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International Star You Should Know: Zrinka Cvitesic

Croatian thesp conquers London theater scene

Zrinka Cvitesic burst on the Croatian film scene in 2005 at age 26 in “What Is a Man Without a Moustache,” playing a young widow who helps a priest, and falls in love with him. An accomplished dancer, she won the inaugural season of the Croatian version of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007. And this year, taking her act to London, she stars as the Girl in the musical “Once,” for which she received the West End Frame Award for her London stage debut.

Cvitesic, who pronounces her name ZHRIN-ka ZVEE-teh-vich, occasionally sings at jazz festivals, clubs and on television. Her aptitude for languages has served her well in her film career. “Every time I get a part, I have to learn a new language,” she says. “I love the process of creating a character like that. I’ve learned English, Serbian, Bosnian … and currently I’m learning Spanish.”

Cvitesic began her career as a teenager in youth theater in her hometown of Karlovac. After graduating from Zagreb’s Academy of Dramatic Arts, she joined the Croatian National Theater. She made her television debut in “The Big Cleaning” as Sara the kickboxing girl. Film roles soon followed after that.

Her performance as an atheist Bosnian Muslim in Jasmila Zbanic’s film “On the Path” led to her being named the Croatian Shooting Star at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. “The next year I was nominated for European Film Awards for best actress, and that’s how I found myself an agent in London,” says Cvitesic. “And then the door opened.”

The exuberant and quick-witted Cvitesic has the gamine elegance of Audrey Hepburn, and loves to make people laugh. But asked for her future goals, her thoughts turned to musical theater. “I only have two wishes,” she says, ticking off the roles she would like to play: “Satine in ‘Moulin Rouge’ and Evita in ‘Evita.’”

“Zrinka is an unexplored ocean filled with pearls,” says Bosnian director Zbanic, “(with) undiscovered wells of emotions.”

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