1. Smokin’ Aces
Whedonopolis: How did you get in “Smokin’ Aces”?
Vladimir Kulich: Again, “13th Warrior” saved me.
There’s another story. I was in a relationship for seven years, right? I was madly in love with this woman and we broke up, and I had to go read for “Smokin’ Aces.” I wasn’t doing well emotionally, the heart was broken and all that stuff; and the line was a medical line, full of medical terminology: “He has sustained an arrhythmic episode with severe cardiac distress.” I said it like 13 times, and I couldn’t do it. I kept messin’ it up, and messin’ it up, and after the 13th time, I said to the casting person, “Honey, I’m sorry; I can’t do it. I just broke up with somebody after a very long time; so let’s forget it.” And I go, “That was just terrible!” Three days later, I get a call saying, “Joe Carnahan wants to meet you.” I go, “Why? It was a horrible performance, right?” So I go and before I meet Joe, and I see the casting lady; I forget her name, but she’s wonderful, so I ask, “Why am I here? It was a horrible reading!” She goes, “Yeah, I put a bunch of them together and it kinda worked okay, so don’t say anything about the lousy reading!” I said, “Okay,” and walked in the room, and there’s Joe Carnahan and he goes, “I loved you on “13th Warrior.” Do you want the job?” And I didn’t know what the job was, but I said, “Yes, thank you,” just because he was so complimentary and kind. Anybody who says, “I like you!” How can you not…?
W: They are now saying that there’s going to be a prequel to “Smokin’ Aces” in view of all the great success it’s having on DVD. Are you going to be in the prequel too?
VK: All I know is that my manager called me on Monday, and she got a call from Working Title Films, and that they’re interested. That’s all I know. If it happens, it happens. I’m not gonna worry about it.
W: So in our interview with Charlaine Harris, she told us your character in “13th Warrior” inspired a character in her book series, which is now seven books and counting. How does it feel to have done that unknowingly?
VK: Yeah… and she’s a New York Times best-selling author!
W: And something else – I don’t know if you read the interview, but the books are being turned into a series for HBO.
VK: I already checked it; it’s called “True Blood.” They’ve shot the pilot for that already.
W: If you check the message boards for that on IMDb, everybody was screaming, “They need Vladimir to play Eric!”
VK: Really? Where do I look that up, so I can get my manager to see it? (laughs)
W: But, at the same time, some are saying, “It’d been great at the time of “13th Warrior,” but now he’s a bit too old for the part.”
VK: Yeah, I’d bet. I like how she said it more diplomatically, hold on… (looks among his papers) I printed it out cos it cracked me up… I was in Prague last month. Tell me if this is too old. (holds up a new headshot)
W: Oh, man! That’s awesome!
VK: That was two months ago, before the motorcycle crash that I’ll tell you about if we have time.
VK: Where is it? Oh, yeah, here: “Mr. Kulich is probably too mature right now to take on the role.” “Too mature right now.” I thought it was so sweet of her to say “too mature” instead of saying “too whatever”. I have no idea; did she really get inspired in the character, or did she just go to town with it?
W: Oh, man! She went to town! Eric is the coolest vampire in the books.
VK: Maybe I could play his father, or his grandfather! (laughs all around)
VK: What amazes me, and I’m no spring chicken, is that there was a woman a few years ago that made a bunch of vampire books—
W: Anne Rice?
VK: Anne Rice, yes, out of New Orleans, “The Vampire Lestat” and all of that, and they made that movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt…
W: “Interview with the Vampire.”
VK: And do you remember how she slandered the casting of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt? She just slandered it! And in an interview, they asked her, “Whom did you have in mind for Lestat?” And she said, “Rutger Hauer,” but he was already “too mature,” and there was another actor, who unfortunately is dead now, Alexander Godunov…
W: Yeah, the dancer!
VK: The dancer, who was on “Die Hard,” and unfortunately drank himself off the planet. So those are her two templates, and when I read that, I was 29 or 30, and I thought, “I’m like those guys! Let me!” And when I read this interview that you did, it was like a weird déjà vu, with Godunov and Rutger Hauer for that vampire idea, and then she used me, so I was like, “Cool! But why do I always get in between the cracks? I wanna nail one right on!” But whether there is any possibility in that regards or not, the nice thing is that I affect people. Especially with “The 13th Warrior” I affected so many people! I get fan mail, you have no idea, from people around the world. They send me these really soulful letters –sure, some of them are psychos- but some of them write me, and they don’t want to give me their return address, they don’t want anything. They just say, “I really liked it, thank you!” And that’s so cool.
3. The motorcycle accident and St. Vladimir
W: Tell us about this motorcycle accident you had.
VK: Sure. It’s a long story, but here we go: A weird story about “The 13th Warrior” was that the character I played was based on a poem called “Beowulf,” I don’t know if you guys are familiar with that.
W: Yes, I read it in college. The name was kinda…
hey changed the name from “Bulywif” to (phonetically) “Bullwai,” trying to bring it closer to Beowulf without saying it. The story of Beowulf was that he was the last of the Vikings, and he was pagan, and then he switched into Christianity, and he tried to bring Christianity to the pagan Vikings. I thought that was really cool, and very Jesus-like. So bear this in mind.
After I did the movie, I finally had some money, so I put like 100 grand in a money belt, and went back to Prague. I was gonna say “Good bye, America,” buy a house in Prague and live happy and fat there, drinking beer. With that kind of money, at that time, you could retire. I get there, and I am looking for my roots, trying to connect, and I’m realizing that maybe it’s too much water under the bridge and maybe I just can’t. So I got to the museum (I love the Czech museums), and I’m walking around, looking at the paintings, and the curator was a little old lady. She looked like 100 million years old. She looks at me, and starts speaking Swedish. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Swedish; I speak Czech.” “You’re not Czech! Tall, blond hair… You speak Czech with a Swedish accent! You’re not Czech!” I explain that I am, that I was born here. “Maybe you were born here, but you’re not Czech! You’re from Sweden, and the Swedes invaded in the 9th Century, and they came up this river…” Have you ever been to or seen Prague? There’s this humongously beautiful castle on top of a hill, and the city is below, split in half by a river. And the bridge is the oldest bridge in the world, which is what I named my production company after, as I was doing that over there, is the Charles’ Bridge. If you go to my website and you’re bored, you can see me in Prague; it’s just gorgeous. So she goes on, “The Vikings sailed up and got up to the bridge, and decided to take the castle. So they started attacking it, and there was a Jewish quarter nearby, where Kafka was born many centuries later. The King said to the Jews, ‘If you can hold off the Swedes, I’ll give you your part of the city.” So for three years the Jews kept them at bay. After three years, the Swedes gave up and they continued sailing to the Ukraine.” They settled in and stayed. This woman was convinced, as very few Czechs have turned out blond –but there’s a few of us- that it is because of that. That’s a cool story.
Now here’s the best part. I’d never met, until now, my two half-brothers. When we left and moved to Canada, my father had already remarried and I heard I had two half-brothers, but I didn’t know their names. Last year, because of “Angel,” I was doing a convention in London, and they give you all this money, so I said, “OK, I’m going to Prague!” I was just very lucky, I got there, and it was during the film festival. So a friend of mine who used to be the lawyer for Václav Havel, who was president of the Czech Republic said, “OK, let’s see if we can get you into the film festival.”
So we get in, and suddenly they recognize me from something. I become really famous because I’m a big fish in a small pond, and it was really, really nice. They interviewed me, and in the interview, I said, “By the way, I have two half brothers whom I’ve never met. I don’t know their names, but their last name is Kulich, so if you know these guys, please have them contact me at vladimirkulich.com.” I come back home, and there’s an email: “Hi, we’re your brothers.” I said, “Sure you are. Do you have any pictures?” So they send me photos of my dad, and they’re the same photos I have. My dad was a photographer, and they send me these pictures of my Dad alone, without the brothers, which are the same ones I have. Then they send me others of themselves. So we start communicating, and one of them owns a Home Depot, and the other one has a Peugeot car dealership, and I said, “Well, I’m an actor. What can we do together?” We decided to form a production company, because I know a little about this, and they have real estate, and we want to do it so that when a foreign company comes into town, we can provide them with our services. I said, “OK, let’s do it!” And we called it Charles’ Bridge Productions, named after the bridge.
So I went back, we met, and we started doing the company, and I was riding my motorcycle (it’s in my family; my father rode motorcycles), and one rainy day I wiped out. I ended up in the hospital. I broke open my spleen; I broke five ribs. I was supposed to stay three days in hospital? It was 10 days, because I had an allergic reaction to the painkillers. It was a nightmare!
W: When was this?
VK: Last April… last week in April. But here’s the fun part, because I’m sitting there, and this different nurse shows up. She goes, “Vladimir… You know, there’s a St. Vladimir.” I go, “Really?” So she printed up this whole thing about St. Vladimir of the Ukraine, and I go, “That’s really amazing!” I start reading this story and it’s like the story of my life! And the next day she came and she gave me this (shows the chain around his neck), a St. Vladimir medallion. I go, “OK, I feel like I have some history now.”
Here’s the story, and we’re almost done. In the 9th Century, Vladimir (not yet a saint) was the ruler of the Ukraine, and he was a pagan, like Beowulf was a pagan. And he decided that he liked Christianity. Apparently, at that time, Christianity was not right wing Fascism; it was more about finding quality of life and the heart, and Vladimir started to go after Christianity and to try and bring it to that pagan part of the Ukraine. But he had a half brother, and guess what his name was? Yaroslav. Which is my half brother’s name.
VK: So I’m reading this, and I have this thing around my neck. I’m reading this and Yaroslav does not want Christianity, so they go to war against each other. They can’t settle anything. So this is the punchline: Vladimir decides, because apparently he has relatives—If you look up St. Vladimir on Google, it’ll tell you the story; it’s amazing. Vladimir has relatives in Norway, so he goes to Norway and says to these guys, “I want to bring Christianity,” as Norway had just become Christian. Maybe Beowulf made them Christian – you know, he’s a fictional character, but maybe it was somebody else. So they get on these boats, and they go down the same river under the Charles’ Bridge, and they go up to the Ukraine, and they have a battle, and Vladimir kills his half brother Yaroslav. And becomes like… not a saint at that time, but like a Christian leader, and then he has another battle and he dies, and then they call him “St. Vladimir.” And I went, “Way too many similarities!” My half brother’s name is the same, this crazy woman saying that I’m Swedish…
W: Maybe she wasn’t that wrong…
VK: She wasn’t, and what’s weird is, in the movie, I played a similar character without knowing it. St. Vladimir could have been Beowulf. So that’s why when I was playing the character in “13th Warrior” it was so easy for me, because I had this weird kinda connection. You know when you’re doing something that’s streaming through you? So I made a note to tell this story, because it&rsqu
o;s such a cool thing.
W: Absolutely! Are you working in any projects right now?
VK: No, I was over there for three months, and I just came back.
W: Well, keep us posted whenever you have a project, so we can tell people about it.
VK: Oh, I will!
4. Pivot’s Questionnaire
W: We’ve reached the final part of the interview, which is Pivot’s Questionnaire that you see asked at the end of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”
VK: I read that part, and I promised myself that I was not gonna try to plan any answers. Because we’ve seen that stuff, right? And I think the greatest one ever was with Christopher Walken, and when they asked him, “What’s your favorite word?” and he said, “Lunch”?
W: Jim Butcher told us “hamburger,” so…
VK: “Hamburger,” funny! No, what cracked me up was, he was on that show really early on, and I always felt bad for anybody who went on to try and be as witty or wittier… you know there’s pressure to sound kind of witty, so I have no clue. Go ahead and ask.
W: What’s your favorite word?
W: What’s your least favorite word?
W: What’s your favorite sound?
VK: The sound of the motorcycle when I was going next to the National Theater at 8:00 in the morning. It’s a combination of the motor and the cobblestones, because there are cobblestones on the street, just before I went down.
W: That’s your favorite sound?
VK: Yeah, the sound of the motorcycle on a cobblestone street, because it changed my life. Because I’m happy to be here, after spending 10 days in the hospital, so…
W: What’s your least favorite sound?
VK: Those Mexican guys, you know? With those… (imitates the sound of leaf blowers)
W: Oh, leaf blowers!
VK: Yeah! And they’re not even allowed in Santa Monica, but they use them anyway. Get a *censormode*in’ broom! And you can print it! (everybody laughs) I’ll pay you extra!*
W: (praying) Dear Lord, please don’t… OK, never mind! What turns you on?
VK: An unconditional compliment. Like when Ms. Harris said she based Eric on me, and she didn’t want any—It’s like, “Wow, somebody likes what I did!” And it’s not like she wants to hang out with me, or anything. That turns me on, anything that’s done unconditionally. Yeah.
W: What turns you off?
W: What’s your favorite curse word?
VK: I’ve been trying to think about which one comes up first… It’s in Czech, kurva.
W: And it means?
VK: Unfortunately, it means “whore,” but there’s something about the sound, you know? It could be like “*censormode*sucking bastard!” you know? “Kurva,” because in Czech they really roll the “R,” so it really comes out.
W: What profession other than yours would you ever like to attempt?
VK: Because I’ve flipped three houses, architect.
W: What profession other than yours would you never like to attempt?
VK: Politician in America! (laughs all around)
W: And finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
VK: “I know you *censormode*ed up, but I know you meant well.”
W: Thank you very much for talking to us!
VK: No, thank you! That was great!
* No monies were exchanged for printing that statement.
Special thanks to our friends at The Tudor House for letting us use their lovely tearoom for this interview.
All pictures courtesy vladimirkulich.com.