One of the many films to world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was The Polka King. Based on the 2009 documentary The Man Who Would Be Polka King, the film is written and directed by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, and is based on the crazy true story about the world’s only known Polka Ponzi scheme. In the film, Jack Black plays Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant and a Pennsylvania polka sensation who seduced his fans into investing in a Ponzi scheme. Part comedy and part tragedy, the film is one of those stories that’s stranger than fiction. The film also stars Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, Willie Garson, and J.B. Smoove.
Here’s the Sundance synopsis:
This exuberant tragicomedy recounts the remarkable but true story of the rise and fall of Polish émigré Jan Lewan (Black), from striving tchotchke shop owner in the ’70s to the undisputed “King of Pennsylvania Polka” in the early ’90s. Lewan pursued the American Dream by any means necessary, fleecing investors and bribing officials to build a personal musical empire in what became the world’s only known Polka Ponzi scheme. Swept up by Lewan’s charismatic charm are his devoted wife, Marla (Slate), and his neurotic sidekick, Mickey (Schwartzman).
Shortly after seeing the film I sat down with Jack Black, Jack Weaver, Willie Garson, Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky. They talked about how the project came together, how Jan Lewan always wanted to be famous, the incredible true story, and so much more. In addition, towards the end of the interview, you can also watch them play a game I call “Get to Know Your Sundance Attendee,” which asks tough questions like drink of choice, how long can you go without looking at your phone, what’s the last TV show you’ve watched that you want to recommend, what do you collect, favorite websites, and a lot more.
Check out what they had to say in the video above and below is exactly what we talked about. Finally, a huge thank you to everyone at Plexus, The Future Party and editor Jonathan Mathew for helping to make these interviews happen.