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Copernicus And The Woman From A Warsaw Cafe

Copernicus And The Woman From A Warsaw Cafe

Here’s a great story: a young woman is sitting in a café. She is noticed by a film director and – although she has zero acting experience – is given the title role in a movie. The movie wins an Oscar. And the young woman? She says: that’s it. Her acting career is finished.

The mission of this Copernicus column is to give students exposure to what English sounds like in different parts of the world. This month we’re off to Copernicus‘s homeland, Poland.

Agata Trzebuchowska is the star of “Ida”, a movie directed Paweł Pawlikowski. In the movie, which takes place in Poland in the 1960s, Ida is a young woman who is about to become a Catholic nun.

Critics loved it – “We are so used to constant movement and compulsive cutting in American movies that the stillness of the great new Polish film ‘Ida’ comes as something of a shock,” wrote David Denby in the New Yorker – and the movie won this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

But Agata, who got the role after being seen in a café in Warsaw, announced she wasn’t going to act in any other movies. “My short journey into acting made me very happy,” she said. “It was a great adventure with a fantastic ending. But acting is not something that greatly interests me. It’s not my path.”

This is a 2-minute interview that Agata did at last year’s Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.

So I just overheard that, “Ida”, I knew it was your first role, but you said it will probably be your last?
Er, yes, because I’m not thinking about acting, to be honest. It was my first movie and, as you said, probably the last one. That’s what I said, actually! But we never know, and… but I’m not planning to continue acting, and I’m not thinking about develop my acting career, but we’ll see. Fantastic experience.

How did you get involved in the project, then?
Er, accidentally actually, because I was sitting in a café and I was spotted by a female Polish director. And she took a picture of me and sent it to Paweł, which I didn’t notice! Then I had something like an audition, but it wasn’t like regular audition. And I had a possibility to talk with Paweł, and to shoot one scene from the script, and that was the beginning.

So having no acting experience prior to this, what did you do to prepare for the role?
Well, we didn’t have much time to prepare very properly and profoundly. And we tried to talk with a Polish church and Polish convent, to do some insight, but it wasn’t very easy. So we had to just talk to each other and re-write the script and that was our preparation.

I mean, it’s a very powerful story, shot beautifully, what did you think of the end product?
Er, what’s er…?

How it turned out?
But what turned out…? The movie…?

Were you happy with your performance?
Oh yes, yes, it’s so very hard to judge it but – it’s a little private – but yeah, I’m very happy.



(1) Copy and paste the transcript above and make a gap fill.

(2) The noun “end product” and the phrasal verb “turn out” cause a little bit of confusion at the end of the interview! Ask students to define these words – and maybe give them a fun “Phrasal Verbs with Turn” test 🙂

(3) Show the trailer for “Ida”…

… and ask students to write a 30-50 word summary that would make someone want to watch the movie.

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2 Responses

  • mura nava

    hi Graham an interesting interview thanks your readers may be interested to know that according to the PHaVE list of the top 150 most common phrasal verbs, turn out is the 12th most common phrasal verb and that the most common meaning of it is related to how something proves to be, or discovered to be or prove to happen or be discovered to happen. your readers may also find the PHaVE dictionary of use - ta mura


  • Graham Jones

    Hi Mura, that's a fantastic resource, thank you! (For each of the 150 verbs, there's even a "video example of meaning" link to the TED Corpus Search Engine - great stuff!)