Czech Actor Jan Tříska, 80, Dead After Fall from Prague’s Charles Bridge
Renowned Czech actor Jan Tříska has been pronounced dead this morning, two days after a publicized fall from Prague’s Charles Bridge into the Vltava river.
Tříska was pulled from the water by two Polish tourists on a passing cruise ship, and CPR was performed to revive him. Yesterday, he was listed as in “very serious condition” at Prague’s Central Military Hospital.
The circumstances surrounding the actor’s fall are still being investigated by local police. Czech TV station Nova has published statements from witnesses who claim that Tříska, sitting on the ledge next to one of the statues on Prague’s famed bridge, stood up and leapt into river after being asked to move.
We may never know what was going through the actor’s mind on Saturday.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Tříska was one of the youngest actors with Prague’s National Theatre company, and starred in stage, screen, and TV productions. He appeared in princely leading roles in films like 1970’s Radúz a Mahulena.
In the mid 1970s, his acting opportunities began to dry up in Czechoslovakia following pressure from the communist leaders during the Normalization period. Tříska was banned from radio after an alleged illegal broadcast with future Czech president Václav Havel in 1968.
As Havel was imprisoned by Soviet oppressors, Tříska fled the country after signing the anti-communist manifesto Charter 77, emigrating first to Canada, and then to the United States, where he became an established character actor in Hollywood productions.
After roles as communist leader Karl Radek in Warren Beatty’s Reds, a Russian agent in Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend, and a Russian scientist in the 2001 sequel 2010, Tříska avoided being typecast as a Soviet bit player.
He appeared in featured roles as a Polish contact in the 1984 remake Unfaithfully Yours, a Swedish architect in Tom Schiller's legendary underground production Nothing Lasts Forever, and as Milos, Terry Silver’s put-upon Czech butler in The Karate Kid Part III.
In the 1990s, his roles included parts in Czech director Miloš Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt (he played the assassin who shoots the Hustler publisher), Loose Cannons, Ronin, and Apt Pupil.
After the fall of communism, Tříska also returned to the Czech Republic to act. For Czech audiences, he might be best remembered as teacher Igor Hnízda in Jan Svěrák’s 1991 film Obecná škola (The Elementary School), which was nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar.
He later starred in acclaimed Czech movies including the Oscar-nominated Želary, Horem pádem (Up and Down), and Jan Švankmajer's Šílení (Lunacy), in which he played the Marquis de Sade.
While maintaining a permanent residence in the U.S., Tříska had been enjoying a resurgence in Prague this year.
In March, he appeared in person at Prague’s Febiofest film festival, where he was honored with the festival’s Kristián Award for Contribution to World Cinema. He also took part in the promotional campaign for Jan Svěrák’s Po strništi bos, still playing in Prague cinemas, in which he stars as the curmudgeonly grandfather of the lead character.
Today, he was set to begin filming Na střeše (On the Roof) for director Jiř Mádl. Filming has been indefinitely postponed, according to a spokesperson for the project.
Tříska performing the title song in 1969's Popelka (Cinderella):
Lead photo: Tříska in Obecná škola