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Speaking with the producer and mother of two daughters about children, life and plans for another big and birthday-related year.

Fast confession - Olga Menzelová: A third child is not out of the question

Karolína Lišková
27.Sep 2017
+ Add on Seznam.cz
10 minutes to read

She became a fixture on the tabloid scene not only because of her marriage to director Jiří Menzel, 40 years her senior, but also because of a love triangle with another director, Jaroslav Brabec, with whom she has a daughter Anna Karolína. Her other daughter with Menzel is named Eva Maria. Together, they all form a beautiful family with mutual love and respect. Although the film producer has precious little time, she found a moment for an interview with Luxury Prague Life, where she spoke about her plans for the future, her daughters, passions and desires. 

Olina, summer is over. What does that mean for you?

We spent two months in Spain and I have to say the return was rough. When you come back from holidays, it’s always a shock before you reset. School, preschool, a regular routine… it’s difficult to get used to again.

I understand that there are school duties, but what about you, your work?

I work regardless of where I am. But with great support from my colleagues. A large part of my work consist of producing open-space exhibitions. I use a special exhibition system, which can be installed outdoors and lit during the night. We are currently preparing an exhibition about the history, present and future of Wenceslas Square, with another one in the works. It will concern the 100th anniversary of the republic. What’s more, Jirka will be celebrating his 80th birthday and it will be fifty years since he won an Oscar. We will be preparing various surprises and celebrations with his colleagues. He says he doesn’t want it, but I know he will be delighted. I think I won’t have a break this year or the next.

Eightieth birthday... wow. Do you at least have any idea what he’d like?

I don’t think he has any specific wishes. He is very grateful for our daughters. He says that he never dreamed of anything like this in his life. He imagined that he would live alone without concerns for a family, and now he sees how selfish he was. Even I know how happy his life is. We recently had a great laugh with a friend of ours, a producer. I told him how I drove Jirka to the airport in Spain. We arrived twenty minutes before departure and by some miracle managed to have them open a special gate for us, which could not have happened anywhere but in Spain. A kid with a wheelchair ran over and quickly took him to the aircraft – Jirka had torn his Achilles’ heel, so he was in a cast for nine weeks. And our friend Ruda laughed and said: You know what? You extended his life by about ten years, because he has to be alert all the time. (laughs)

Luxusní vila na prodej, Praha 5 - 471m
Luxusní vila na prodej, Praha 5 - 471m, Praha 5

My husband laughs quite a lot with us.

He is 40 years older after all… can he cope with your life rhythm?

I don’t know what you mean by cope… when we met, it was of course different than it is now. Nobody is getting younger, but because Jirka never had a family and children, he’s pretty well preserved (laughs). I think he’s in great shape, but the thing that motivates him most of all are our daughters.

Wait, but I read somewhere that you forced him to exercise...?

Yes. But he understood on his own that the bones are held together by muscles and if you don’t have them… it’s all related. If you feel bad physically, then you can’t feel good mentally. And vice versa. They are connected vessels. Jirka understood it and overcame his innate laziness.

It must be quite a challenge for you, to take care of two children, and husband and also your work…

Well, I’m not bored (laughs). Not even for a second.

Have you ever thought, even in a dream, that your life would be like this?

The fact that we met was no coincidence, I don’t believe in those. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. You know, I never imagined that I would go through such turbulence… But the important thing is to survive. There is a reason why people say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (laughs)

I think people always have a choice. Those who don’t have one are unhappy. When you have to choose, you opt for the route that is best at the given moment. I took it all as it was. Now I’m trying to navigate it, but in fact everything I wanted in life has come true and is coming true. And that’s amazing. I know that it might sound absurd now, but it’s really enough to wish and know what you want and what you don’t.  

When I followed your triangle over some years at work, I thought often that this requires some courage.

Indeed. But you know, there is nothing wrong or immoral going on. It not standard, but the simple fact that I got together with somebody who is forty years older than me, is not standard, and what followed... We don’t fit in to any templates, but I don’t care. We live our own lives. The girls are happy, they have fathers that take care of them, love them, they don’t live in any tension. I don’t have two partners. I have a husband Jirka, and Jarda is Anna’s father, but he also takes care of Eva, just like Jirka loves Anna. Others can only envy us that it is how it is.

Have you ever thought about one more child?

How do I know what’s going to happen... Eva is a little mother, both the girls love babies. It’s not out of the question… I make a bit of fun of it. Everything I ever wanted has come true. But I did have an advantage. I knew very early on what I wanted and what I don’t. There are lots of people who go through life and don’t know. But when you know what you want from life, then it really helps you along the way. Naturally, it may happen that you go against the crowd, if you have the courage to do so. But even then, everybody is on their own. Who will help you when you’re in trouble… there are very few people, and in the end it becomes obvious you stands by you. Likewise, you have to be able to help yourself most of all. At least this is how I see it. I mostly rely on myself and it pays off.

You’re right. I’m interested in one more thing regarding children. Both you your daughters have two names. Why? What about you and religion?

Yes, we are very devout. I am convinced that there is something intangible that leads us through life. And the two names are related to it. Eva is baptised, Anna is not, but she would like to be. We baptised Eva in Spain, our friend Francisca served as her godmother. Eva’s name is an anagram. Her is not Marie, but Maria. When you switch around Eva Maria – when you play with the letters, then it turns out to be Ave Maria. We liked it and it has a deeper meaning, but it’s hard to describe and it might not be understood.

I have to ask – I can see you don’t have much time. Does anybody help you?

I would not manage along. It wouldn’t be possible. I have never been on maternity leave. I’m not saying that because I’m proud of it, but with Anna I was still in school, two years of daytime studies, and with Eva – I have a functioning firm and it was not possible to drop it from one day to the next. What’s more, I like my work. But if you want to work and not cheat the family, then you can’t do it without help. At least I don’t know how. We have a family friend who flies around the world with us. For instance, when Jirka has a festival and wants us to accompany him, Luda flies with us, because I would be unable to get away from them, I wouldn’t be able to escort him anywhere. She is the key person that helps us a lot. Jirka reads a lot with Anna and tells her stories. Anna’s father Jarda also helps. I appreciate that immensely. He is a great father, which is not always a matter of course. Just look around… but he also loves Eva. There is no question of him taking one to the zoo and not the other because she isn’t his daughter. The girls love each other, incredibly much, even though there is a six year age difference between them, and Jarda does not tear them apart. He loves Eva as though she were his. Jirka has the same feelings towards Anna. Well… I’m lucky.

Indeed. I’m getting envious.

Not everybody can do this. Elevate themselves above their own interests. But it took some time, of course. 

It’s true. Let’s go on to another topic. You came from home for a moment to give me an interview. Essentially, you got away from the kitchen and you look amazing. I almost burst with envy! Is this what you wear at home? How come you look for fabulous?!

(laughs)

Luxusní byt na prodej s terasou a výhledem
Luxusní byt na prodej s terasou a výhledem, Praha 1

...it comes from the inside, strong genes. I know it’s talk that nobody wants to hear. I will be forty soon, which is obvious, but I don’t have much time to worry about it. Nevertheless, I use little tricks that I’d be happy to tell you. I think the more women know about it, the better. I don’t have much time to do a lot of makeup, which is why I had my eyebrows “tattooed”. I’m absolute thrilled with it! The eyebrows frame the entire face and if they are always neat, even when you get out of the water, then it’s a relief. The tattoo lasts five to seven years and Janička Hrůšová is a magician! I also had my upper eyeliner done, so when I wake up in the morning, I already look decent. It’s amazing. Half the job done. And the eyelashes...  I don’t have fake ones, but I do have a sort of perm, which lasts six weeks. You don’t have to use a curler and when I think about it, I put on a bit of mascara, apply of bit of BB cream on my face and I’m off. The older I am, the less makeup I use, and I try to keep it simple, which is why I use trick that last.

But you know what, my mother is over sixty and she still looks beautiful, she is positive, fun and kind. Which is why I think that what makes you beautiful is your approach to life. Everybody has a certain energy. It’s not about how you look, but what you exude.

And I’m happy, in all my chaos and madness...

Of course, energy, happiness… but that dress is just gorgeous. What is your deal with shopping?

I have no time at all for clothes shopping. I shop on the internet, and when I’m abroad I have a bit more time. But otherwise, everything online.

Why don’t you wear a wedding ring?

I do, but I suffer from eczema. My hands are always dry and I have to apply cream to them. Rings are not very practical because of this indisposition.

How to you fight the eczema?

I’ve learned to cope with it over the years. A lot depends on my diet, I use basic baths by Meine Base, food supplements from Wurzelkraft, and Ganoderma Red Reishi also helps a lot... there is a whole range of things that need to be combined in balance.

Another question, going back to your age. Your husband will be celebrating his eightieth, but you… you will also be celebrating a round birthday…

I had a wonderful idea. Jirka and I and the girls were in India in December and I really liked it there. Kerala fascinated me. Fantastic people, great food, lovely sea… I liked it so much that I was thinking about taking all my friends there and celebrating my birthday there with them…

... I know, stop rolling your eyes at me, I know it’s crazy. There are several catches. I don’t have a plane (laughs) and there is prohibition there, so I don’t know how my friends would survive. So I’m letting the idea go. I will have to think of something else (laughs).

Do you have a particular wish you’d like?

You mean like a present? I don’t know. Nothing. I’m satisfied as it is…

I’m really starting to hate you! (laughs)

I like nice clothing, shoes, handbags, but I prefer to buy them myself, I make the best choice for myself. It’s pathetic but I really don’t know what I’d like. I love travelling. Gifts make me happy, but I mainly enjoy giving them. If I can make somebody else happy, then that makes me happy.

Given that you like giving gifts, I trust you are quite involved in charity.

Yes. I help in many ways and I always try to ensure that the help reaches the target and that I know where exactly the help is going.

Do people take advantage of this?

I don’t think we are exposed enough for people to write to us directly. It sometimes happens on the street, indirectly, and I have to admit that I don’t know how to refuse.

When you are out with the family, do you meet with famous people, like go out for dinner together? Do people want to take photos with you, have a chat?

Sometimes. Less often if we are without Jirka. I take the tram with the children, and sometimes somebody stops us. But the reactions are always positive. What surprised me really pleasantly, and it has happened many times, is that people stop Jirka on the street. Even in India! Indians are big film lovers. They stopped Jirka on the street and wanted to talk about his films. It’s amazing that Jirka has touched so many people around the world with his film, and there is a reason why Closely Watched Trains, was ranked by the Academy among the 100 best films of the world. He managed to do something exceptional in life.

Are you his critic?

Of course. Jirka always compared me to Mrs Hrabalová, which delights me because Mrs Hrabalová allegedly used to say: I don’t know what people see in Bogdan. For me, a writer is the person who wrote Kája Mařík! (laughs) There is a reason for this comparison. I haven’t finished his memoire yet. It is more than 400 pages long and I only got to page 68 immediately after publication, and that was enough. I have seen all the images, those are perfect. (laughs) He makes fun of it and says that if Hřebejk managed to read the bible in one night, than I as a loving wife could finish the book in a few years. And he laughs. I think what Jirka appreciates about me is that I refuse to ostentatiously admire him.

We have a favourite quote. Ivan Passer has a line in Intimate Lighting, where there is some dialogue between two actors and one of them says: Maruš may not be an intellectual, but taste… (laughs)

I value Jirka for many reasons. He is an amazing person, but I’m not the one to constantly compliment him or faff around and tell him what a genius he is. But that’s a good thing. Everybody else does that.

Olina, thank you so much for the interview. I wish you a lot of happiness. 

Fast confession:

What would you like for your forthcoming round birthday?

What round birthday? It’s not my birthday!

What is the first thing that occurs to you when your daughter’s teacher calls?

Trouble.

Who is your favourite designer?

Depends on the situation. Sometimes it’s E.daniely, which is what I’m wearing right now, and sometime it’s Rick Owens.

Vacation in a tent or at a resort?

It used to be in a tent a lot, but the older I get the more I prefer the resort.

Skis or snowboard?

Skis.

Prawns or schnitzel?

Prawns in Thailand, schnitzel in Czechia.

Favourite film from your husband’s repertoire?

Postřižiny.

George Clooney or Harrison Ford?

Harrison Ford.

What does your husband love about you?

When I arrive at a rendezvous with him on time.

Who should be the next Czech president?

Perhaps Jakub Kohák. He would be more fun than the current one.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I don’t know, but I didn’t want to go to school.

What do you think would save the world from destruction?

I might contradict myself a bit – more educated and smart people.

Your favourite Czech politician?

Honza Wolf.

How do you imagine an ideal day?

In bed.
The interviewee asks the reporter:

Kristýna, who came up with these stupid questions?

I did. (laughs)
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