Jack Black will be taking us on the dance floor as real life polka superstar Jan Lewan in The Man Who Would Be Polka King. The biopic will be an adaptation of the 2009 documentary of the same name from directors Joshua Brown and John Mikulak which charted the rise and subsequent fall of the noted band leader, whose business practices devolved into a Ponzi scheme and an attempt to rig the Mrs. Pennsylvania pageant in his wife’s benefit.
Black will also be producing the film, with Infinitely Polar Bear writer/directors Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarski set to perform the same duties here. The film is set for a July start date.
Lewan, a Polish immigrant, found fame as a polka band leader in northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1980s. As his fame grew, he began organizing tours to his home country, still under Communist control at the time. In time, he turned to selling “shares” in his his business to keep it afloat, knowing that he would never be able to pay off the g2% interest rate that he guaranteed on them. His business soon began to collapse after an accusation of vote tampering at the Mrs. Pennsylvania pageant his wife was competing in.
I have to admit that I am happy to see this news. FilmBuffOnline headquarters is located right in the heart of Pennsylvania Polka country. Lewan was a big name and his fall from grace was big news. I also happen to have met documentary director John Mikulak and have a good friend who appears in that film’s narrative framing device.
But beyond that, I see the story of Lewan as a tragic one, where someone comes to America to achieve fame and fortune, only to be caught up in a web of lies. It is an interesting cautionary tale, made more intriguing by its setting within the unusual and unexpected world of polka music.