One of the fantastic quests of Hollywood has long been to uncover little-known historical events and bring them to the general public. By delving into the characters and what we know of their motivations, and by giving them a new face, those stories become once again relatable, and help us imagine and even understand what life was like during some of the darkest times in history.
This year, Anthropoid,which arrives in theaters on August 12, seeks to bring to light the powerful story of Operation Anthropoid, a secret mission organized by the British Special Operations Executive and the exiled Czech government during World War II to assassinate one of the highest-ranking and cruelest SS officers of the Nazi regime, Reinhard Heydrich. Although he only died days later, apparently due to an infection of his wounds, the assassination of Heydrich was the only government-organized operation against a Nazi of rank that ever succeeded.
Like many historical films, several real-life individuals from Operation Anthropoid have been combined for the benefit of the narrative, while additional storylines have been developed. Despite this, the central premise remains loyal to this remarkable story. Furthermore, it’s an honor to these people and their battle that the actors bringing them to the big screen combine talent and resemblance to their characters. Here are the main cast and the role of each character in Operation Anthropoid.
Cillian Murphy As Jozef Gabčík
Acclaimed Irish actor Cillian Murphy, whom you might have seen in Inception or Batman Begins, plays Jozef Gabčík, one of the two soldiers trained to carry out the assassination. He was the first to step out in front of Heydrich’s car, but his machine gun jammed and he was instantly shot at by the officer. He later hid in the Karel Boromejsky Church along with other resistance fighters, but committed suicide when they were discovered by Nazi soldiers.
Jamie Dornan As Jan Kubiš
You might only think of as the kinky hunk from Fifty Shades of Grey, but he’s already proved his acting chops for years in the TV series The Fall, and his role in Anthropoid should help reminding us that there’s more to his work than the S&M-obsessed billionaire. He plays Jan Kubiš, the 28-year-old who was trained with Gabčík for Operation Anthropoid. He fled the scene of the assassination but died of his wounds from the battle at the church.
Harry Lloyd As Adolf Opálka
Many Czech resistance fighters helped with Operation Anthropoid. First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka, a member of the Out Distance group, was the one who brought the two soldiers in charge of the mission from their landing site to Prague. His aunt was killed in a concentration camp as retaliation, while he died in the battle at the church.
Toby Jones As Jan Zelenka-Hajský
Jan Zelenka-Hajský was a teacher belonging to one of Prague’s resistance groups. While in Anthropoid, he seems to be leading the actions of Kubiš and Gabčík, he was only targeted in the aftermath of the operation and committed suicide with a cyanide pill.
Charlotte Le Bon As Marie Kovárníková
Marie Kovárníková was a resistance fighter along with her sister Ludmila, and interrogated after thousands of Czechs were arrested by the Nazi regime as retaliation for the assassination. In the movie, she’s the one with the romantic ideals, and close to Dornan’s Kubiš.
Alena Mihulová As Mrs. Moravcová
The Moravcová family was suspected of hiding resistance fighters, and their apartment was subsequently stormed after the assassination. Only Mrs. Moravcová and her husband were there, however, and she managed to swallow cyanide before being taken away.
Bill Milner As Vlastimil ‘At’a’ Moravec
One of the most tragic stories in the operation is the one of Vlastimil “At’a” Moravec, who was only 17 when he and his family were arrested. His mother had committed suicide when the Nazis stormed their apartment, but he and his father were detained and tortured, and he gave up the information he had when he was shown his mother’s severed head. He was later killed along with the rest of his family.
Detlef Bothe As Reinhard Heydrich
Detlef Bothe, who plays a villain in Spectre, bears an uncanny resemblance to Heydrich, the target of the entire operation — which is probably why this is the second time he’s portraying him on screen, after the 2011 Czech movie Lidice, which focused on a village that was entirely destroyed as part of the retaliation against the Czech population following Heydrich’s assassination.
One of the main Nazi officials behind the organization of the Holocaust, Heydrich was among the highest-ranking officers, and closest to Hitler. He was named Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, where the current Czech Republic would be, and is to this day considered to be one of the most chilling figures of the Nazi regime.
Václav Neužil As Josef Valčík
Josef Valčík was another of the resistance fighters who helped with the assassination, and later died in the fight at the church.
Jirí Simek As Karel Curda
A member of the Out Distance group like Opálka, Curda betrayed his partners in the operation in exchange for 1 million Reichsmarks and a new German identity. After the war, he was tracked down by the Czech government and sentenced to death for treason.
Are you looking forward to Anthropoid? What’s your favorite historical movie?