Okay, more screwing around and I finally got the thing out of the door.
One does need to remove the cable going to the door handle. Raise the door handle, stick in a AA battery just below the cable to trap it (works...perfect size), then work the cable towards you to remove it from its captured position. The slack gotten from trapping it will help you work it free. Then it is a matter of just working the whole she-bang loose and pull it out to replace the actuator.
There is a plastic "door" that you can open that will allow you to disconnect the actuator from the wiring harness before removing the whole module.
2001 530i/5 (E39), Topaz Blue/Stone Green/Black (118k miles) *very rare interior/exterior color combo*
2005 545i/SMG (E60), ED Order, Titanium Grey/Grey (lease over)
2015 335i, ED Order Summer 2015
Last edited by Ågent99; 09-11-2011 at 01:34 PM.