Ben Foster Cast as Czech Hero Jan Žižka in New Movie
One of the greatest Czech heroes is set to become the subject of the most expensive Czech movies ever made, and it has just found a fitting star to portray him.
15th Century Czech general Jan Žižka is one of the country’s most revered historical icons alongside Jan Hus, the Catholic reformer whom he followed.
Nicknamed “One-Eye Žižka”, he successfully commanded Czech forces during the Hussite Wars after Hus was burned at the stake in 1415. Despite losing his remaining eye during battle, he successfully led the forces that defended the Czech lands against the Holy Roman Empire.
A monument to Jan Žižka at the top of Vítkov hill in Žižkov - the Prague district that bears his name - is one of the most prominent statues in Prague, visible from many areas in the center of the city, and one of the largest equestrian statues in the world.
Žižka’s story has been told before in Czech film, most notably the 1955 epic Jan Žižka from director Otakar Vávra.
But now, Jan Žižka is set to become the subject for what’s being touted as the most expensive Czech movie ever made: Medieval (titled Jan Žižka in Czech), a 275 million crown ($12.5 million) epic set to be filmed in English on Czech locations over the upcoming months.
Writer-director (and former stuntman) Petr Jákl is the man behind the project, which is set to be produced alongside Cassian Elwes, a British producer whose previous films like Mudbound and Lee Daniels’ The Butler have gone on to earn Academy Award nominations.
The project has also just found it’s lead: Ben Foster, once known for his scene-stealing mad-dog performances in movies like Alpha Dog and 3:10 to Yuma.
In Debra Granik’s wonderful Leave No Trace, which premiered locally at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Foster gave what might be a career-redefining performance as a sensitive-but-deeply-troubled father trying to provide the best for daughter while living off the grid.
In Medieval, however, Foster might have found role closer to his wide-eyed early work.
"I'm very glad we agreed with Ben,” Jákl told the local press.
“He has a rich actor's past, but in America he's a big, rising star, who is said to be one of the most prolific. He is studying his role carefully, and I am so glad that he liked Jan Žižka."
It might be unfortunate that a Czech actor didn’t have a chance to land the role - Karel Roden, for one, would have made a fine Žižka - but producers have made an excellent choice in Foster.
With filming on Medieval set to commence from September 17, the actor is expected to arrive in Prague in the upcoming days.
“I loved this script and loved Petr’s first two movies,” Elwes said in a press release.
“I think he‘s going to do a fantastic job on this film. And I couldn‘t be more excited to work with Ben Foster again, after my experience with him on Ain‘t Them Bodies Saints. He‘s one of the greatest young actors working right now.”
Lead image: Foster alongside Chris Pine in 2016’s Hell or High Water