Jaromír Hanzlík was born on 16 February, 1948 in Český Těšín. His father was an operetta and cabaret actor, his mother a stage manager and a television director’s assistant. Thus, Hanzlík was already associated with the acting world as a child, and he couldn’t imagine any other path than following his parents and establishing himself in theatre or film. “I dare say that from the cradle on I knew that I couldn’t do anything other than follow in my father’s footsteps,” he said. As early as primary school he was the class clown and favourite, putting on puppet shows for his classmates.
Thanks to his mother, he received his first acting role at thirteen. In the television film Takova loď (A Ship Like That) he played a bad Young Pioneer. He demonstrated his talent in grammar school as well, playing various roles of adolescent boys searching for their place in life. This period included films such as Finský nůž (Finnish Knife, 1965), where he portrayed a fugitive boy accused of murder, and Every Young Man, where he played in military uniform alongside Emil Horváth. In Antonín Máša’s Searching (1965), he tried to resolve his parents’ relationship, and one year later he played the role of a desperate, narcissistic young soldier in the film Coach to Vienna. He gained popularity with the lyrical drama Romance for Bugle from the renowned director Otakar Vávra, where he played a student in love, whose love comes to an unhappy end.
After graduating from grammar school in 1966, Hanzlík was accepted into the acting programme at the Theatre Faculty of Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU), in the same class as Miloš Nedbal. At the same time, however, he was offered an engagement from the well-known Vinohrady Theatre. “My dad wanted me to study. He absolutely disagreed with me not going to school. But in the end Jiřina Jirásková and Miloš Kopecký literally roped him into it, and he agreed. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without his approval. So instead of going to school I joined the theatre. On 6 June, 1966 I graduated, and in just one week, on 14 June, 1966, I performed for the first time at Vinohrady Theatre,” recalled Hanzlík, who quickly became a key figure at the prominent Prague theatre and played roles in numerous significant works such as Hamlet, The Inspector General, Crime and Punishment, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Oedipus.
Thus at a very young age, he became a star Czech actor. He himself admits that people spotted him on the street and asked him for autographs or photos. “When you are eighteen or nineteen years old and young girls are whirling around you, it’s great,” he later conceded. “There were also other advantages. For example, during communism when bananas were still sold under the counter, the salesgirl would wink at me and say, ‘Come with me,’” he added with a grin.
In 1969 he acquired a role in the comedy Slasti otce vlasti (Joys of the Father of His Country), in which he performed for the first time alongside Daniela Kolárová, who became his frequent partner on screen and stage. In the 1970s he appeared in forty films, best-known of which include A Night At Karlstein (1973) and How to Drown Doctor M. (1974). He also acted in cult Czech serials such as Hospital at the End of the City (1978), The Ambulance (1984) and Cirkus Humberto (1988). One of his life-long acting dreams is to shoot a follow-up to The Ambulance.
For Hanzlík, the eighties held in store collaboration with the Oscar-winning director Jiří Menzel, who entrusted him with roles of idiosyncratic characters living in their own world. He portrayed the boisterous uncle Pepin in Cutting It Short (1980), a collector of junk in the film adaptation of a Bohumil Hrabal story, The Snowdrop Festival (1983) and a wishy-washy librarian in The End of Old Times (1989).
In 1993, at the high point of his career, Hanzlík set aside acting for sixteen years. “I didn’t take pleasure in my work anymore. After all, I had acted since I was eighteen. And in the premier league from the start. Try acting in the big leagues for thirty years. And besides theatre, I did films. I realized that I was dreadfully tired, burnt-out. For thirty years I gave and gave, and I never had time to take. I thought it would only take a year; I would recharge and come back. But fate had other intentions, and today it’s already been sixteen years. It’s been very long since I stood onstage, and I’m not going to anymore. Let people remember the good Hanzlík,” he explained.
He re-entered the limelight in 2003, when he appeared in the follow-up to the legendary serial Hospital at the End of the City – Twenty Years Later, and a year after that he acted in the highly popular serial Poisťovňa šťastia (Happiness Insurance). In January, Slovak theatres premiered the Slovak film from director Vlado Balko Soul at Peace, in which Hanzlík plays the engine driver of an old railway near Čierny Balog.