Real school of life

Géza Röhrig on Jesse Eisenberg and shooting Resistance with Jonathan Jakubowicz

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Géza Röhrig: “Since Son of Saul I was privileged to work with Elizabeth McGovern and Jesse Eisenberg, Matthew Broderick. And so for me to work with these people, it’s the real school of life.”
Géza Röhrig: “Since Son of Saul I was privileged to work with Elizabeth McGovern and Jesse Eisenberg, Matthew Broderick. And so for me to work with these people, it’s the real school of life.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Géza Röhrig, star of László Nemes’ Oscar-winning Son Of Saul and a partner in crime with Matthew Broderick in Shawn Snyder’s To Dust, produced by Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer, is cousin Georges to Jesse Eisenberg’s Marcel Marceau in Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance with Clémence Poésy, Edgar Ramírez (Roberto Durán in Jakubowicz’s Hands of Stone) and Matthias Schweighöfer. Géza’s upcoming roles include playing Jesus in Terrence Malick’s The Last Planet, costumes by Carlo Poggioli, and Z in Chino Moya’s Undergods.

Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau with Clémence Poésy as Emma
Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau with Clémence Poésy as Emma

Early last year, I moderated a post-screening discussion with Géza Röhrig and Shawn Snyder for the To Dust theatrical premiere. When I met with Géza the day before, we did catch up on what happened since the Academy Award whirlwind surrounding Son of Saul swept him into the acting profession. Besides his latest poetry publication, we talked about Resistance, which he had just finished shooting at the time.

Resistance tells the remarkable and up to this point not very well known story of Marcel Marceau’s heroism during the Second World War, when he, who was to become the world’s most famous mime, helped Jewish orphans escape into Switzerland.

Anne-Katrin Titze: You say, you just came back from Germany? What were you doing there?

Géza Röhrig: I was shooting an American movie with Jesse Eisenberg. It’s called Resistance. It’s about the French mime Marcel Marceau. Jesse is playing Marcel Marceau and I’m his cousin. I was not only in Munich, I was in [rural] Bavaria. I was in a beautiful tiny town called Kronach.

Géza Röhrig as Saul Ausländer in László Nemes’ Son Of Saul
Géza Röhrig as Saul Ausländer in László Nemes’ Son Of Saul

AKT: I see.

GR: Have you been there?

AKT: I visited there once briefly. I don’t really know it.

GR: I was there for weeks. I loved the place.

AKT: That’s where you filmed?

GR: Partly, yeah. I just loved it. It actually has a castle. One of those very few castles all over Europe that actually was never taken by any enemy. It was always in their own hands.

AKT: And the town allowed you to shoot in the castle?

GR: Yes. I just loved the town, I loved the size of it. It’s so peaceful. I loved running around the mountains. It was just beautiful. Jonathan Jakubowicz is the director. His previous movie was Hands of Stone. About the South American boxer, Roberto Durán. He himself is from Venezuela, great guy. I’m excited about it.

AKT: Do you have any obsessions in that film, too?

Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) with the children in Resistance
Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) with the children in Resistance

GR: No, I’m trying to avoid being typecast. Always being the death guy. The crazy Jew. No, actually, I am Jewish in that movie but it’s a fairly normal role.

AKT: Your life changed drastically since Son of Saul. How is the acting profession treating you?

GR: I’ve been very lucky since. You know, in Son of Saul, there were no, like, super actors around me. It was a movie where I was standing on my own, almost in a vacuum. Since Son of Saul I was privileged to work with Elizabeth McGovern and Jesse Eisenberg, Matthew Broderick. And I’m not a trained actor by profession.

I started to act in my early 40s. And so for me to work with these people, it’s the real school of life. I’m really thrown into the deep waters and I’m learning. I’m trying to watch how these people do it. And they’re very humble. Matthew too. He doesn’t behave like a big celebrity and he really knows his stuff.

AKT: How is your poetry coming?

Matthew Broderick as Albert and Géza Röhrig as Shmuel in Shawn Snyder’s To Dust
Matthew Broderick as Albert and Géza Röhrig as Shmuel in Shawn Snyder’s To Dust

GR: Very good. I just published a book in Hungary, which - I wanted it that way - is sold by the homeless. You can’t buy my poetry book in the bookstore. It’s actually better marketing because a lot of people don’t go to bookstores. But everybody goes to the bus and on the street. Whenever you buy the book, the money goes to the homeless.

AKT: That’s great. It’s like those magazines they sell.

GR: Yes, those street newspapers. It sells really well. I’m really happy about that.

AKT: Is there a theme? What are the poems about?

GR: 50 poems and each poem is a portrait of a homeless. There’s so many ways to end up homeless. It’s not always divorce, it’s not always drugs, it’s not always alcohol. All sorts of stories, young, old. So I have 50 individuals who ended up on the street.

AKT: That’s quite a discrepancy - from Hollywood red carpets …

GR: Anne-Katrin, you should know me by now. I’m not a Hollywoodian thing. I’m hardly in L.A..

Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau en route to Switzerland with the children
Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau en route to Switzerland with the children

AKT: I know, all I am saying is that your experiences are far-reaching.

GR: I’ve never done TV. I’m very happy and I try. I’m still interested in really good scripts. Original material.

AKT: Alessandro Nivola had told me about the roles you didn’t take, which stays off the record.

GR: Don’t write about it, yes. Lots of things I didn’t take.

AKT: It’s great that you do resist temptations that others might fall into.

GR: If you have four kids you have to pay tuition and all that, but so far …

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