PRAGUE One of the most important actors of the second half of the last century, Petr Čepek, who was born on September 16, 1940, connected practically his entire theatrical life with the Prague Drama Club, but the film brought him great popularity. On stage and in front of the camera, Čepek was able to captivate the audience with a penetrating look and a dark voice, and although his overcast appearance predestined him to serious roles, moreover mostly mostly negative, he was also able to establish himself in comedies.
Čepek’s extraordinary acting talent was praised by many, and his mother was convinced of his acting talent in his youth. At first, he himself did not incline much to acting due to innate shyness. The theater enchanted him only in Ostrava, where he moved with his mother and brother from the Beskydy Mountains after his father’s death. This was followed by an application for the Prague DAMU and studies in the strong year of actor and teacher Miloš Nedbal. His classmates were, for example, Ladislav Mrkvička, Josef Abrhám, Jiří Krampol or Jana Drbohlavová.
After studying, he went briefly to the Petr Bezruč Theater in Ostrava, but in 1965, together with several colleagues and director Jan Kačer, he moved back to Prague, where the Drama Club, which Petr Čepek considered his home, had just been born. For almost three decades, he has performed on stage in Ve Smečkách Street, for example in Gogol’s Auditor, Dostojovsky’s Crime and Punishment, and his roles in the performance I Served the King of England and in the play Smyčka are famous.
In the mid-1960s, Čepek was noticed by filmmakers, who created over two dozen roles in front of the camera. The audience probably had the most memory of his character, the syphilitic Pavel Malina in Kerosene Lamps (1971), and he did well in another film by Juraj Herz Morgian (1972). He played his first major role in Antonín Máša’s Hotel for Foreigners (1966). A meeting with František Vláčil was also important for Čepek, in whose films The Valley of the Bees (1967) and Adelheid (1969) he created some of his best roles.
He also appeared in more entertaining films, but even there Petr Čepek rarely fell out of his box of frowning characters. Whether he was a member of the board of directors from Postřižiny (1980), a dragoon of Bimbác from Three Veterans (1983), an archduke and his double from the comedy Jára Cimrman lying, sleeping (1983) or a cheated driver Turk from Vesnička mé střediskové (1985). His last film role was the title role in Švankmajer’s Lesson Faust, for which he won the Czech Lion in memoriam.
The Velvet Revolution briefly introduced Čepek to a policy that had interested him before. For example, he signed the petition A Few Sentences, as one of the few he also rejected a role in the normalization series about Major Zeman. At the end of 1989, he was at the birth of the Civic Forum, but soon returned to the theater and also to DAMU, where he began teaching. However, further plans were thwarted by cancer, which he succumbed to after two years of fighting on September 20, 1994. The father of two daughters died four days after his 54th birthday.