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from page 54
everything; so then I see this film
and I can't stop crying.
This film is not just a great film. I
think it's also a history lesson every-
one should see.
JN: How do young Germans today
view that period?
TK: Well, it's always young, young
people who tend to be bored of it
because they hear about it all the time
and there is always this talk — isn't it
No, its not enough.
But I have the feeling Germans
[feel] the responsibility for the past.
This film is doing great in Germany.
Germans don't like films — like a
big Hollywood film — where
Germans run around and kill people
and [the German is] just like the ugly
guy, where he's always being the sym-
bol of the ugliness in the World.
But [a film] like this that takes the
subject seriously and is true about it
and is honest, they like it very much.
It's doing incredible. It started in the
art houses and expanded. It's in its
fifth week now and they're sold out.
JN: How did you feel, then, about
seeing the many brutal German char-
acters portrayed in The Pianist?
TK: Well, I was very happy to have
JN: Did you have any relatives who
served in the German army during
World War II?
TK: My grandfather was in the army.
He deserted and took my family,
moved my family all over Germany.
He was carrying his mother, who was
in a wheelchair. He could have been
shot for [deserting].
So I feel kind of lucky because as a
German, you ask yourself, "How
would I react?"
And obviously, you look back and
ask yourself how is it possible that a
whole nation got behind this lunatic
(Hitler) and followed him.
JN: How much did you know about
your character in the film and what
did you do to prepare for the role?
TK: There was the diary (included in
the re-published memoir) and the let-
ters of Hosenfeld. I read them and I
saw there were some things that
showed how really great he was.
I go to Roman and say, "What do
And he says, "No."
For me it was a really easy shoot
because it lasted only one- and-a-half
weeks, and he didn't want me to pre-
pare myself. I had an amazing director
who was right all the time.
JN: What directions did he give you?
TK: Well, he was really precise about
everything. The major thing was,
before the first shot, he comes behind
me and whispers in my ear, "You do
the same thing you did during the
"But I didn't act," I told him.
"Exactly," Roman said. "The major
thing: don't act."
The second thing was he wanted to
keep it kind of ambivalent, like neu-
You don't understand when you're
shooting it, but when you see the
whole film, you understand how right
When I got the script, I thought I
was going to shoot it in English. Then
he wasn't quite sure on the set and
then we ended up shooting [my lines]
in German. He thought it made it
more real, more precise.
It's interesting, too, because a lot of
people who see the film forget after-
ward that I speak in German, which I
think is great.
In films, the German language is
always used da da da da da da (spo-
ken in harsh tones). Here I can speak
like a human being.
JN: How familiar were you with
TK: I'd seen him in films. I was very
excited to work with him because I've
never seen him bad. He's a good actor.
Years back, I was always surprised
how American actors are able to
express these deep feelings, because
the whole [Hollywood] environment
is so shallow.
So I was kind of wondering about a
boy from New York who didn't grow
up with the music, with all the stories,
the buildings, the grandparents, with
the furniture even — [Europeans] are
emotionally so much closer to it than
I can imagine any American would be.
For me, the biggest surprise was
how much he could [transport] him-
self into this and how much he felt it
and he knew it.
It got to the point where I spoke
German to him. He learned his dia-
logue and asked me from time to time
how to pronounce this or that.
I heard him talking and there were
times he sounded like my grandmoth-
er, who was Polish.
The accent — it gave me the