Leon Niemczyk, the Polish actor who starred in Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” and hundreds of other films, died Nov. 29 of lung cancer in Lodz. He was 82.
Niemczyk, considered a master of supporting roles, starred in more than 400 movies in Poland and in scores of foreign films, including the David Lynch film “Inland Empire,” released this year, a performance he gave soon after learning he was terminally ill.
He made a name for himself in 1962 in “Knife in the Water,” Polanski’s first feature film, playing Andrzej — a bored, ambitious man in a story loaded with psychological drama.
He remained active until recently, appearing in scores of television series.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer after fainting last December on set in Lodz.
Niemczyk was born in Warsaw and fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, an ill-fated attempt to overthrow Nazi rule. After the war, he served briefly in the U.S. Army in occupied Germany before returning to communist-ruled Poland.
A later attempt to flee was thwarted, costing him time in prison and putting him out of favor with the authorities.
He remained a critic of the communist rule, a stance which is believed to have cost him leading roles for four decades.
In one of his last interviews, published after his death in Dziennik daily newspaper, he was quoted as saying: “I was never a party member and I don’t give a damn for all that communism, but I still believe that it was the best time for Poland’s movie industry.”
He criticized Poland’s current filmmaking as “rubbish,” according to the interview.
He was married six times.