“Eleven years ago, screenwriters Marek Dobeš and Michal Petruš came up with the idea that we could make a film about the young Jan Žižka,” says writer-director Petr Jákl, who was inspired to craft a screenplay for Medieval, an epic action adventure in the tradition of the revered classics Braveheart, 300, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. A rousing, intelligent historical canvas in which the destiny and details of a people are bloodily intertwined with war, independence, brutality, justice, and nation-building.
“I began working on a film story that was nothing at all like the man we knew from Vávra’s films, ” says Jákl, determined to tell Žižka’s story in a modern way — the life of the revered Czech military hero had previously been made into a trio of films, the “Hussite trilogy,” in the 1950s by legendary Czech director Otakar Vávra: 1954’s Jan Hus, 1955’s Jan Žižka, and 1957’s Proti všem (Against All).
“I chose a period in which the young Žižka was an outlaw, a mercenary who was essentially ‘hired out.’ This is, in fact, the time when Žižka evolved into the great warlord he would become known as,” says Jákl, who rewrote a screenplay that had earlier originated with Marek Dobeš and writer Michal Petrus, from a story by Petr Bok and by Jákl and Peter Jákl, Sr. and Kevin Bernhardt (3,000 Miles to Graceland, Valiant).
“Medieval is a story about the birth of a warlord. It takes place during Žižka’s youth before the Hussite Wars,” says Jákl, an esteemed Czech actor-turned-filmmaker who, in his third film as a director, has made the most expensive film ever produced in the Czech Republic. “The film has everything audiences need to know about that time period in order to understand that moment in Czech history — as well as plenty of battles! But above everything,” continues Jákl, “It’s a fantastic story that takes audiences on a phenomenal ride to the very end.”
“One of the main reasons I wanted to make a film about Žižka is that I am so very proud to be Czech,” says Jákl, who began his career as an actor and stunt performer in the 1990s, going on to appear in films including Luc Besson’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Joel Schumacher’s Bad Company, Rob Cohen’s xXx, and Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien Vs. Predator. As an Olympic Judo fighter, Jákl competed and
was highly ranked in the European Judo Championships simultaneous to doing stuntwork in films.
“In diplomacy and in defensive warfare, the Czech people historically have been able to come to agreements and negotiate, but when it comes to fighting, they are able to do that too,” says Jákl. “We Czechs can be proud of who we are.”
Visually, Jákl wanted to represent his country onscreen the way it is to the Czechs. To tell a story close to his heart in a powerful, and memorable, way.
“I would like the genuine beauty of the Czech Republic and our history and our people to be seen by film audiences everywhere,” says the filmmaker. “That’s one of many reasons why I got involved and wanted to make this film — to show the world the beauty of our country, and to connect it to a major moment in our history.”
Filming on location for 56 days in the Czech Republic and elsewhere allowed Jákl and his collaborators a chance to make Medieval not only historically accurate but visually sumptuous. It was filmed in
and around the castles of Orlík, Křivoklát, Zvíkov, Kokořín, and Točník, as well as near Dolský Mlýn in
Switzerland and on Prague’s Charles Bridge — the Vitava River’s stone arch crossing which actually began
construction under King Charles IV.
“We of course tried to stay with the reality of Žižka’s historical moment as much as possible,” says Jákl. “Some things were modified, though — we weren’t making a documentary! We stuck to the historical record but didn’t let that get in the way of the spectacle.”
Victory is achieved by those whose strength is not only in their sword, but also their strategy and their souls. The legendary Czech warlord Jan Žižka was just such a figure. Born in approximately 1360, Žižka led the military wing of the followers of the religious thinker and reformer of the Catholic Church Jan Hus, known as Hussites — and changed history. At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, Europe was experiencing warfare, crop failure, famine, and the horror of the Black Death. In Bohemia — predecessor of the modern-day Czech Republic — King Wenceslaus IV was a benevolent ruler who found himself in conflict with Bohemia’s powerful domestic nobility, as well as with the Catholic Church. In 1394, local nobles captured Wenceslaus and imprisoned him in Wildberg Castle in Upper Austria. Wenceslaus’ brother Jan Zhořelecký freed the king, but Wenceslaus’ conflicts with his halfbrother, Sigismund of Luxembourg, were escalating, and tyranny and violence reigned as wealthy nobleman Henry III of Rosenberg came to rule the lands of the Bohemian Crown.
Synopsis: Inspired by the true story of Jan Žižka, one of greatest warriors in history. After the death of its reigning emperor, the Holy Roman Empire is plummeting into chaos while feuding brothers King Wenceslas of Czech and King Sigismund of Hungary battle for control of the empty throne. Daring and righteous mercenary leader Jan Žižka (Ben Foster) is hired by Lord Boresh (Michael Caine) to kidnap the powerful Lord Rosenberg’s (Til Schweiger) fiancée, Lady Katherine (Sophie Lowe), to prevent Rosenberg’s rise to power alongside the corrupt King Sigismund. Jan believes that Kings are the right hand of God and should be respected and obeyed, no matter what. As Katherine becomes caught in a dangerous political game between the monarchs, Jan falls in love with her strong spirit and dedication to saving the people. In a brave attempt to liberate her, he fights back with a rebel army to battle the corruption, greed and betrayal rampant amongst those clawing for power. Jan now realizes that the fate of the Empire will be decided by his love for Lady Katherine and that his fate doesn’t lie in the hands of Kings, but in the hands of his own people
Petr Jákl (Producer-Writer-Director)
Petr Jákl is a screenwriter, director and film producer.
Petr Jákl’s path to the world of film was not entirely typical. In his youth, he was primarily involved in
sports, namely judo, but he also became a Czech national champion in Arm Wrestling. In judo, he is a ten-time national champion and he won the World Cup and won two bronze medals at the Academic World
Championships. The highlight of his judo career was his participation in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where
he finished thirteenth. Despite all his success in judo, Petr gradually moved on to a career in film. Just as in sports, he embarked on his career in film, whether as an actor or stuntman, with patience and determination.
He eventually began to appear in Czech and foreign films. These included Joan of Arc (dir. Luc Besson,
1999) and xXx (dir. Rob Cohen, 2002). Director Besson and Rob Cohen encouraged Petr to continue his
interest in film, and as a result, he decided to go to America to study.
In 2020, Petr was a producer on The Last Full Measure. As a producer, he has also worked on American Traitor with Al Pacino (2021), Misfits with Pierce Brosnan (2021), Best Sellers with Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine (2021), Savage Salvation with Robert DeNiro and John Malkovich (2022), One True Loves with Simu Liu (2022), The Inhabitant with Dermot Mulroney (2022), 57 Seconds with Morgan Freeman and The Black Demon with Josh Lucas. Petr has also worked with many other acclaimed actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Nicholas Cage, Alec Baldwin, Mila Jovovich and Vin Diesel.