How Jack Black Transformed Into ‘The Polka King’ – Sundance Studio

Michael Buckner/Deadline

He has played an ape’s showman in King Kong, a sweet mortician-turned-murderer in Bernie and now a polka maestro/Ponzi scheme impresario in The Polka KingLarger-than-life characters seem embedded in Jack Black’s DNA, so playing the real-life Polish immigrant Jan Lewan — a Grammy nominee, friend of Pope John Paul II, gift shop owner, ex-con and loving husband — makes perfect sense.


Black received a copy of The Man Who Would Be Polka King, the documentary on which Polka King is based, from Red Hour’s Stuart Cornfeld. After a minute, he was in for a feature take on the wild and crazy guy “because of the costumes, the accent and the music,” says Black.

Being one half of Tenacious D helped, since Black performed for “eight to 10 hours” a day, marvels Jason Schwartzman, who plays Lewan’s best friend. Black even tried learning the accordion.

“Jack spoke in the Polish accent for 24/7 for the whole month,” says two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver.

“He also texted in broken English,” says Schwartzman. “It went deep.”

Jenny Slate also stars as Lewan’s beauty pageant-winning wife Marla, a woman “whose drive doesn’t match her talent; that’s a silly tragedy.”

Polka King, directed by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, premiered Sunday night at the Eccles Theater. Producers of The Polka King are David Permut of Permut Presentations, Red Hour’s Cornfeld, Shivani Rawat and Monica Levinson of ShivHans Pictures, and Priyanka Mattoo. Rawat’s ShivHans Pictures financed the movieShivHans has been behind such pictures as Bleecker Street’s Danny Collins, the Oscar-nominated Trumbo and Captain Fantastic, which is nominated for two SAG awards including ensemble and lead actor for Viggo Mortensen.

Actors, directors, filmmakers and special guests visiting the Deadline Studio at Sundance 2017 enjoyed sweet and savory treats, custom cocktails and more at Applegate’s REEL FOOD CAFE. Find out more about Applegate and their mission to change the meat we eat at

This article was printed from