I know janitors who mention the successes they achieved in their work with more pride than Peđa Bjelac. If you look at his life, it’s very clear that this is an extraordinary character with an incredible career. He lived on various continents, tried out different trades and formed a stable family. He realized the dream of many actors when he played in the films with most expensive productions, such as “Harry Potter” and “Narnia”. All the while, he never lost his “Belgrade acting strain” so every time he acts in his own language or in domestic films or series, his roles are always noticed.
Domestic audiences are still ruminating over the role of the crooked Minister Kovačević, played by Bjelac in “My Father’s Killers”. Season two of the series is expected to air soon. But, sets have a beginning and an end. In a conversation over afternoon coffee, Mr. Bjelac turned out to be a modest, satisfied and very decent man. As he talked calmly about everyday things, the only thing that gave away the extraordinary actor lying within was his resonating baritone.
Is acting truly your passion? Or are you just so talented and good at acting that you keep coming back to it inevitably?
I don’t believe in talent. Not in my line of work. I will repeat the sentence of my famous, older colleagues who said: “acting is the performance of works”. Acting is not always a passion for me. I am not indifferent to it, but not all of it can be a passion. It depends, what’s on offer. When it is a profession and your livelihood, life, family depend on it – then there’s not that much room for passion.
But, you were also successful in business, took sabbaticals from acting, then returned to it. It seems that you can make a living without acting, too, and feel good doing it.
True. Still, once you fall in love with acting, it is hard to say goodbye. I love acting, but not always. Not at all costs. No actor feels the same all the time. Some jobs you enjoy, others you do just to do them. It’s all a matter of circumstance.
Trying hard and being ambitious can be… Frustrating, at times. Perhaps my „problem“ is in that I am too realistic. Reality is in opposition to ambition. To be ambitious, your head has to be in the clouds, at least a bit.
You played in „Kad porastem, biću Kengur“ („When I Grow Up, I’ll be Kengur“) which became a cult film, but was filmed with rather meagre means – which is somewhat normal, considering the year and country of its production. On the other hand, you played in „Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire“, where the only thing that the producers did not lease for the film was the Moon. Which set did you find more interesting?
In general, I always find more fun here. I meet up with friends and the energy on set is always good – practically magnificent. On the set of „Kengur“, we really had a lot of fun and it’s true, we worked with nothing. Of course, sometimes good times happen on these megalomaniac productions, too. But it’s rare. More often than not, I faced boredom.
What does it look like to be on a set, on a very expensive filming day?
You’re paid to wait. You’re taken care of, to make up for the fact that you’re actually bored. This was especially prominent with „Harry Potter“, as this film was the pinnacle of all productions. Everything was magnificent. But there were times that were so difficult to endure. The day never seemed to end.
Emma Watson, Daniel Redcliffe and the remainder of the „Harry Potter“ cast have been superstars for a very long time now, but back then, they were still kids. How did the production adapt such expensive filming to working with children?
Children are one of the reasons it all took so long. Their work days were limited to 4 hours, by law. In England, this is respected to the letter. At the moment the fourth hour elapses, everything stops. No more takes, no completing the scene. Even if they are in the middle of a shot, everything is stopped and the children leave. This applied to all children. The filming schedule was adapted to the children and their dynamic. Sometimes there would be a few of them on the set, sometimes hundreds. All these kids were very polite and decent.
The second season of „My Father’s Killers“ is coming, where you play an authoritative and charismatic villain, and everyone is looking forward to it. What were your impressions when you first read the script for the series?
It was refreshing. For me, the show is revolutionary and marks a historical event in the development of our programming. After the split-up, Croatians produced several crime shows, some more successful, some less. Recently, they produced „Novine“ („Newspapers“) with Branka Katić in the lead, which is very interesting and is also a critique of politicians and involvement of criminals in politics…
Unlike in Croatia, this is the first time something like this was done in Serbia, and it’s good. It’s well directed, Gaga Antonijević is very experienced and, as someone who spent 25 years in America, he brought this new experience. The rest of the crew also did a phenomenal job and the casting was good. Some of the roles were fantastic. Nataša Ninković, for example, rocked it. So much good stuff.
How did you spend this working summer and what’s in store for you now?
During the summer, we filmed “My Father’s Killers” and I played a minor role in the series „Nemanjići“. In October, I will have two projects in Montenegro. One is Montenegrin, a mini-series called „Grudi“ („Breasts“). It is a bitter-sweet comedy mini-series, with four episodes. At the centre are three friends, meeting at their graduation anniversary and they have a common friend who was with each of them at a different time in their lives. One has breast cancer, another has had breast surgery and the third cannot have kids, and somehow this brings them together. I play the husband of one of them, an Englishman. I am too old for anything else.
At the same time, filming is about to start on a Czech crime show, partially taking place in Montenegro; its topic is severe crime, migrant trafficking and similar issues. It is called „Rapl“, the first season was a huge success in the Czech Republic and now the second season is being filmed. There, it will be an interesting time.
You lived in New York, London, Prague but also in Belgrade. What makes you love this city?
The fact that it’s mine. How could I not?
Interview by: Miljana Nešković