Paul Eilers

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Paul Eilers (1944-2019). Actor, director, producer, news reader, and radio personality.


Paul Cornelius Eilers was born on 5 November 1944 in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, South Africa. At the time of his birth, his father, Marthinus Johannes Eilers (1912-1949), was 32 and his mother, Johanna Susanna Eilers (1916-1988), was 27. The couple married in 1932.

In terms of their careers, his father served in the army, while his mother worked as a matron in a local prison.

Paul Eilers was one of five siblings. His youngest brother, Hendrick Johannes Eilers (1932-1933), died at the age of one, soon after his parents’ marriage. His remaining siblings included: Elizabeth Petronella Eilers (1934-), Marthinus Johannes Eilers (1936-1992), and Petrus Eilers (1938-1974). The family relocated to Kimberley (where the Eilers’ had lived for three generations) soon after Petrus’ birth.

He died in his Oudtshoorn home on 28 June 2019 at the age of 74.

Early years and training

Paul Eilers attended high school at Noord Technical College, which offered subjects in Music, Academics, and Technical Studies. He displayed a keen interest in rugby and athletics early on and was also cast in his first school play, which he credits as being the catalyst for establishing his passion for acting.

While in school, he worked part time at the Kimberley train station as a tranship porter. During his final year at the school, he served as Head Boy and was nominated for National Colours in Academics and Culture.

After completing his schooling, Eilers went on to train and work as a police officer for the South African Police Service before pursuing his career in theatre soon after.

Professional career in South Africa

In 1963, he joined the Johan Fourie-toneelgeselskap (theatre company) and toured the country with them for 3 years as a bus driver and ticket clerk before progressing on to become a company manager, stage manager, and bit part player. He worked for all the Performing Arts Councils between 1963 and 1972, as stage manager, actor and director, doing more than 100 performances for CAPAB and being a mainstay of PACOFS in the years 1968-1970. It was during this time that he became determined to pursue a career in the Arts.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

In 1965 Eilers played the character, Anniello, in the theatre play, Hotel Paradiso. Performances on stage also includeD Putsonderwater (Bartho Smit), Mattewis en Meraai (P.G. du Plessis), Kinkels innie Kabel (versions written by both Shakespeare and André P. Brink), Siener in die Suburbs (P.G. du Plessis), The Tempest (Shakespeare), Die Laaste van die Takhare (C.J. Langenhoven).

Productions in 1968 included: Die Dubbele Adelaar and The Importance of being Earnest directed by Fitz Morley; Jan en die Boontjierank directed by Tine Balder (SUKOVS); Picnic in Town directed by Richard Daneel.

In 1970 he played the character, Anton, in the film, Die 3 van der Merwes, directed by Dirk de Villiers. He played character, Haemon, in Carel Trichardt's PACT theatre production of Antigone (by Sophocles).

In 1971 he played the character, AC, in the film Freddie’s in Love directed by Manie van Rensburg; in the theatre production, Die Betekenis directed by PACT’s Truida Louw he played the character Karel. He played Erick in Vrydag (based on Hugo Claus’ Dutch play, Vrijdag) alongside Elma Potgieter. Vrydag was directed by Schalk Jacobsz.

In 1972 he joined the Afrikaans service of the SABC in Johannesburg. That year, he played Pieter in Pieter Fourie's theatre production of Bart Nel.

In 1976 he played Schalk in the film, Die Nagloper, directed by Jan Scholtz in the role of Schalk. He played the minor role of a kidnapper in Manie van Rensburg’s television series, Willem. In Die Rebel he played Altman. Die Rebel was produced by Bill Troskie with Daan Retief as director and scriptwriter. He appeared in the television series, Dokter, Dokter as well as serving as a presenter on Goeie Môre Suid Afrika alongside Dorianne Berry for the SABC.

In 1978 he played Poen in Stephan Bouwer's Nagspel. He also appeared in the television series, Sebastian Senior. In 1981 he became a free-lance radio announcer and director. He was cast in the television series, Die Avontuur van Joachim Verwey. He played Generaal Christiaan de Wet in Jan Scholtz's film, Die Vrede van Vereeniging. He also appeared in the television series, Ntunzini-Spa, the film Die Genesis-kontrak as well as in Jan Scholtz's Gazette.

In 1982 he played Sagrys Mostert in the television series, Roep van die visarend. He was later cast as Captein Tennant in Gideon Scheepers directed by Henk Hugo. Eilers collaborated with Dirk de Villiers on the television series called King of Diamonds. King of Diamonds was directed in Kimberley alongside his wife at the time. The production was revolutionary in the sense it drew cast members from the local community, which comprised of untrained actors.

In 1983 he played Hendrik Eksteen in Carl Fischer's The Skull, Dennekruin 12, and Danie Theron. He played Sampie Geel in Koos Roets’ television series Koöperasiestories between 1983-1985. That year, Eilers established his own production company, which he named Eilers Films.

In 1984 he was cast in the breakthrough role of Polka in Sias Odendaal's prison television series, filmed onsite at Pretoria Prison, called Vyfster. He acted in Regardt van den Bergh's television series, Die Dood Van Elmien Adler before being cast as Piet Retief in the television series, Geknelde Land. Later that year the film, Die Fluiter, was produced by Eilers Films and starred Elma Potgieter, Schalk Jacobsz and Tromp Terre’blanche. Another Eilers Films production was Die Spoorweg Polisie, which was a documentary series about the now disbanded South African Railway Police. The film entitled, James (Ek Hoort nie hier Nie), was also produced by Eilers Films during that year. The Vyfster spin-off, Skollie in which Eilers played the eponymous role, was released that year.

In 1986 Eilers appeared in several television series including: Konflikhantering, Hoekie vir Eensames, and Dada en die Flower. The second season of the increasingly popular, Vyfster 2: Die Slot, was released that year and was again directed by Sias Odendaal.

In 1988 Eilers played Kaptein Koenig in the series, The Sea Tiger, Patrick in Moordspeletjies, Colonel Morales in Ivan Hall's Back to Freedom, Kinders van die Sabbatsee, and Die Swart Kat 2.

In 1989 he was cast as a prison guard in Jeff Gold's The Tattoo Chase; he played Kommandant Davey Pienaar in Koos Roets's television series, Vleuels. He played Professor Adjaman in Dirty Games directed by Gray Hofmeyr. He also appeared in Willie Esterhuizen's Orkney Snork nie! 1 & 2.

In 1990 Eilers was cast as Roland van Beeck in the television series, Mooirivier. He also played the role of Major Schoeman in Jan Scholtz's Die Binnekring.

In 1991 he played Adam Gerber in Jan Scholtz's television series, Die Sonkring before making an appearance on MNet's Egoli: Place of Gold.

In 1992 he returned Major Schoeman in Jan Scholtz's Die Binnekring 2. He also played the role of the Minister of Posts and Communications in Koos Roets’ The Angel, the Bicycle, and the Chinaman's Finger.

In 1993 he returned as Adam Gerber for Die Sonkring 2.

In 1994 he played Dries in the television series, Triptiek.

In 1995 he played the character, Briggs, in the television series, Sleurstroom. In Stefan Nieuwoudt's, Die Laksman, he was cast in the role of Major Bakkies Vermeulen.

In 1996 he was cast in David Drury's television mini-series, Rhodes. He also appeared in the films, Upsetting the apple cart and All the World's Gold. During that year, Eilers served as the marketing manager for the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees.

In 1997 he was cast in Katinka Heyns’ film, Paljas, as a Sergeant.

Following a leave of absence attributed to ill-health, Eilers returned to the screen in 2003 when he starred as Slang Venter in seasons 1 and 2 of the television series, Song vir Katryn. He also appeared alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Juliette Binoche, and Brendan Gleeson in John Boorman’s In my Country, based on Antjie Krog's novel,Country of my Skull.

In 2004 he appeared in Leon Schuster's Oh Schuks ... I'm Gatvol! before returning to the theatre in the role of Faan in Pieter Fourie’s Faan se Trein, in which he appeared for two years alongside Deon Lotz until 2005.

In 2006, he followed this performance with Faan se Stasie and Louis van Niekerk's Brief van die Harlekyn.

He directed Die Proponentjie in 2010.

In 2011 Eilers directed the film, Roepman, based on Jan van Tonder's bildungsroman of the same name.

In 2012 he directed Verraaiers alongside director and producer, Sallas de Jager, casting Gys De Villiers in the lead alongside Deon Lotz, Beàte Opperman, and Albert Maritz.

In 2013, under the direction of Sallas de Jager, Eilers played the role of Pieter alongside Brümilda van Rensburg, Deon Lotz, and Gys De Villiers in the film, Musiek vir die Agtergrond. He also directed the film, Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux.

In 2015 Eilers appeared as Colonel Silas Sauls in Die Ontwaking alongside Gys De Villiers.

In 2016 he was cast as Major Koot van Staden in the film, Free State as well as in Sallas de Jager's Jonathan: Die Movie where he played the role of Hartogh.

In 2017 he appeared in the Kyknet documentary series, Reis na Gister.

In 2018 he played the role of Oom At alongside Frank Opperman and Deon Lotz in the film, Dominie Tienie. He also appeared in the television series, Oppi Kassie.

In 2019, Rene van Rooyen’s film based on Dalene Mattee's novel, Toorbos, was released posthumously.


He won the award for Best Actor with the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in his role as Faan in Pieter Fourie's Faan se Trein in 2005.


British Film Institute. (2020). Paul Eilers Filmography. Available from: (Accessed: 8 April 2020).

De Hart, H. (2020). Paul Eilers: Actor-Whisperer with a heart of gold. Available from: (Accessed: 9 November 2022).

Die Burger. (2020). Paul Eilers: ‘Poets-bakker and platjie met deernis’ (Accessed: 27 January 2021).

E-mail submission by Taryn Tavener-Smith, 2 August 2023.

Film Factory. (2020). Formidabele Mense: Dalene Matthee. Available from: (Accessed: 25 January 2023).

Film and Publication Board. (2022). (Accessed: 25 May 2022).

IMDb. (2020). Paul Eilers. Available from: (Accessed: 8 April 2020).

Interview with Hanlie Retief published in Rapport, 3 March 2013.

Kyknet. (2013). Reis na Gister. Available from: (Accessed: 30 July 2021).

Le Roux, A. (2014). ‘Sukses na sestig-Paul Eilers as filmregisseur: Mense’, Plus 50, 9(1). pp. 24-25.

Obituary, Die Burger, 1 July 2019.

ScreenAfrica (2013). Paul Eilers. Available at: (Accessed: 14 April 2020).

ScreenAfrica (2014). Afrikaans films awarded at IIFFSA. Available at: (Accessed: 14 April 2020).

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

YouTube. Die Rebel. Available from: (Accessed: 30 July 2021).

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