reached for the classics of Polish cinema and made the first film adaptation of “The Quack” since Jerzy Hoffman’s cult film. The concerns were great, but the reactions at the ceremonial premiere of the new film showed that it was good, and even better than good – the audience applauded the film throughout the credits and for an even longer time after them. The production directed by Michał Gazda is available on the platform from September 27.
Lichota about “Quack”: I understood why we were doing it for the third time
Leszek Lichota had the most difficult task in the world as an actor. Not only did he have to play Antoni Kosiba, aka Professor Rafał Wilczur, beloved by Polish viewers and readers in the new “Quack”. He had to play it in such a way that no one would compare him with his brilliant predecessor, Jerzy Bińczycki, who played the main role in Jerzy Hoffman’s cult film. Of course, even before the premiere, it was known that Lichota was currently probably the only person who could cope with such a challenge. In the interview, he tells us how he prepared for the role, what was the most difficult thing about it, how it changed him and why he thinks that Znachor is a Polish superhero.
Justyna Bryczkowska: There is nothing to hide, making a new “Quack” is a bit like putting yourself on the front line of fire. How did you find a way to deal with this Wilczur/Kosiba? What “surprised” you about it?
Leszek Lichota: I had to systematize how he had been presented so far, i.e. watch all the film adaptations from the 1930s and 1980s. Once I had an idea of how differently he could be presented, I returned to the original novel. It turned out that it was presented differently in the novel and that each of these films differed from the book in some way. But that’s what adaptation is all about, we take different threads and use them depending on our needs. And our script added other threads – some were dropped, some were expanded. Then I allowed myself to put all these Quacks on paper and screen somewhere in my head. Then I came to the conclusion that there was no chance for any creative acting here, because it would be a dead end and it would be very easy to get derailed. I realized that in order to portray this Kosiba, I absolutely have to activate some levels of sincerity, vulnerability and masculine delicacy.
Easy to say, probably harder to do.
Fortunately, the film is divided into two stages, i.e. the first one, when he was a respected professor, and then we get into his story after a dozen or so years. And to do that on set, we gave ourselves five months of space between shooting these acts of our story. First of all, we were waiting for summer. And also so that I can build this Medicine Man within me. This means that I can prepare for it physically and that I can mature mentally and look for it within myself. And he came to me quite naturally. But in general, this is a well-written character, and in our script it does not differ much from the ones we know. However, it has a few additional features that have not appeared before. For example, we allow him to do other things as a man, because today we look at certain matters differently.
What exactly do you mean?
We give people who experience tragic circumstances and certain traumas in their lives a different consent and the right to further opportunities to seek peace and happiness. We do not expect them to drown in these traumatic experiences and carry their cross on their shoulders all their lives, as was the case several dozen years ago. A widowed person had no right to officially seek happiness with someone else, because it was unwelcome. I think that’s what this fresh perspective is all about. Equally at the Quack himself, but also at the female characters who are strong in our country. They fight for themselves, they have subjectivity. They have a story to carry out in our film and they are full of it. This is what we add to this story, without losing the spirit of that novel, in my opinion.
How did your adventure with “Quack” begin? Did they approach you or did you have to take part in a casting?
I took part in the casting, yes. The audition was a bit sudden and we had to quickly come up with this Quack: how he works, how he communicates, what emotions, tools he uses, etc. I think that apart from a certain physical similarity to this character, I felt all this somewhere during this audition. And then I had a meeting with the director, during which he explained to me how he imagined this story and showed me the script. This calmed me down a lot.
I saw that we were making a completely new-old story. It was my own idea and take on the story. I understood why we were doing it for the third time, why we were telling it today, what elements we were adding to this “Quack” and it lifted a burden from my shoulders.
I have the impression that it is both a very modern and classic melodrama.
If we’ve achieved that, and you say that as a viewer, then I think we’ve achieved our goal: we’ve told a classic story in a contemporary way.
Was there anything that surprised you about working on this character? Did it bring something new that you learned about yourself?
Oh yes! This character calmed me down a lot. For a few months, when I had to carry this Kosiba inside me, it was a wonderful, liberating feeling of reconciliation with reality, with the world. Accepting everything around you, not getting upset. I did not allow any external factors to destroy my internal world. For a moment, I had to activate the qualities that this character exudes and infect other people with. Tapping into these qualities, releasing them and accepting this reality around me – no matter what was happening – was almost healing. I think a part of it has stayed with me to this day.
I thought to myself that Kosiba, who is able to admit that he cannot do something, who is able to admit his weakness, is doing something completely brave – not many people can do it. A bit perversely and referring to your previous roles, I would like to know if you would call him a quiet tough guy, maybe a bit non-obvious?
I even call him a superhero. Only unlike American superheroes, his superpower lies in his inner strength and, of course, the ability to heal people. Even when I sometimes ask my children what superpowers they would like to have, they mention healing. I really think that Znachor is our Polish superhero and one of the few.
Its strength lies in inner peace, acceptance and a certain constancy. He constantly shows with his goodness and nobility – regardless of the circumstances – that it is possible to be such a person. I think that’s what appeals to us as viewers in this story: that we would like to have such a father, a doctor, a friend. We would like to be able to be with such a person. This is kind of heartwarming for me.
This is not the first time you have worked with director Michał Gazda. He told me that you have known each other for almost 20 years – how did that influence your work on this project? Do you feel like you understand each other without words to do what needs to be done?
That’s basically what it absolutely came down to. We needed time before entering the set to tell each other what convention we were using and what tools we were using to tell it. I had to tell Michał how I imagined my character would act and his energy, and he would tell me what he wanted the film to look like and what function he saw in it for me. Once we told each other about all this, I have the impression that we were basically just implementing it.
There were no frictions, tensions or misunderstandings on the set, because having known each other for so many years, we trusted each other immensely. I knew that if I went wrong somewhere and took a wrong turn, he would lead me back to it. I think Michał trusted me to portray this character in the way he would like in this story. So it came down to mutual trust and being easy to work together.
What were your relationships like with your other on-screen partners? I see a lot of on-screen chemistry between you two, I don’t think anyone was miscast. Who was the most fun to create scenes with?
Everyone hit the ball well in their own way. I also had a different relationship with each of them. He has a completely different relationship with Zocha, our screen character, than with his daughter, that’s obvious. However, I must admit that Marysia Kowalska, who played Marysia Wilczurówna, moved me very much on the set. It had a kind of transparency, velvetiness to it, and that was something that moved me even when I looked at it. In fact, I told her this openly on the set, because it rarely happens and we didn’t actually know each other. It was so heartwarming and touching. She has such energy that moves me as a man and as a father.
We have known Ania Szymańczyk a little longer, for quite a few years, but this was the first time we had the opportunity to work together in front of the camera. I think, however, that our long-term acquaintance made it much easier because we didn’t have to explain some things to each other.
Finally, I have to ask, which plot or scene is your favorite?
Paradoxically, my favorite scenes are those in which Antoni Kosiba meets with his daughter and they don’t say anything – that is, when emotions are at play. They also build this story for me. Even if we deviate from what people know and are used to, when they appear, we know that we are still telling the same story. This is still the story of a father and daughter who are looking for each other and missing each other. When I watched the film, these were the scenes that moved me the most: where there were the fewest words and the most emotions.
Bruce is a talented author and journalist with a passion for entertainment . He currently works as a writer at the 247 News Agency, where he has established himself as a respected voice in the industry.