Polish Actor Marek Probosz – Outstanding Pole Award Winner
INTERVIEW WITH AN INCREDIBLE ACTOR
THEATER AND FILM DIRECTOR MAREK PROBOSZ
BY JADWIGA INGLIS
“Real is good but interesting is better” – Stanley Kubrick.
JI.: 1. Marek, you were the Outstanding Pole Award Winner in the Culture Category 2023. In 2022 you were awarded the Pola Negri – POLITKA AWARD at the 15th festival in Lipno, Poland – where your plaque was unveiled on the Avenue of the Stars,
you also received the Helena Modrzejewska – MODJESKA PRIZE lifetime achievement award recognizing the most eminent actors’ contributions to Polish and Polish American culture. In 2018 you received the Polish Diaspora Oscar – THE GOLDEN OWL in the Film Category in Vienna, Austria. PILECKI GOLD MEDAL (Auschwitz 2011).
It was very nice to see that you receive such a high award from the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles, Diplomas from US Congressmen from LA, and a Representative of Orange County, and to see fragments of some of the films during the presentation. I can see from those fragments of movies that you can perform multiple characters. M.P.: Since childhood, I liked to make other people laugh. You can see on every photograph I make a different pose and face, changing characters. Acting was natural to me. I guess I was already born an actor. My instinct, my emotions and my soul were pulling me like a magnet to the stage. I had my theater debut at age six. I couldn’t read yet so my mom taught me my lines. I played Jester in “A Princess and a Pea” by Christian Andersen at the Fairy Tale Theatre in Żory, Poland. Local reviews wrote: “the most stunning and fun in the play was the youngest and the cutest actor Marek Probosz”. They say that good actors have 250 different characters in him. With me you could double the number.
J.I.; 2. What do you do to play such various characters truthfully?
M.P.: The study of acting is the study of humanity. I do my professional work and preparations by examining the character’s struggle with good and evil, conflict, confrontation, climax and resolution. I x-ray the character’s mind, body language, and the soul until they are harmonized and feel truthful to me; until I go through a sensational process of metamorphosis, when it’s not me who enters the stage but a character I’m channeling.
J.I.: 3. When did you discover your call to become an actor? What led you into becoming an actor?
M.P.: I didn’t discover it, I just tried everything and acting stayed with me. My call discovered me! In the Native Indian tradition little children are given many names from the elders who are trying to give the child the name that they earn based on their individual unique character. Growing up, the children lose the names that don’t match their character anymore. In the end. only one, two or three stay. The same was with me. I tried everything but acting stayed with me continuously from age 6 to13, then I switched to competitive sport, becoming a five time national junior champion in cycling. But after 4 fruitful years, I returned to art. The names that stayed with me today are: Actor/Director/Writer/Teacher and, of course ,Jester.
J.I.: 4. When you receive a new role to become a certain character, where do you start? What does your preparation look like?
M.P.: I begin by reading everything that is connected to the character I’m going to portray. I inspire myself with materials that I can find on that subject. Physical, mental, spiritual search. It’s my own individual alchemy during which I become an extension of the spirit that I’m expressing on stage or in front of the camera with my own interpretation which pulsates with every beat of my heart. That truth that I channel illuminates further to the audience and nobody can deny that I become truth when I perform.
J.I.: 5. When you go on the stage, do you ever get stage fright? If so, how does that manifest in you? How do you overcome it?
M.P.: God means no faint hearts for his ambassadors! I need the stage fright. There are people for whom it’s an obstacle that paralyzes them, but there are others who use it as the adrenaline and the energy which gives them wings. I like to take off and land only after my performance is over. If suddenly something unexpected happens before or even during my performance, I use my concentration and breathing techniques. I also like to improvise.
J.I.: 6. From all of your performed roles, which is your favorite?
M.P.: Every new role is a challenge. Salome, Odysseus, Polanski, Norwid…
But it’s Captain Witold Pilecki who I portrayed for the first time on screen in the movie The Death of Captain Pilecki, whose reports from Auschwitz I recorded in English as an Audiobook for audible.com (10 hours!), and who I performed on stages across America and Canada in an audiovisual play with publisher Terry Tegnazian. The Auschwitz Volunteer: Captain Witold Pilecki I directed and performed on the day of the 100th anniversary of Poland’s Independence on Broadway, at the world’s largest solo theatre festival UNITED SOLO 2018 (Winner The Best Documentary Show Award – from 130 shows in competition!). Pilecki is a shining example of heroism that transcends not only religion, race and time but who embodies many threads with my life. I grew up with the stigma of a family tragedy related to World War II. My grandfather, Jerzy Probosz, poet, prose writer, author of the theater play “The Wedding of the Highlanders of Istebna”, was awarded in 1938 by the Academy of Polish Literature in Warsaw with the Literary Laurel (Wawrzyn Literacki) for his work. A year later he was one of the first to be arrested by the Germans, who after invading Poland, as the first priority, killed thousands and deported thousands of our intelligentsia, spiritual leaders and patriots to concentration camps in Germany (they had not yet built them in Poland). My grandfather was taken to the concentration camp in Dachau, where he was murdered in 1942. He orphaned nine children, my father was just 10 years old. On the day of his brutal arrest, my grandfather managed to scratch a few words on a scrap of paper to a friend he was going to see that day.
I wish you strength from my heart, that you may endure every day and night!
Endure! Endure! Endure!
Even if you burn the earthly body down to dust, Your spirit must survive.
The power of these words, their message, have become my life’s motto, the driving force of steadfastness. As well as Pilecki, he was an example of an unsurpassed model of humanism, uncompromising courage, and boundless love for his homeland.
J.I.: 7. Of which role do you still dream to perform?
M.P.: There are many dreams but I’m slowly running out of time. Age gives the authority. My next challenge is the incomparable artist, pianist, composer who became a Polish statesman, instrumental in his motherland’s fight for independence. A knight unique in history. A great man of the ages. A symbol of lofty ideals, of great humanity and of music of enduring beauty.
But there are more roles, among them, almost childlike but with a frightful temper, King Lear.
Since I’m addicted to laughter and I always joke with people, Charlie Chaplin is also on my dream list:)
J.I.: 8. As a little child, what was your biggest fascination?
M.P.: Historical heroes, stars and galaxies, death and love. The quote from Alexander the Great “In the end when it’s over, all that matters is what you have done”.
J.I.: 9. I heard about your big success in New York with the play Norwid’s Return. What led you to Norwid?
M.P.: I love poetry. I belong to the generation of political emigrants. I left Poland in 1987 when the Berlin Wall was still there. I left behind the communist regime’s cuckoo’s nest with its Big Nurse. I escaped toward my dream of Freedom. Norwid is a symbol of the fate of an emigre. I felt that this rejected visionary, a homeless emigrant unknown to the broader world, a hero, must return to us today, more than 200 years after his birth, as one of the greatest world poets, a contemporary innovator who delights, cheers, moves, and shocks with aesthetic radicalism. To be alone on the stage for 90 minutes and deliver Norwid’s text in Polish, with English super titles on Broadway, was like climbing a vertical rock, having at the back of my mind the image of the poet wandering across the streets of New York. My show is based on the works of Cyprian Norwid by Professor Kazimierz Braun, which I produced, directed and performed, and won THE BEST NEW YORK PREMIERE AWARD at UNITED SOLO FESTIVAL 2022.
J.I.: 10. I also have one question from one of the wives of Hollywood, famous sculptress, the dream weaver Monique Lehman. Did you know at once that Małgosia was and is your true love?
M.P.: “The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the only thing we never give enough of is love” – Henry Miller. Once you meet your soul mate there is no division in giving or taking love, there is a total oneness. True love is a complete universe as ying and yang. It was love at first sight and we both recognized how lucky we were to have met our destiny.
J.I.: 11. After playing Captain Witold Pilecki – such a powerful role and an example of hero standing up for what he believes and willing to die for it, how do you get different kind of roles in this film industry?
M.P.: You don’t wait. You create your opportunities. I started Marek Probosz Theater because I believe that talent, passion, hard work must be expressed by an artist in his own way. Even if you must walk alone, you know when you’re on the mission to capture God’s beauty through your art. I never stop, I keep marching like a soldier across the battlefields. Sometimes it takes a long time to lick my wounds, but as long as I live, I will not stop on this creative journey that is my vocation.
J.I.: 12. In general, talking about actors and performing, please tell me what kind of predisposition does an actor have to have in order to be able to dance naked in a grocery store or in high heals, and then be able to perform convincingly as president of a country?
M.P.: You have to trust like a child in the role you play. Once you do, you go all the way. Amuse to survive! Express things that you really want to do with all your talent, energy, humor and wit.
I believe in what I’m doing and I hope it is interesting for the audience.
“Real is good but interesting is better” – Stanley Kubrick.
J.I.: Marek, thank you very much for your time. It is fascinating to know you a little more and the way you prepare yourself to perform important messages that the author of a book, play or script wants to share with the audience.
I saw in March 2023 your great performance in Los Angeles as Poland’s Poet, Norwid’s Return, a play written by Kazimierz Braun, and I think that everyone in the world should see the play performed so well by you, the emigrant artist, writer and poet, that could not please or fit in any society after leaving his place of birth.
I also know that the subtitles for the play about the great poet Cyprian Norwid are being translated to French, and many of us wish to see Norwid’s Return in Paris, to properly honor his greatness in Paris, where he resided, wrote the best of his poems, passed away, and was buried.
Marek I also know that you are working on many new films and theater projects. I look forward to seeing what’s next.
International Correspondent VIP High Life from Los Angeles/ Hollywood, California
In photo: Outstanding Actress Kasia Śmiechowicz, outstanding Actor Marek Probosz and International Correspondent Jadwiga Inglis at the Modjeska Art and Culture Club’s Modjeska Awards Presentation in Los Angeles.
A Polish-American actor, director, screenwriter, author, and producer, with more than 60 film roles to his credit. Many of his movies have won awards at prestigious film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, San Sebastian, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Los Angeles, and Houston
Probosz emigrated to the US at the height of his career in Europe. He was invited by The American Cinematheque in Los Angeles in 1987 as the “idol of his generation.” Since then, he has worked in Hollywood with the elite of American filmmakers, Oscars nominees, and Oscar winners.
His film and television career includes roles in Polish, Czech, German, French, Italian, and American productions and co-productions. He’s made guest appearances on the popular TV series CBS’s Scorpion, ABC’s Scandal, CBS’s Numbers, NBC’s JAG, and USA’s MONK. Probosz received excellent reviews in The New York Times, Hollywood Reporter and Variety for playing the legend of cinema, Roman Polański, in the movie Helter Skelter produced by Warner Bros TV (2004). He’s made his U.S. feature debut with Y.M.I, an unflinching portrait of the dark forces lurking in the lives of teenagers, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in. The film won the Audience Choice ABBOT Award at The Other Venice Film Festival, Los Angeles (2004).
In 2006, Probosz starred in the unforgettable role of one of the greatest heroes of the 20th Century and legendary Auschwitz volunteer, Witold Pilecki, in the award winning film Death of Captain Pilecki directed by Ryszard Bugajski. Probosz also recorded a 10-hour audiobook for Audible.com about Pilecki and directed the monodrama The Auschwitz Volunteer: Captain Witold Pilecki, staged in 2018 on Broadway. This performance received the Best Documentary Show award at the largest in the world one-actor festival, UNITED SOLO in New York.
Marek Probosz is THE OUTSTANDING POLE AWARD WINNER in CULTURE – Category 2023. In 2022 Probosz was awarded the Pola Negri – POLITKA AWARD at the 15th festival in Lipno, Poland – participating in his plaque unveiling ceremony on the Avenue of the Stars, and he received the Helena Modrzejewska – MODJESKA PRIZE 2022 in Los Angeles for his lifetime achievements. Probosz also received the Polish Diaspora Oscar – THE GOLDEN OWL in the FILM category (Vienna, 2018), the MORTUI SUNT UT LIBERTI VIVAMUS medal (London 2011), and WITOLD PILECKI GOLD MEDAL (Oświęcim 2011).
He is the author of two books, two theater plays and many original and adapted screenplays. Since 2005, Probosz has been teaching in the UCLA Department of Theater Film and Television. He has also taught at Williams College MA, Emerson College in Los Angeles, Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theater Academy in Warsaw, and the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica. He has been a special guest and a jury member at international film festivals, where he gave Master Classes and ran workshops on acting and screenwriting.
Marek Probosz obtained a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts and Acting in 1984 at PWSTiF in Łódź, Poland. In 1993, he received an MA in Directing from the American Film Institute, AFI, in Los Angeles.