Havel makes helming debut with 'Leaving'

PRAGUE — As the Velvet Revolution turns 20, a young Czech producer has pulled a coup with the property of one-time revolutionary-in-chief, Vaclav Havel.

Radka Kadlecova, whose only feature credit up to now is an adaptation of the Milos Forman-helmed opera “A Walk Worthwhile,” will produce a pic based on Havel’s stage play, ” Leaving,” a characteristically absurdist look at the exit from power of a troubled president.

The play, Havel’s first after 20 years in which he became president and lead Czechs in the formation of a democratic state, has been a hot property for Prague’s Archa theater, with versions also going up in London and New York.

But Kadlecova has secured the rights to adapt it for film, shutting out Prague producer Richard Nemec, who was in pre-production on an HD video recording of the play for pubcaster Czech TV.

Nemec maintains his TV film of “Leaving” would have helped promote the film but Kadlecova and Havel disagreed. “It’s hard to argue with Vaclav Havel,” says Nemec, adding that he now stands to lose his substantial investment and two months’ work.

Havel, who will make his helming debut on the pic, penned a piece for Czech daily Lidovy Noviny blaming Nemec for the rift. Kadlecova declined comment other than to call the situation “difficult,” adding that “distribution (of the film adaptation) would be difficult because they would be out before us.”

Nemec’s video was to air on Czech TV next year, when Kadlecova’s production will still be shooting.

Like the stage play, “Leaving” will star Havel’s wife, thesp Dagmar Havlova, said Kadlecova, but no other casting decisions have been made and she declined to comment on whether funding is in place .

Features in the Czech Republic typically budget at around $1.5 million and the property is a likely candidate for state film funding and a local distribution deal.

The film of “A Walk Worthwhile,” which Forman directed for Prague’s National Theater, will preem at the Karlovy Vary fest in July.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more