“Anthropoid” filmmakers promote project in Karlovy Vary

Jamie Dornan, Sean Ellis, Ańa Geislerová, photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

The team behind the upcoming feature-film “Anthropoid”, which tells the story of the famous 1942 assassination of acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, assembled at the Karlovy Vary film festival to promote the project, set to begin filming this summer in the Czech Republic. The film will star Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy as the legendary Czech and Slovak assassins responsible for the highest profile killing of a Nazi official during the Second World War.

Jamie Dornan, Sean Ellis, Ańa Geislerová, photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary
The assassination of Reynhard Heydrich has been fodder for a number of previous filmmakers. In 1964, Czech director Jiří Sequens brought the classic film “Atentát” to the big screen. Regarded as a taut, well-executed thriller, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this film is that it managed to remain faithful to the true story of the assassins Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who were parachuted into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia from Britain, and attacked Heydrich as he travelled in an open-top car in a Prague suburb. Made during the communist era, “Atentát” miraculously managed to avoid regime pressures to tone down the Western contribution to the defeat of the Nazis in favour of the Soviet one. Hollywood has also told this story on three separate occasions – twice in 1943, and also more directly via the 1975 Lewis Gilbert film “Operation Daybreak”.

Heydrich's car after assassination, photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-039-44 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Now, British writer-director Sean Ellis is set to bring this latest adaptation – “Anthropoid” to cinemas in 2016. At a press conference in Karlovy Vary, Ellis spoke of his vision for the film:

“For me it felt right that this was the next film I wanted to make. I also wanted to make it more of a contained, very emotional piece. I didn’t see it as some kind of war epic. Because I think the actions of the people involved are epic, and I felt that if I could tell the story on a very small scale in that sense, that would be the way to do this – to focus on the people in the Czech resistance at that time.”

Ellis also underscored that the film will seek to be as authentic as possible, but lamented that modern Prague was becoming increasingly difficult to use as a historical location. He then described his own visit to the Cyril and Methodius church in Prague’s Resslova street, which concealed the assassins until they were tracked down by the SS – leading to a final, desperate gun battle.

Cyril and Methodius church, photo: archive of Radio Prague
“It has been very interesting to research all the actions. Just to walk through the church where all the bullet holes are found, and the hand grenades went off – and to then recreate that. Because we are building a full-scale recreation of the church in a soundstage. So to be able to rig the action to match what we know happened is a very pleasant process for a filmmaker.”

The film is a co-production involving the US, UK, France and the Czech Republic. David Ondříček, son of the famous cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček, is serving as co-producer. Additionally, Czech actress Anna Geislerová is set to play Gabčík’s partner.