Holiday Makers (Účastníci zájezdu), Women in Temptation (Ženy v pokušení) or Men in Hope (Muži v naději). These films don´t need to be introduced, because they are reaping huge success throughout the Czech Republic. But only few know who actually stands behind them. Few people know what their director, Jiří Vejdělek, looks like and where does he draw inspiration from for his comedies, from which the already popular quotations will sooner or later become a part of common speech. This mysterious man with a cute speech defect, who protects his privacy "tooth and nail", took some time off for an interview with Luxury Prague Life.
What are you currently working on - if you can reveal it?
At the end of January I am to begin to work on a new comedy according to a humourist novel of Mr Boček, The Last Aristocratic Lady. Moreover, during the week I got an idea for another comedy. And when this happens, the idea gets hold of me and starts to “wipe the floor” with me, so that I am completely powerless. At such a moment of initial inspiration I often think up a large part of the film and that is the period when I spit out the screenplay onto the paper in the course of a few days. I do nothing else then.
So, are you therefore working on two things at the same time?
In the movie business that is quite common, you have two ongoing projects at different stages. Now I am absorbed in very intensive preparations for The Last Aristocratic Lady, we are preparing Hrabal and then came this idea for a completely different comedy. It must be this way, because before the funds are collected, actors ready and before everything is prepared, it takes time. The production of a film is a great machinery to get going.
And for The Last Aristocratic Lady you have even been recruiting complete non-actors on your Facebook...
Because the title role of Mary Kostková is 17, 18, 19-year-old girl, I told myself: Why not try some young ladies, who would like to have a go at it and are talented? I have seen a number already and I am very pleasantly surprised.
And these are girls who have studied a drama school?
There were some that went the official way, but there was a whole number of them who came from different parts of the Czech Republic. They act and rehearse somewhere at their local theatre or there are those who have so far been only dreaming about acting. They were quite talented, I was actually quite amazed.
Well you have probably met quite a good selection by chance…
I wouldn´t say that. I had to admire the girls, they were quite realistic in that they did not come with the opinion that they would be good enough. Although the truth is, as I have always said, that there is a bit on an actress that slumbers on inside every woman, it´s just about getting the right guidance. Women have this talent as a sure thing - how you skilfully trick us most of your lives. (laughter) I took the opportunity that the role in The Last Aristocrat Lady provides the opportunity to address someone completely new. So, I have met with girls, whom I would otherwise not meet in case of any other movie.
Now this will perhaps be a bit untactful question, but I have a friend, a director, and he told me that as a director he´s had very many ´opportunities´ with such girls. When they wanted a role…
That is what is being said. But perhaps he looks it, too; perhaps it was not all about him being a director…
Well, perhaps not really...
I am not trying to lure girls by my profession.
They are trying to get the director...
And that is alright, too. (laughter)
So it is still on?
I don´t know. Not in my case, but what about the others? I can't guess at that. (smile)
Many actors are already quite well known, whether from theatres, or from TV series, such as Ordinace. Are you their idealised director of dreams? Do they write or call you in the style of "Hey, are you not writing something, could I not act in something of yours"?
Yes, of course. Or their agents write to me. When someone wants to be introduced to me, who knows that I could not have met him or her anywhere, they simply let me know about them. And that is all right, too. If it suits me, I simply call them to a talent test.
So they do not have to bring a silver key?
Nobody brought any key yet. (laughter)
Have you ever anticipated such a success? And how is it to live in such a success?
Here in the Czech Republic not very well, I have to admit. You know how it is. But I am trying to put it behind me, not to give in to it and be poisoned by it, I simply do my job as best I can. In some cases, success was compulsory because I was a co-producer of such films. And if there was no success, it would be very bad. Not only that I would be badly embarrassed, as far as creative work is concerned, but the financial consequences would be quite fundamental.
Do you get feedback only through seeing the audience numbers at cinemas or are there also people who write an email to you, or a letter and thank you for your work?
In the majority of cases, I meet the audience face to face, at a première of a film. I drive around the whole of the Czech Republic and I go to have a chat after the projection, so the viewers can take a shot straight away when they don´t like something, or vice versa praise when they enjoy it. Sometimes there is someone who says something on social networks, but the nicest are the things you hear without the people recognising you. This happened to me many times - they quote some things from the film and are unaware that I am listening. They are quoting the Holiday Makers and don´t know that I am sitting in the bus with them.
Or I had a wonderful experience when years ago I had been looking for an evening suit for the Czech Lion awards, and the lady from the store did not recognise me. When she found out that I am going to the Czech Lion awards, she began to talk about films. She said that she liked Women in Temptation and that it is her favourite film. She was chatting about the fact that her husband is ill and that she has to look after him which is very difficult. And when she doesn´t have the strength to go on, she plays a bit of the film and it always gives her encouragement. Even then I did not tell her who I am but it was very heart-warming. And that is one of the reasons why I make the films!
Is it not a great pity that people don´t recognise you in the street? I have also had to Google out what you look like.
That´s fine, I am no star. I am here to make stars of others. Do you know what, I would be walking down the street, I would turn after some woman and everybody would know about it. So I think that a certain degree of anonymity is good, moreover I am not as interesting as actors.
Well all right, but when I wanted to find out something about you, Google knows nothing.
Excellent, it is nobody´s business to know anything about me. I dislike to be watched by the big brother, I prefer to protect my privacy. You can find out the most about me from the films anyway.
So you are a womanizer…
Hold on, what womanizer? I make fun of adultery there and actually womanizers are taught a lesson!
So you are a womanizer who was taught a lesson... (laughter)
Who gets nothing… But I am otherwise like a monk and I know nothing about adultery. One finds out more from hearsay. (smile)
I have also come across an article that you dated Petra Hřebíčková.
You see, that´s the tabloids. You don´t know whether that´s true or not.
That´s why I´ve asked.
Well, ask Petra.
I can see that I will not get anything about your private life, what a pity. So at least tell me some funny story from your life which served as a theme for some scene.
In Men in Hope there is a scene where Vica Kerekes pulls down her panties at a billiard table, and uses them as an elastic band to prevent her red hair falling into her eyes when playing. That is a scene which also happened in real life. However, we were not playing billiards, but bowling. For the movie I´ve changed that, because billiard allowed Vica to provoke the onlooking men even more by her sensuous dance around the cue.
In addition to films and screenplays you are also a member of a swing band…
Yes, Petr Kroutil founded a great swing band, called the Original Vintage Orchestra, and ask me if I would help him a bit. For the performance to look good on the stage. It finished up by me being involved up to my ears.
Petr sings and plays beautifully, same as the whole of the band and the soloists. And I, with all my speech problems, am the presenter. So if you want to see and hear a presenter, who would himself keep three speech therapists busy, come and have a look. We mostly play in Prague at the Charles Bridge, na Lávce (the Gantry - a row of historic buildings - transl. note), but we also tour the country and it degenerated into a terribly energetic show. It has a swing rhythm, but the performance is of rock nature. Now we are about to get it on at Klub Lávka on 4. November.
Do you change, have a suit or a mask?
Ladies get changed. That is - not in front of the audience, although perhaps that could be introduced. (laughter) I have also once changed in front of the audience, because I came to a concert directly from shooting a film. That was funny. But of course my getting changed is not as seductive as if it were the girl singers. But actually I am there for the comedy.
I do like your humour. I have read that when you were a student, you contributed cartoons to various magazines. It is said that you wrote to them that if they don´t publish it, you will have to resort to something horrible - and sent them another. Or that you come from a poverty-stricken background and have to share your room with a dead grandpa. What kind of humour is that?
I like black humour. When I was eighteen, nineteen years old, at my first high school I contributed cartoon jokes into the Dikobraz and other magazines. Then I wrote some short stories, too, and that finally brought me to the FAMU (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague) and to film.
And nowadays I like to add a couple of black-humour jokes into a film, albeit they are mostly love stories. For example in Stuck with a Perfect Woman I have included one of my old cartoon joke. Then somewhere on the internet I read a contribution of some upset viewer that there is a stolen old cartoon joke which he remembers. He described it and had no idea that more than twenty years ago that joke had been drawn by me.
And did you write to him?
No, I do not have the time to communicate like that. I would be doing nothing else and I would have no time for the screenplays and movies.
Have you never longed to stand in front of the camera yourself?
Sometimes, if there is a need, I make a short appearance myself. But I give myself tiny roles where I am embarrassed to offer them to an actor. But at the same time I don´t wish to entrust it to some extra or a background actor. Indeed, they are usually shy. And it also help to release tension on the set. When the crew sees that the boss is running around for example in a waiter´s costume, it is fun.
Now the Bárta´s sisters (Jitka and Kateřina, editor´s note). made fun of me in the series Temný kraj (Dark Region). They wrote a miniature role for me, and that was something with my speech impediment! If only that I play a corrronerrr. And I say things with a lot of ´Rs´, such as "his jugularrr was cut thrrrough", and so on. The second series is just being shot.
I very much liked that agreement between Svěrák and Renč about giving each other such cameos, like that of a waiter, or a customs officer. Do you have something like that arranged with anyone?
I don´t, because I haven´t yet found anyone so brave to do that with me. And then he would be obliged to give me something like that, on tenterhooks that I will spoil the entire film. I can risk it only when it´s my own picture. At worst I will spoil it myself, otherwise I would not wish it on anyone else.
Thank you very much for the interview, I am looking forward to the next movie.
How films be made in 50 years´ time?
What do you think is the genius loci of films shot 50 years ago?
What were your feelings at the first cut in your life?
Dream actor in your movie?
The greatest troublemaker on site, whom you directed?
Name three best points about Eliška Balzerová?
A recipe for ageing with dignity and grace?
Who do you think should be awarded by the President?
Which political party do you feel closest to?
Life with the internet or without?
Your greatest life disappointment?
Who is or has been the greatest Czech in your opinion?
What do you think about martial arts?
With which phrase can you best seduce a woman?
Which phrase works for you the best?
Excellent, I will remember that. (laughter)