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Thirty years after the Velvet Revolution that brought down the communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia, the six-part HBO Europe series “The Sleepers” captures that tumultuous time with a spy drama set behind the Iron Curtain.
On the eve of its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, director Ivan Zacharias (“Wasteland”) and actor David Nykl (“Stargate”) joined Variety film critic Peter Debruge to discuss the series at the Variety Critics Corner, presented by HBO Europe.
Zacharias - Events - Year - Reign - Rule
Zacharias recalled the turbulent events of a year that swept away the decades-long reign of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia. “That was a big year. It was a huge change, when the communist system finally broke down,” he said.
It’s an era that’s rarely been documented on screen, noted Debruge, with “The Sleepers” offering a portrait of Czech society at a time when political intrigue meant nothing was entirely what it seemed.
Period - Life - Research - Zacharias - TV
Bringing that period to life took meticulous research from Zacharias and debut TV scriptwriter Ondrej Gabriel. The faithfulness to detail extended to the script, which the director insisted be written in his native language. “This has to be in Czech, because it’s a Czech story,” he said.
The show’s creators were also faced with more cosmetic challenges — perhaps none more difficult than finding suitably grimy corners of the spruced-up capital to shoot in. “Back in 1989, it was an older, decrepit-looking Prague,” said Nykl. “It’s beautiful now.”
Nykl - Czechoslovakia - Family - Country - Invasion
Nykl was born in the former Czechoslovakia but left when his family fled the country after the Soviet invasion of 1968. Playing an English diplomat in the series, he described “The Sleepers” as “a...
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"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift