Andrzej Seweryn was born in 1946. In 1968, he graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Warsaw and was hired at Teatr Ateneum, where he continued to act without interruption until 1980. In 1972-1974, he also lectured at his alma mater in its acting department.
In 1980, he went to Paris to play the female role of Spika Tremendosa in Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's ONYCH / THEY, directed by Andrzej Wajda. Antoine Vitez was impressed by the performance and invited him to play the role of Thomas Pollock in Paul Claudel's THE EXCHANGE / ZAMIANA, and then offered him a full time position at L'Ecole du Théâtre National de Chaillot. Peter Brook saw Seweryn in the role of the Master in Mikhail Bulgakov’s MASTER AND MARGARITA in 1983 at the Théâtre de la Ville and asked him to join his troupe. From 1984 to 1988, Andrzej Seweryn was associated with Peter Brook's International Centre for Theatre Creation - one of the most unconventional theatre troupes in the world. In 1993, he was hired at the Comédie Française, as one of only three foreign actors ever to be hired in the entire history of that theatre. Three years later, French critics chose him as the best actor of the season, praising his performance in the title role in Hugo von Hofmannstahl's DER SCHWIERIGE (Polish trans., TRUDNY CZ£OWIEK; English trans., THE DIFFICULT MAN) at the Théâtre de la Colline in Paris. He has been a lecturer at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Lyon.
Even before he made his stage debut with the small role of the Conductor in Aleksander Fredro's DYLI¯ANS (1968), he had a brush with politics. In 1968, he was one of the organisers of the protest against the closure of Adam Mickiewicz's DZIADY / FOREFATHER'S EVE, directed by Kazimierz Dejmek at the National Theatre. For distributing fliers in protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he spent five months in prison.
The Warsaw Ateneum Theatre gave Seweryn the change to play both roles from the classics, such as Ivan Shatov in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's BIESY / THE DEVILS (1971), the title role in Friedrich Schiller's DON CARLOS (1972) and Gustaw in Aleksander Fredro's SLUBY PANIENSKIE / MAIDENS' VOWS (1976), as well as in contemporary plays, such as the Boy in Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT (Polish trans. CZEKAJ¡C NA GODOTA) (1971), Apprentice II in Stanis³aw Ignacy Witkiewicz's SZEWCY / THE SHOEMAKERS (1971), and Delamarche in Franz Kafka's AMERICA (1973).
Radio, film and television all quickly caught wind of the talented young actor. After an unfortunate television debut in ALBUM POLSKI / POLISH ALBUM, directed by Jan Rybkowski in 1970, produced for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the People’s Republic of Poland, he captivated audiences in W³adyslaw Reymont's CH£OPI / THE PEASANTS, also directed by Rybkowski (1972). His first significant role was as Maks Baum in Andrzej Wajda's film adaptation of W³adyslaw Reymont's novel ZIEMIA OBIECANA / THE PROMISED LAND (1974). His calm, balanced and methodical character was remembered by audiences alongside the characters played by Wojciech Pszoniak and Daniel Olbrychski. Seweryn believes, however, that he did not make the most of the opportunities that the role provided for him at that time. The next important role was in a film by Andrzej ¯u³awski, NA SREBRNYM GLOBIE / ON THE SILVER GLOBE (1976, but unfinished at that time). In it, Seweryn played the leader of a space expedition who is adored by his subordinates. This uncritical adoration and his unlimited power awaken the devil within him. Unfortunately, audiences were able to watch the film only twelve years later, when the film was finally taken off the shelf.
Seweryn then appeared in the following made for television mini-series: NOCE I DNIE / NIGHTS AND DAYS (1975), POLSKIE DROGI / POLISH ROADS (1976), RODZINA POLANIECKICH / THE POLANIECKI FAMILY (1978), and in performances done for the Television Playhouse, including the title role in Victor Hugo's RUY BLAS (1973) and Willy in Leon Kruczkowski's NIEMCY / THE GERMANS (1974).
In 1978, Andrzej Wajda cast Seweryn in the role of Jacek Rosciszewski in his film BEZ ZNIECZULENIA / WITHOUT ANAESTHETIC. "Seweryn masterfully played his part as a careerist and opportunist-both dangerous and weak. He roused fear and aversion in the audience, and at the same time provoked smiles of pity. He recreates Poles of the late Gierek period-mediocre, greedy, dangerous and frightened egoists." (Tomasz Lada, "Do sukcesu po marginesach", "¯ycie", 29 Sept 2000). In DYRYGENT / THE ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR (1979), he demonstrated the extent of his talent for the first time. His character was a "man with great ambitions, but condemned to conduct an average provincial orchestra that not only lacks any real talent, but a certain finesse as well. (...) He struggles, rampages, charges and delves ever deeper; not only does he lose, he makes a laughingstock of himself, which is the most painful for a man. There is something very human in that fight he puts up, something very moving, because in fact it is not a person who is losing, but a person who is being destroyed. This is where the tragedy enters the pictures, though on a very prosaic level. Andrzej Seweryn went far beyond the genre of the character." (Aleksander Ledochowski, "V Symfonia", "Film", no 18/1980).
Many of his characters represented the first postwar generation, such as Marek in Janusz Kijowski's KUNG FU (1979), Bogdan in Janusz Zaorski's DZIECINNE PYTANIA / CHILDISH QUESTIONS (1981) and Capitan Wirski in Andrzej Wajda's CZ£OWIEK Z ¯ELAZA / MAN OF IRON (1981). It has been said that they constitute "material that is prone to compromise and conformism, from which either a scumbag or a decent person can arise, depending on the circumstances and conditions." (Maria Kornatowska, "Wodzireje i amatorzy", WaiF, 1990).
Toward the end of the 1970s, as Seweryn himself has admitted, he began to feel a bit disgusted and sensed that he was becoming a run-of-the-mill actor. Leaving for Paris gave him an opportunity for change, both in his personal and professional life. Seweryn was in France when martial law was declared.
Seweryn considers meeting Peter Brook to have been one of his most important theatrical experiences. He worked for almost a year on a production of MAHABHARATA, based on the great Hindu epic poem, with an acting troupe whose members hailed from eighteen countries. He played two parts in the show: in the French version, a character reminiscent of the devil, and in the (filmed) English version, one that recalled an angel. "Working with Brook was a breakthrough for me. I stopped playing then. I began to be." ("Jestem po prostu aktywnym pracownikiem filmu", "Odra", no. 10/1995) He credits Brook with his new understanding of other conventions and theatrical forms, and of the "melting into one" of the body, emotions and intellect.
In 1993, he was accepted into one of the most prestigious theatre troupes in the world, the Comédie Française. Seweryn’s French stage debut was in the title role of Moliere's DON JUAN (1993). "The New York Times" wrote that he seemed more like a "sly, underhanded fop than a passionate lover, he is a sensual cynic, whose main goal is to gain control over others, and not the experience of love, or even romantic conquests." At the Comédie Française, he won over the audiences and critics with parts including the title role in Moliére's TARTUFFE and THE BOURGEOIS GENTLEMAN, Gayev in Anton Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Claudius in William Shakespeare’s HAMLET, the President in Friedrich Schiller's KABALE UND LIEBE / INTRIGUE AND LOVE.
Recently Seweryn has gained critical acclaim in his roles as Henryk in Witold Gombrowicz's ¦LUB / THE WEDDING (2001) and as Shylock in William Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2001). Of this last role, a reviewer in "Le Monde" wrote: "the virtuosity of this actor has never before shone as it has in this role. [Seweryn] covers all the registers, from farce to tragedy, with the same fluency as he speaks Polish, German, Russian and English, as the triumphing moneylender. This Shylock certainly does not inspire our sympathy. But he is brimming with life." Seweryn's forays into directing have also been received enthusiastically, in Moliere’s THE FORCED MARRIAGE (1999) and Jacques Audiberti's LE MAL COURT / THE EVIL SPREADS (2000).
In French cinema, Seweryn's most important accomplishments have been his parts as Steiner in AMOK (1992), Hebrard in the Oscar award-winning INDOCHINA (1992) and two roles of leaders of the French revolution: Bourdon in Andrzej Wajda's DANTON (1982) and Robespierre in LA REVOLUTION FRANçAISE (1989).
Since 1989, Andrzej Seweryn has been working in Poland from time to time as well. Since the early 1990s, the Television Playhouse has hosted him most often. He has shown his outstanding and mature acting abilities in the title roles of William Shakespeare's RICHARD III (1989) and CORIOLANUS (1995), and in Moliere's DON JUAN (1996). About his part in RICHARD III, one critic wrote: "This role was Seweryn's great chance to show his abilities. He constructed a very complicated character: a cynic and murderer, but at the same time a person who was internally and externally very unhappy and wronged. (...) Seweryn built the role using acting methods that are typical for him: very logical, cool, with a precision that can even be called mathematical." (Lukasz Wyrzykowski, "Wielki popis Andrzeja Seweryna", "Dziennik Zachodni", 13 Dec 1989).
The late 1990s saw his triumphant return to the Polish cinema. His performance as Jeremi Wisniowiecki in Jerzy Hoffman's OGNIEM I MIECZEM / WITH FIRE AND SWORD (1999) was "a dynamic portrayal of a magnate who faces a moral conflict between his obligations to the state and his own will." (Krzysztof Demidowicz, "Przyciaganie, odpychanie", "Film", no. 4/2001) About the character of the Judge in Andrzej Wajda’s PAN TADEUSZ (1999), one critic wrote that "Seweryn managed to create a perfect, fascinatingly ambiguous portrait of a Pole from one of Mickiewicz's uninteresting minor characters. The character Seweryn creates is on the one hand unresourceful, on the other hand a careful gospodarz; one the one hand, Fredrowski's ill-natured person, on the other hand, a cold, calculating gambler." (Tomasz Lada, "Do sukcesu po marginesach", "¯ycie", 29 Sept 2000).
In 2000, Seweryn played Cardinal Stefan Wyszyñski in Teresa Kotlarczyk's PRYMAS: TRZY LATA Z TYSI¡CA / THE CARDINAL: THREE YEARS OUT OF A THOUSAND. "The actor took on the hardest role of his career up to this point. He had to play a person who is still alive in the Polish mind.
In 2001, the first book about Andrzej Seweryn, written by Teresa Wilniewczyc, was published.Most significant awards:
1980 - Silver Bear for his role in DYRYGENT / THE ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR at the Berlin IFF
1994 - Grand Prize for acting for his role in AMOK at the Cairo IFF
1996 - Witkacy Award
1998 - Award for the title role in the Television Playhouse production of Slawomir Mrozek’s KRAWIEC at the
1998 - National Competition for the Staging of Contemporary Polish Plays
2000 - Polish Television's award for his role in the film PRYMAS / THE CARDINAL at the POLISH FEATURE FILM FESTIVAL in Gdañsk
2001 - Golden Duck award for his role in PRYMAS / THE CARDINAL