Interviewing Anna Geislerová leaves you with little doubt as to how she came to be the most well-known actress in the Czech Republic. She hardly needs a role to be a fascinating character in her own right: individualistic, forthright, thoughtful and indeed very charming. She puts her personality into a lot of different activities - literary, charitable, social, artistic - and the country loves her for it. But the Czech Republic has become too small for Anna Geislerová. In the illustrious Vinohrady Theatre, where she was doing a photo shoot, we talked about where she’s going now and how she got to where she is.
“Well it was kind of a coincidence, I believe. I wanted very much to be an actress, but I didn’t even have the time to think about what to do to become an actress, it just happened to me. I met someone on the street who said there was an audition for a movie, and I said ‘ok, that’s what I want to do’. I went there, and I won. And so that’s how it started, and it just kept on going, somehow, by itself – I didn’t do much for it. That’s maybe why I’m spoiled now and have problems working on my progress!”
"I might be, I might be spoiled. Because I really didn’t have to do much here. It just kept on going, so I took this as fate, which is kind of alibistic."
I think you must have been a rather formidable child; you ran off to Milan, I think, when you were 15 to pursue a career in modelling, is that right?
"Yeah, but it was the family, it wasn’t just me. You know, we were like that; we were a very free and open family. I admire my mother for letting me do what I wanted. I probably would have just fought her anyway and done it by myself, but she let me do what I wanted. So, well, I ran away. But I didn’t actually run away! She went with me, she checked out the situation, then she left and let me be a model in Milan when I was, I don’t know, 15 or 16. And then I moved out. But I don’t think it’s very unusual. When you’re 16, everybody either wants to leave the house, or not."
Even now you seem like a person who pretty much does whatever she likes, is that fair to say?
"Yes, but I feel guilty for it [laughs]. No, no, no, I feel like somehow I need to get organised a little bit. I feel it’s time now to… I don’t know, starting using the brain maybe."
Can you be more specific?
"I mean, I really thought things either happen, or they don’t, and there’s nothing I could do about it. But now I feel like maybe time is running too fast and there are things that I feel I could do. I very much – now I feel like I’m losing my English – I want very much to work abroad, you know, because the Czech Republic is kind of small, and I feel like the things I can do here are repeating. The scripts that I’m reading now and the opportunities given are not very challenging. It’s maybe not nice to say, but I feel I want to work somewhere else, with people who don’t know me… I’d be willing to lose what I have here, I can risk it, and just go risk somewhere else."
"Yeah, well that would be great." [laughs]
So anywhere else, just for a change of pace.
"Anywhere. It’s not about heading west or east. Anywhere. My favourite cinematography is Scandinavian, that’s a place where I would love to do some movies. Or Poland, Hungary, anywhere, just to, you know, feel different vibes."
How do you feel about the state of Czech cinematography in general?
"I think we have one wonderful and very exceptional thing, which is quite rare in Europe, because Czech people love Czech cinema, very much – they absolutely adore it. Percentage-wise, if a movie is made in the Czech Republic and it’s like a club movie, not mainstream or big-budget, so it still gets like 200,000 viewers. And if you compare that to Germany for example, that would mean like two or four million viewers. But there, the same type of movie gets even less people, like 40,000 viewers. I was just speaking about this with a producer from Germany, who said we have an amazing situation. If the market here was bigger, we would be very, very successful with movies – you know, big movies, lots of money for them – but there aren’t many Czech people, so we can’t make big movies and big business. We are exceptional in this kind of nationalistic feeling for Czech movies. Czech people, we love Czech cinema. Last year there was I think like 25 movies, which is the most since the Velvet Revolution – 25 movies a year, for such a small country. Not all of them are nice or good, but it’s amazing. It never stopped. In the film business in the Czech Republic, we say, you know, ‘it’s bad, it’s boring, blah blah blah’, but we never stopped."
Well what could Czech filmmakers come up with that would challenge you?
"Well, that would be if they would start doing something personal. Something risky, putting their souls into the movies, not thinking ‘let’s do it like this and that to make a movie that will be successful’, or ‘let’s make a clever movie, let’s make a beautiful movie’, but if they would say ‘I want to do this movie because I just have to; I have to make a movie about what I feel, or what happened to me’. I feel like Czech movies are very artificial, they don’t come out of what people real feel. They could even be more silly or risk more in any way: artistically, in terms of the script… To me they are very conservative."
Going back to when you were starting out: do you see it as a positive experience, being one of the most famous actresses in the country before you were even 20?
"I have no idea. I have no other experience, so I don’t know. You do mean, like, if I look at my friend who’s not famous? Well then I feel it’s definitely worse not to be famous! [laughs] No, I don’t know what to say…"
No, I’ll put it another way: would you want your children to be involved in film?
"If they were like I was. I did what I wanted, and I think that’s the most important thing. If you feel you want to do this you just do it. You have to take the risk, otherwise you would be unhappy. And I was happy, I was doing what I wanted. So if they had the same feeling or the same passion as I did then that’s fine for me, as a parent, to have children who know what they want."
You might be most successful as an actress, but you’ve got all sorts of artistic pursuits. Which of them is the most personally rewarding for you?
"I think it’s acting, I think it’s acting."
Not painting cows?
[laughs] "No, no, no. It’s the things I love to do because they transform your creativity into something different than acting, I love them too. Now I’m doing clothes, I’m going to have my own collection, and that’s also wonderful, because you feel something, you watch things, you see colours, you feel emotions, but you transform it into a t-shirt or something. For me it’s a very wonderful experience because when you do movies you’re working with emotions, you can’t touch it, you just give it away and then that’s it. But in this I can do things that are tangible, you know, so that’s also wonderful for me. But acting I think is the most important for, I don’t know, my soul and my emotional growth. But also I’m writing, so I think maybe I’m going to transform my creativity into something else. Maybe I’ll slowly fade away as an actress and do something else, because I’m not really fixed on it. But still, it’s the thing that I love the most."
So could you imagine that in 20 years you would be better known as a writer or a fashion designer than as an actress?
"That would be wonderful... that would be wonderful. That would be like having two or three more lives. Because, you know, once you’re known as an actress maybe it’s time to leave it and do something else. I’m very open to anything that life brings. Maybe that’s my biggest problem."
Czech Ambassador to Ethiopia Pavel Mikeš: ‘If you wait long enough, an egg will walk on two legs’
Archaeologists find unique grave of Roman era warlord in Uherský Brod
New debate erupts over use of -ová suffix in Czech female surnames
Josef Becher – the man behind Czech Republic’s iconic liqueur
Divided by Freedom – Large-scale Czech Radio survey finds six social classes in Czech society