WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Oscar winner Andrzej Wajda said Thursday that his new film on former Polish president and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa will be his greatest challenge in 55 years as a director.
"This will be the most difficult movie I have made in my life," Wajda, 85, told a news conference. "I don't want to, but I have to," he said, quoting a line Walesa coined and often used while president in the early 1990s.
Wajda — the director of "The Promised Land" and "Katyn" — begins shooting "Walesa" on Dec. 1 in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, where in 1980 then-unemployed electrician Walesa seized the reigns of a shipyard wage protest and turned it into a nationwide Solidarity movement that helped lead to the downfall of communism a decade later.
Wajda described Walesa as a hero who had a "true victory" in leading Poland out of decades of Moscow-imposed communism and into sovereignty, without any lives being lost.
The director said documentary footage from the Walesa-led strike in the Gdansk shipyard and the ensuing successful talks with communist authorities will be woven into the movie that is to debut in Poland in the fall of 2012.
Janusz Glowacki — an off-Broadway Polish playwright — has written the screenplay. Glowacki said the aim of his script is to portray Walesa as a "fascinating person," not build a monument to him.
"I tried to put together things heroic with funny things," Glowacki said, adding that he wanted to show Walesa as a "giant who stumbles, falls but then rises."
Polish actors Robert Wieckiewicz and Agnieszka Grochowska will play the roles of Walesa and his wife, Danuta.
The movie will span the period between the worker street protests of 1970, in which Walesa took part, to his speech before the U.S. Congress in the fall of 1989, shortly after the end of communism in Poland and a year before he became the first popularly elected president.
Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his work in leading Poland towards freedom. His wife, Danuta, traveled to collect it because Walesa feared that the communist authorities would not let him return if he left the country.
Wajda received a lifetime achievement Academy Award in 2000.