Former Czech Republic president Václav Havel died from respiratory problems earlier today. Havel, who had been a heavy smoker, was 75.
Besides his role as a political dissident during the Communist regime and as a representative of Czechoslovakia’s transition from Communist rule to economically and politically troubled constitutional democracy, Havel was also a playwright.
A number of his plays were filmed for television throughout the ’80s and ’90s. In 2011, Havel himself directed for the big screen an adaptation of his play Leaving, which was released in the Czech Republic in March. Making clear allusions to Havel himself and to his nemesis and successor, Czech president Vaclav Klaus, Leaving is a dramatic comedy about a once-popular chancellor (played by veteran Josef Abrhám) whose fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. As a result, he must vacate his posh official residence so his successor, Vlastik Klein (Jaroslav Dusek), can move in. (Havel denied any inference to Klaus, saying he wrote much of Leaving back in the ’80s.)
Havel had also been working with Czech-born two-time Best Director Oscar winner Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus) on an adaptation of Georges-Marc Benamou’s novel The Ghost of Munich. (Benamou was a former François Mitterrand adviser.) In the historical novel, French prime minister Édouard Daladier recalls his missteps following the 1938 Munich summit, the year before the onset of World War II. As per the IMDb, the French production is expected to hit theaters in 2012.
Havel also had brief roles in a handful of movies. He played "The President" in a couple of Czech productions: Tomás Vorel’s Stone Bridge (co-written by Jaroslav Dusek, 1996) and Jan Hrebejk’s Up and Down (2004), winner of five Czech Lions (the local Oscar), including Best Film and Best Director.