GALO: Was the film director looking for an actor with such skills or were the scenes added in after having hired you for the role of Kuba?

MB: No, no, the film director was already looking for someone who could swim. Only, he [laughter] approached the subject matter rather nonchalantly, basically with bravado, because during the casting he was only asking the actors if they can swim. During my time as an actor, I’ve come across certain actors who claim that they can swim, ride a horse, or, I don’t know, they can do other things quite excellently, but then when it comes down to things, unfortunately the validation and truth comes out very quickly.

I actually met Bartek Gelner during the filming of the [Polish] TV show Przystan, where we both played lifeguards, and there we had a casting for our acting [capabilities] but also a casting in a swimming pool to test our ability to swim. Several actors didn’t make it after that swimming casting, but we made it through and got the roles. With Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące Wieżowce), Tomasz [Wasilewski] didn’t test my skills out in the swimming pool; therefore, he didn’t really know if I swim well, or if I don’t swim at all, and if I would be able to quickly make up for the lack in [sport swimming technique]. And there was one guy, who was supposed to play my competitor, and who had also claimed that he swam well…but when we met with the trainers, they said that it is impossible to make a professional swimmer out of him in four months, and so, unfortunately, Tomasz had to put someone else in his place. It really worked out well for me though. I was able to improve my swimming technique, I trained hard, and I even recently won the Polish Actors’ Swimming Championships in all the disciplines [laughs].

GALO: Which scenes in the film caused you the most difficulty?

MB: At the end of the film, the whole situation begins to get thicker and deeper, and my character has more on his mind and it becomes harder for him. Obviously, chronologically the scenes were the toughest; however, we didn’t film them chronologically. Clearly, the realities are what they are, in the sense that one has to act different scenes at different times, meaning what is being asked of us on a given day. The first days were the hardest, in other words the scenes that I had at home with my [on-screen] mother, and this was like being thrown out onto the deep end of the water from the very start; there were a lot of tough scenes, lots of dialogue, the purpose or sense of the beginning at the end… And I knew that once I would have that first week behind me that it would be a little easier, although I really had new challenges, new tough scenes — and not just those which were tough technically, those that took place in the swimming pool and required full concentration, but I had a lot of hard acting scenes. I don’t know which was the most important; I really did have a vast amount of acting scenes in this film — a magnitude of tough scenes. Generally speaking, this film was a difficult assignment for me.

GALO: Do you prefer to act in theatre or in films? Many actors claim that the direct contact with the audience, their instant reaction or the lack of one, is priceless to them; it is something that sets free the hidden capabilities in actors.

MB: Of course, I agree with this, starring in a film is a totally different kind of joy ride than performing in theatre — I am actually starring in a play tonight entitled The Force of Habit: A Comedy by Thomas Bernhard at the Ateneum Theatre [in Warsaw], and I really like it. You know, these actors who you just cited in general terms, I think that they didn’t have the given means to be on the type of film plan that I had been, because it is something positively extraordinary; the rehearsals that I had before this film took a lot of my time… Aside from that, I had the leading role, and so I felt that the entire film plan, everybody — the film director, the film operator — that everything was being done for my comfort and that everyone was working for me…not for me, for Kuba, but in some sense for a little while I became Kuba. And actually, for me films are the most important, because a film is made from time to time, while an actor lives in the theatre on an everyday basis.

GALO: Personally, I miss going to the Polish theatre. Seldom do productions fly in from Poland to places like New York City.

MB: Well, I haven’t been to the United States yet with a production, maybe I will be able to come to the States with a play. I have a couple of great plays, among which is Zaklęte Rewiry, based off old Polish cinema with a young Marek Kondrat (who was just beginning his career), and I am playing the role that was Marek Kondrat’s in the film. It is being shown in the theatre for the first time and it is really being noticed and acknowledged. I really think that the production is interesting for the audience, not just for the critics [laughs].

GALO: What is your attitude toward your main character, toward the way he acts? It seems that he is lacking in the ability to come to a decision, he doesn’t know who he would like to be with. He lets fate decide for him.

MB: Yeah, he is very lost and has problems with making a decision; I think you described that ideally. What is my attitude towards him…Well, I really understand him. I think I too am, in various situations and moments in life, as indecisive as him, especially in such key situations like the one he finds himself in. He is in a very tough place. You see everything that is around him, his whole life, and then take that and erase it, turn it completely upside down and let the emotions take precedent… A person in a situation like that has many thoughts: will it turn out to be the right decision, what will happen after and how will everybody react? It all keeps piling up and bringing with it more doubts, remorse — a sort of negation. It is something that just keeps growing and multiplying, and in such a moment it is hard to come to a decision, so I completely understand him.

I have 100 percent trust in my character, Kuba, and the fact that perhaps he isn’t fair to the character of Sylwia, I really understand where he is coming from because he is simply scared. And when a person is scared, they often act illogically or irrationally. It is easy to judge someone like that but it is hard to find yourself in their skin — I don’t wish it on anybody. I would like for people to have a pleasant life, even though such moments often give rise to the feeling that you’re really alive and living; tough moments in life make one appreciate the good moments. Therefore, an actor also needs such stimulus in his or her life to be richer, to have something to draw from. I understand him. I don’t know if I like him or not…actually, I think I do.

GALO: What are your plans for the near future? Is there a role that you would like to definitely play someday?

MB: No, there isn’t any role that I would like to definitely play. I want to make good cinema, I do not want to limit myself in any way — whether it might be a comedy, a drama, [laughter] a horror or thriller, I just want to make good cinema and that’s it. I want to make great films with great film directors; directors who will listen to me, who will understand me, and who will want to do something more in-depth and not tell only stories that are simple and shallow.

GALO: And would you want to work with Tomasz Wasilewski again?

MB: [Laughter] Of course, I would really like to work with Tomasz again. But what the film Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące Wieżowce) showed us is that a lot of older, respected actors are able to star in a film by the young Tomasz Wasilewski, and with much smaller roles. One can see that actors do want to act in his films and that actors value him and like him, such as [Mirosław] Zbrojewicz, who is a great actor, or Kasia Herman and Iza Kuna…they devote their time, act for smaller money than they normally get, so there must be something about him.

Featured image: Actor Mateusz Banasiuk stars as Kuba in Tomasz Wasilewski’s newest film “Floating Skyscrapers” (“Płynące Wieżowce”). Photo Credit: Andrzej Wenzel.

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