Tuesday, June 20, 2023

DEFA Indian CHIEF Gojko Mitic always wanted to be a cowboy as a child

 The star actor will perform this summer on the Felsenbühne Rathen. A conversation about good Indians and evil whitefaces, about Spartacus and Gret Palucca.


By Bernd Klempnow


Once a crowd pleaser, always ... Gojko Mitic, currently in Rathen, is recognized even on the streets of Moscow.

On May 13, the season of the Felsenbühne Rathen, which runs until September, starts - with acting legend Gojko Mitic in the family play "Peter Pan". The story takes you into the colorful world of Neverland with all its imagination, fearlessness and carefreeness. I had the opportunity to talk to the star about the messages of the GDR Indian films, his unchanged popularity and his age.

Mr. Mitic, you play the chief White Feather in the new production of "Peter Pan". How did that come about?

Artistic director Manuel Schöbel wanted to use the actually small role of the chief, so that he philosophizes about how people deal with nature and especially animals, as the Indians do. It doesn't matter how I save the world, but they are beautiful messages. In addition, the stage appealed to me. So between the rocks and yet also in the forest, that's almost a fairy tale. I've known the place for a long time. It was here on a plateau that we shot the final scene of "The Sons of the Great Bear" in 1965.

[The actor Gojko Mitic poses in his role as Tokei-ihto on the sidelines of the filming of the DEFA Indian film "The Sons of the Great Bear", recorded in 1965. Mitic was considered an idol of GDR youth since the premiere of the film on February 18, 1966.]

How do you avoid making your chieftain's speech pathetic?

We try to make it authentic and honest. There is a lot of wisdom of the Indians that is still valid. An Indian lives in harmony with nature. He takes from Mother Earth, as he says, only what he needs and nothing more. And we always want more. The white man wants to make profits. This sometimes takes its revenge. Isn't some progress more of a step towards destruction.

Some readers of this interview may be surprised that you are still talking about Indians and not Native Americans.

Let's correct history after the fact. It was, after all, Christopher Columbus who discovered America in 1492, but believed he was in India. Since then, we have known the term Indian. And everyone knows which people are meant: the Native Americans with their customs, their language, their history. Nobody knows this about indigenous people: there are indigenous people on all continents. At the same time, I ask: Are the Indians, whom we Europeans have almost exterminated, better off if I call them indigenous? Is everything all right then? Will they, who have put them in reserves, get their land back?

[Gojko Mitic (right) collected donations for the renovation of the "Villa Bärenfett" of the Karl May Museum in Radebeul. So far, a good 80,000 euros have been raised.]

He has played many, very different roles in films and on stages and directed. Nevertheless, you apparently remain for many of the Indian chief. Are you struggling with the image?

Not for a long time. Back then, yes. With the fourth DEFA film "White Wolves" I realized that I was being pigeonholed. Then I spoke with the author: "the Indians did not win. Don't we want the hero to die?" So I died in the movie. But then came the premiere, and the questions and protests were like an avalanche. So I had to be resurrected and continue to play the noble and heroic Indian. Today I know it was a good thing. You know, the way the audience loved me, I couldn't leave, but rooted myself more and more deeply in the GDR. Elsewhere I would have made more money. When banners like "We salute our Gojko!" If you are interested, then you are no longer interested in anything else. The smile that entire generations continue to give me confirms that to me every day.

What was your favorite movie?

I like them all. I went into the film industry as a sports student to supplement my pocket money. Later I was a stuntman. I've been in sword and sandal, knight movies, all sorts of things. Then came the three Karl May films in West Germany in the early 1960s, and from 1965 onwards the DEFA Indian films were made.

My clear favorite is "The Sons of the Great Bear".

Yes, the "bear" was already a kind of signpost. The success surprised us all. The foundation of Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich was good because she knew what she was writing, because she had been with the Indians. In contrast to our good Karl May, who invented fantastic figures in Radebeul. In doing so, of course, he brought us closer to the Indians. He makes an Apache, a savage from the point of view of the time, his blood brother. From my point of view, he has done a lot for international understanding and charity. I thought that was good as a teenager and still is today. That's why I can't understand the accusations of racism against May at all.

Is that why you are a fan and supporter of the Karl May Museum in Radebeul?

This special, authentic place must be preserved and expanded. Even if Karl May is no longer read in the same way today as it was years ago. He opened up the world of the Indians to me. As a child, I knew the western movies, for example with John Wayne, and never wanted to be an Indian. They were the bad guys in the movies. I always wanted to play the good cowboy. Later, when I learned more about the history of the Indians and what really happened, I began to ponder. The May film adaptations were closer to reality, but even better were the DEFA films, which were always based on historical backgrounds. They had a message.

Still impressive are his riding and stunt scenes as a proud chief. How many horses did you have privately?

None. I love animals and that's why I would never have bought a horse. For such an animal you need time, you have to deal with it every day. So that they can build trust with you, which they then thank you for and go along with a lot. I never had that time. When I filmed with horses or played for months at the May Festival in Bad Segeberg, I groomed and trained them, trying to build up a close bond. Keeping a horse somewhere in a yard and visiting it every now and then for a short ride is contrary to the nature of these beautiful and intelligent animals.

At the age of 66 you were still playing Winnetou in Bad Segeberg – paradoxical?

Yes, I wouldn't have believed that this would go so well for so long and how quickly time has passed. But I don't just like the pieces and their message. I also like to play open air. I started in the 1980s in the imposing Bergtheater Thale with Spartacus, the hero of my childhood.

Did you die on stage as Spartacus?

No, the audience should not leave the theatre with tears in their eyes. Death on stage and in film was not meant for me. This was later followed by "Servants of Two Masters", "Rinaldo Rinaldini" and "Musketeers" in Thale – lots of fun, lots of action. It was a good school, we didn't have any microports. You had to reach everyone, even in the last row, with your voice. That was sporty!

What is astonishing for me in your biography is that you worked for children's television. Did you need money?

No, certainly not. In 1983, the producer of the series "Jan and Tini on the Road" asked me if I could take over the direction of an episode at short notice. The two puppet figures drove through the GDR with their silver bumblebee, a convertible, and visited cities, professionals and other things. I agreed, because I've always loved working with children. Over the years, there have been five episodes on topics such as circus and dog sports. In 1988 it was all about trams and we took very old models out of the depots and let them roll over Dresden's Schlossbrücke. That was fun, especially since I was able to play a very magnificent conductor in a historical uniform and with a moustache and moustache. One episode was about dance. That's when I met Ms. Palucca. A great woman, already very old, but she still gave lessons. I watched and filmed two hours of their lessons for "Jan and Tini" – those were great encounters.

They turn 83 in a few weeks and almost don't seem to age. How so?

Thank you very much, that's not true. But: Sport is important, always be on the move, healthy eating, preferably good meat. And I never smoked. Except for the aforementioned final scene of the "Bear" on the plateau near Rathen. I had to smoke a peace pipe, which I couldn't. We repeated the scene forever until it was reasonably in the can.

"Peter Pan" in Rathen

"Peter Pan", directed by artistic director Manuel Schöbel, will be performed from May 13 until the beginning of June and then in September.

Tickets are available at the Rathen box office, Tel. 035024 7770, but also at the Radebeul box office, Tel. 0351 8954214.


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