Some weeks later Producer Georg Richter of Bavaria Film Co. saw him on a quiz program from a Munich television station. He was not acting—simply being himself; Richter guessed that, with women at least, it was quite a lot of self to be. He coaxed Toni into another screen test, and a star was incubated.
The scripts usually manage to have Toni on the ski slopes, and he finds film work more dangerous than racing. "You have to climb up the back way," he says, "so as not to spoil the snow. And by the time you get to the top you've forgotten what the slope looks like from below. When I was racing I would walk up and down every inch of the run, and I knew where everything was and just what I could do." He took some nasty tumbles in his film work, one of which nearly finished him by carrying him over a dangerous drop. Luckily he landed in soft snow.
Toni's fans are sometimes more dangerous than the ski runs. The teen-agers can scarcely keep their hands off him, and often don't. In Tokyo and on location at a Japanese ski resort he was mobbed by young girls. So great was the press of bodies around his hotel that he had to move into the home of a film executive. Even there he was besieged by autograph seekers at three in the morning. The girls told reporters that at that time of day they figured he was sure to be home. In provincial cities he was given the Japanese version of a ticker tape welcome, and in Nagano crowds refused to leave his hotel room, forcing him to hide out in the bathroom.
Japanese film critics, like those in Europe, were a little testy over Toni's successes. One review suggested that viewers went to study his ski techniques. But Director Yoshiaki Banjo insists that his "very amateurishness" appeals to the Japanese.
Toni is inclined to agree with his critics. He dislikes his awkwardness and the Tyrolean accent which limits him in the roles he plays. He is studying acting technique with Berlin Drama Coach Else Bongers, working on such difficult parts as Orin, the incestuous matricide in Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra. This, he believes, will deepen his interpretation of his part in Der weisse Traum, in which he portrays an ice hockey player and falls in love with a figure skater, played by Miss Bauer.
Though he has a firm grip on fame and fortune, Toni is still a young man on the move. He tears up the roads between Berlin and Vienna film studios and his other places of business in a flame-red Mercedes 190SL convertible. He is learning English, in case Hollywood ever makes a firm offer, which it is almost certain to do. He is still a bachelor, eligible but elusive, though his chances have ranged all the way from Tyrolean girls to well-advertised sirens. He is, so his friends in Kitzb�hel insist, a Tyrolean at heart—a simple mountain lad like any other, except that he has earned over half a million marks in three years. That's well over scale for simple mountain lads. After Cortina his mother told the world: "Toni has enough gilded medals now. It's time he started making money."
You can't blame a boy for minding his mother.