoot the film with the days we had. He just relentlessly held on.

'The thing is, there isn't anything hard-boiled about him and he really has brought his all into this film. What other directors might achieve after 20 years, he has done with just this one film.

About his own career Muehe added: 'I wouldn't say that I have any particular preference between the theatre, film or television. I am lucky to have a situation where I am able to work in every media, although the film roles have definitely increased percentage wise in recent years.

'It is often difficult to coordinate the acting commitments because films often happen at short notice. Suddenly, a production company has got the money together and you then have shoot very quickly, Theatre is more long term in its planning.'