November 24, 2011 / 7:19 PM / 7 years ago

Polish Oscar winner makes first film about Lech Walesa

WARSAW (Reuters) - Lech Walesa will finally see his life made into a movie, more than three decades after the shipyard electrician launched the Solidarity union that helped topple communism in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday, Oscar-winning Polish director Andrzej Wajda began filming the first biopic about Walesa, who remains a respected but controversial figure.

While Walesa is revered abroad for his courageous leadership of the first independent trade union under communism and his imprisonment under martial law, he is a more divisive figure at home because of his record as Poland’s first post-communist president and his often combative style.

“I don’t want to, but I have to,” Wajda, 85, told a news conference, using one of Walesa’s famous sayings when the Nobel Peace Prize winner ran for office for the first time.

The veteran filmmaker said he had spoken to Walesa about making the movie and he did not object.

“I think if he didn’t trust me, he would not let me make this film,” said Wajda, who was also a member of Solidarity’s advisory committee in the early 1980s and appeared at Gdansk shipyard in 1980 during the famous strike.

The film’s writer said the movie, which will be called “Walesa,” aimed to show the most famous living Pole as a human being, not just an icon.

“I agreed to write a script because the director told me that he didn’t want to raise another Walesa monument,” said Janusz Glowacki, who wrote the screenplay.

Robert Wieckiewicz, the lead actor, admitted it would be his most difficult role yet.

“Firstly, it’s a contemporary character, who is still alive. Secondly, he’s one of the best-known Poles and I think there are dozens of ‘Walesa experts’ in Poland and each of them will have their own opinion,” Wieckiewicz said.

He also confided that he would have to resort to a fake mustache because he was unable to grow one to match that of his subject.

“Walesa” will be the first Polish production about Walesa, although the former Solidarity leader has already been portrayed in Volker Schlondorff’s film “Strike” five years ago.

Walesa played himself in dozens of productions, including Wajda’s “Man of Iron,” which won the Palme d’Or for best picture at the 1981 Cannes film festival.

He also inspired U2’s song “New Year’s Day” that coincidentally came out on January 1, 1983, the day after Poland’s authorities suspended martial law.

The movie is scheduled to hit the screens in autumn next year.

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