Graduated from the Westphalian Drama School in Bochum (1965).
After becoming a popular stage actor at the Staatstheater Stuttgart under director Claus Peymann, he was an ensemble member at the Kammerspiele in Munich for over twenty years.
Father of five children: Christoph Zapatka (born in 1966), Florian Zapatka (born in 1966, son of his second wife Margarete; adopted), Katharina Zapatka (born in 1970), Fabian Zapatka (born in 1978) and Sarah Zapatka (born in 1982).
Reader of "Captain Ahab" in the German audio book version of "Moby Dick".
Born to a journalist and a housewife, he grew up in Cloppenburg, Germany.