Andrzej Wajda’s official website features the Polish master’s reflections on Everything for Sale, his self-reflexive film inspired by the death of Zbyszek Cybulski, who starred in Wajda’s 1958 international breakthrough Ashes and Diamonds.
“I had always wanted to work with Cybulski whom, although he starred in only four of my films, I also had the pleasure of directing twice in the theatre. Zbyszek was more than just an actor: he himself was a character worthy of being transferred onto the screen.
One evening in 1967, in London, I was discussing the idea of such a film with David Mercier. He knew Zbyszek well, so we had a great time remembering all the numerous anecdotes around which we could build the screenplay. Late at night, when I returned to my hotel room, Roman Polanski called to tell me that Zbyszek was dead. His death on that particular night seemed to me utterly unreal, like another episode from the planned film and it took me some time to absorb the truth of the finality of it: Zbyszek would never again act in any of my films.
Prior to beginning work on Everything for Sale, I shared my doubts with readers of the monthly magazine “Kino”:
I can use neither his name, nor a photograph of him, not even fragments of his films. I used to think that the one great film that would crown Zbyszek’s acting career was still before him. The characters in my film follow in his footsteps, quote anecdotes about him, brush against his props and the places that are still warm from his touch. He had entered their lives – our lives! – somehow disturbing and shaking them up. We had always sensed his passion and his violent intensity. All who worked with him found him an exceptionally inspiring personality with a gift for inventing countless spectacular episodes. He was a bit of a dreamer. I hope he will turn out like this in my film.
Everything for Sale is not a film aimed against actors. It is a film about people who make films.
The fact that the actors appear under their own names is not accidental. Why should I change their names when I had asked them to speak their own words? They say what they want. I knew from the very beginning who would act in my ‘jumbo sale.’ The only problem was who would play the film director.
To tell the truth, for quite a long time that I thought I should play the part myself, but finally decided not to. Not being an actor, I would not have played it even half as well as Andrzej Lapicki. (…)”