Czech production company JBJ Films has entered a co-production deal with Hollywood producer Cassian Elwes for its much anticipated Jan Žižka biopic. With an estimated budget of at least 275 million Czech crowns ($13 million), the film will become the most expensive Czech film of all time, surpassing Jan Sverák’s 2002 World Word II epic, Dark Blue World.
British-born Cassian Elwes is known for producing highly-rated movies such as Thank You For Smoking, Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, Elvis & Nixon, and, more recently, Netflix’s period drama, Mudbound.
JBJ Films has stressed that they will remain the majority owner of the production and that previously-announced Ghoul director Petr Jákl will still direct the biopic. With the majority of the cast set to be Czech, the coproduction nevertheless opens the possibility to cast actors Elwes previously collaborated with, such as Matthew McConaughey, Pierce Brosnan, Ryan Gosling, Woody Harrelson, and Nicole Kidman.
The film, set to go into production this summer, will be shot exclusively in the Czech Republic.
For those who don’t know, Jan Žižka is the Czech national hero whose statue towers over Vítkov Hill in Prague – the third largest bronze equestrian statue in the world, no less! He was an innovative Hussite military leader who fought in the Battle of Grunwald against the Teutonic Order in 1410 and famously defeated the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Kutná Hora in 1421. Considered to be one of the greatest military strategist and innovators of all time, he notably helped develop the use of wagon forts, vozová hradba in Czech or Wagenburg in German, as mobile fortifications.
The Czech national hero was already the subject of a 1955 film directed by Otakar Vávra and starring Zdeněk Štěpánek as the ingenious Hussite general. Part of the director’s Hussite Trilogy, along with Jan Hus, also starring Štěpánek as the Czech theologian, and Proti Všem (Against All, 1958), the most expensive Czech movie ever made at the time, it is a fantastic showpiece of Czech Nationalism and Marxist propaganda.
Speaking of which, while we wait for the 2019 release… (nope, no subtitled version has been released)