"It all started by chance" – Lubos says when talking about the beginnings of his acting career. At the age of eighteen he went to the Wrocław Contemporary Theatre with a girlfriend. "I wanted to impress her and it turned out that I hung myself out to dry". Seeing Polish actor Zdzisław Kuźniar play Tankred Dorst’s Ja, Feuerbach, captivated by the happening, he decide to tie his future in with the theatre.
Film and theatre actor. In 2009, he received the Zbyszek Cybulski Award.
Breaking the rules
He didn't get into the Theatre School in Kraków. "During the oral exam I was told I had strange mental states and that's how my adventure with the Kraków school ended", Lubos confesses in an interview for Culture.pl. After finding out that they already admitted one ginger-haired person to the Warsaw Theatre Academy, he figured there was no sense in trying to get in. "Then one day I dreamt of Professor Bardini who was associated with the Wrocław Actor's Song Review, I decide to take my chance in the Wrocław Theatre School." He got in.
"At the Theatre School I felt straight away that some of the professors didn't accept me. I was different, edgy, I didn't fit into their conceptions", he shared with the readers of Film magazine. "Certain lovely ladies who were on the scene for the last time in 1955 tried to prove to me that acting looked the way they conceived of it. I wanted to show them that it could be done differently. And that's how it began, from a conflict. And the weird thing is that all the nerds and cute lazy girls who dreamt of becoming sitcoms stars and doing photo shoots for fancy magazines all vanished. But I stayed", he said in the same interview.
"During the third year I thought very highly of myself and I realised I needed some kind of antidopping method to stop thinking that way. All the drinking, smoking and art talk became too much", he said in an interview for the website Interia. "I took up boxing, the trainer looked at me and said: ‘Very well, if you want you can come, you can observe.’"
At the gym where he worked out he never admitted to being an actor. He was putting a lot of soul into boxing and the trainers wanted him to fight in a higher league. He would have become a professional boxer if it weren't for Zygmunt Gosiewski, one of the trainers who saw him in Piotr Cieplak's The Story of Jacob. "In it, I had a long monologue from the Book of Ecclesiastes. I put my whole heart into the role, I was sweating like a pig, I was in a trance. After the show I heard that in the end I can't become a professional boxer. Gosiewski knew where the right place for me was", recalled Lubos.
A worker's soul
Whether on the ring or in the theatre, he always stood out for being hardworking. But that wasn't enough. "It's hard to live off a theatre paycheck, so in order not to strain my parents I went to earn in Holland and Germany." He worked conveyor belts. "I'm from Silesia. Since I was a boy I was raised in the worker's spirit. The only thing that matters in Silesia is work. It would be best to work all day long from morning till the evening", he explained in the interview for Film magazine.
After he graduated he received a position in Wrocław's Contemporary Theatre. He played 23 roles in 7 years: Lvovka in Izaak Babel's Sunset, Mercutio in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Billy in McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan and Alex in Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. While his acting portfolio grew, his wallet remained empty. "It was February, the year isn't relevant. 29 days in the month, of which 3 Mondays where theatres are closed. I played 26 performances and earned 1990 zlotys", he reminisced.
After he played Boguś in Przemysław Wojcieszek's Made in Poland it became clear that he was a rising star. That's where he was spotted by leading Polish theatre director Grzegorz Jarzyna who offered him a position with the trendy TR Warszawa troupe. "Before I moved to Warsaw, I never left the theatre - I thought it was my Bible. Constant contact with the audience, drilling, fuddling with the roles and texts..." – he continued in the Interia interview. In 2005, in Warsaw, he performed in Jarzyna's Macbeth and Przemysław Wojcieszek's Whatever Happens, I Love You. Later there was Jarzyna's Giovanni, Przemysław Wojcieszek's Two Poor Romanians Who Speak Polish, Jan Klata's Shoemakers at the Gate and Natalia Korczakowska's Solaris. Report.
"One time I heard on set: Mr Eryk, we don't know where to put you. Your personality is too strong for television, you are too expressive for the cinema", said Lubos. But then he got a couple of cinema roles: playing some rude boys and chavs. In 2007 he received the script for Jan Jakub Kolski's Polish Russian War Under the White and Red Flag based on Dorota Masłowska's book. He was supposed to be Silny and lost seven kilograms for the role. "I only ate cabbage soup, herrings and I drank red wine", he said in a piece for Malemen magazine. Ten days before filming started, the whole thing was called off. Months of preparations went to waste and everything resulted in a two month long depression. Lubos sums up, "But that's all in the past now. There's nothing to talk about."
There are no breakthrough moments
When he was preparing for the filming of the Polish Russian War ... he received the script to Kasia Adamik's The Offsiders / Boiska bezdomnych. "20 minutes later I already knew. I saw that it dealt with homelessness, alcoholism, the fight for dignity, Warsaw Central Station, the deep end... " the actor told the for Interia.pl reporter, "The story really got to me on a human level. I had no idea what would turn out, but I called them back and said that no matter what, I had to play in it."
Not long after came an offer for Marcin Wrona's My Blood. Lubos impersonated a dying boxer. According to culture.pl's Bartek Staszczyszyn, no other Polish actor could have done a better job. He gave it all he had. He would have almost lost his hand. During one of the scenes he suffered an injury and his elbow started to retain water. After the filming he flew to New York with the TR Warszawa troupe to perform Macbeth, he ended up in the ER. "After 15 hours of waiting in a hospital in Brooklyn, the Russian doctor said it was a sepsis. They did blood tests. I didn't agree to a full narcosis because we were performing in the evening. They gave me two morphine shots and they operated without anesthesia. (…) It was probably the Scotch that saved me." - he jokes.
In 2008, for his part in The Offsiders he received the Golden Lions Award at the Gdynia Film Festival for Best Supporting Role. A year later for his role in My Blood, he won the Zbigniew Cybulski prize for Best Polish Actor of the Young Generation. "There are no breakthrough moments," he claims, "everything is an accidental result of the work and experiences gathered throughout the years. Stanisława Celińska used to say that awards spoil people, they create illusions that we are great. And that can lose you. I'm happy about the awards because they confirm that my persistence in being an actor makes sense. But they are not the most important thing."
"In the last 10 years I have never been interviewed as much as after the Gdynia Festival." - he said in one of the interviews. With the increased media interest came more role suggestions. There was Jan Jakub Kolski's Venice, Przemysław Wojcieszk's Made in Poland, Jan Hryniak's Trick, Anna Kazejak-Dawid's Flying Pigs, Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik's Janosik. A True Story, Piotr Matwiejczyk's Straight from Heaven and finally Smarzowski's work: Rose and The Dark House, where Lubos played the only cheerful character in the film.
I'm like Dmitri Karamazov
His acting is effortless and natural, barely distinct from his normal way of being, says Staszczyszyn. After the filming for My Blood, he bought the jacket he wore in the film so that no other actor would wear that costume. Lubos blends into his characters, he becomes his characters to the point of schizophrenia. "There's this famous anecdote - when you see a bear what do you do? An actor from the Konstantin Stanislavski Theatre School first thinks, then starts to feel, and finally reacts. Forget the thinking, you just have to get the fuck out of there," he told Interia. "I was taught the traditional school of acting, I always keep things to myself, I try to stop and think and I try very hard. They always wanted to kick my out of school, but I wanted to prove to myself that one can find something more, and more and more."
In Piotr Cieplak's The Story of Jacob, he was fervently quoting passages from the Book of Ecclesiastes: "Whatever you do, do it shrewdly. For there are no works of art, no accounts, no knowledge, or wisdom. In the oblivion towards which you are heading." [translated for culture.pl]. Bartek Staszczyn further remarks that he pays a personal price for his transformations as an actor. "They're all screwed if they have to work with me. The costume ladies, the make-up people, the set director - it's impossible to tell you what they have to go through." He also becomes unbearable for his close ones, Staszczyszyn adds.
"When it comes to work, I'm like Dmitri Karamazov - I fall with my head first. It's everything or nothing, a game with no safety belts. For the sake of a film or a spectacle I go all the way: the final goal, which is a good performance or an intelligent film is paramount. It's more important than private ambitions or being egocentric", Lubos outlined for Film magazine. But in the end there is always a giant artistic creation and a void. "I always feel sorry for that loneliness that surfaces after the hard work. Nothing ever fills it", he continued.
He is afraid of film premieres. "I devote four months to it, I don't sleep at night, plans constantly change, fuck, for a week you have to shoot at night, then a 12 hour break and filming in the morning," he told the Interia reporter, "and then you go to the cinema and that whole thing in squeezed into 2 hours. That's why I promised myself, and I tell the producers about it, that I don't go to premieres, cos I'll ... myself from fear."
I pray for wackos
He avoids celebrity parties and media glamour. "I love a good party in good company, but banquets with pull-up adverts, camera flashes and the whole pomp? What the fuck?" He cares about the things preceding the opening night - hard work, getting into the roles, creating new worlds.
He doesn't just appear from time to time, he acts. He acts a lot and he does it well, as Staszczyszyn points out. He is about to finish the dubbing to The Wolf Negociator / Wilq Negocjator, an adaptation of the cult comic books by the Minkiewicz brothers, and he can currently be seen on TV in the series Mission Afghanistan. He plays a manager who is accused of abusing his employees in Maria Sadowska's Women's Day which comes to Polish cinemas on the 8th of March 2013. He received much praise for his role as the two-faced employer, at times disgusting and scheming, then charming and magnetic moments later. Jan Jakub Kolski's To Kill a Beaver is scheduled for release shortly. The story of an ex-soldier caught by the demons of his traumatic past was a hit at the 2012 Karlovy Vary Film Festival and Lubos received an award for Best Male Role.
"I've made so many movies recently that most likely, I won't have a job until spring. I'm happy. I'll be able to watch my daughter grow." He's definitely not going to be unemployed, Staszczyszyn writes. Soon he'll appear on Wojtek Smarzowski's film set. "I wanted to get a lead role in one of his movies. One that is hard-core and bloody. Some kind of fuck-up. There are very few wackos in this world and that's why life is so obnoxious. I pray for the crazy people who are not afraid of difficult topics and experimental searches. I just want the directors to finally give me something different", he told journalist Dorota Szelągowska in an interview for Malemen. "I want them see more in me than a pile of aggressive meat. Maybe a priest or a gentleman."
In the same interview he went on to say: "I am nothing more than one human being among the 40 million other people in this country [...] A poor, small worm which somewhere on the side is rolling a tiny ball, a pile of manure, and as I roll it, I can look there, glue something to it here, be surprised by something over there..." But acting is something more to him that everyday prose, as per Staszczyszyn. He treats it like a temple for those for whom church is not enough, like a place for an exchange of feelings and energy. A place for common experiences, "If you work hard enough for it, this profession can be a mystical experience." - he told Malemen magazine. And Eryk Lubos works very hard. Today he is considered one of the most interesting actors of the Polish scenes, a workaholic wacko, an artist that loves challenges, extreme roles and duels with art.
At 38 years of age, Eryk Lubos has already been named Best Actor at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, he has received the Golden Lions Award at the Gdynia Film Festival for supporting role and is a recipient of the Zbigniew Cybulski prize for Best Polish Actor of the Young Generation. He has performed on stage, sung operas and done voice overs for animated films. Through it all he has remained among the most authentic and unconventional actors in the business.
Translated by: Marta Jazowska based on the original Polish text by Bartosz Staszczyszyn for Culture.pl