Why Did they Cast a Non-Professional Actress for the Lead Role in “Ida”? How Was She Discovered?


Casting for Ida proved very difficult. Director Pawel Pawlikowski recounts that he spent severalm months searching through theatre companies and dramas schools throughout Poland in order to find his “Ida.” He auditioned approximately 400 actors, but none of them felt right to him. Pawlikowski eventually discovered Agata Trzebuchowska by spotting her reading a book in a cafe downstairs from where Pawlikowski lived in Warsaw. A philosophy and culture studies student at Warsaw University, Agata had no acting experience. Reportedly, she had never shown any desire to act before either, and according to Pawlikowski, a “complete atheist and a principled one.”

The sales agents tasked with selling Ida around the world were expressed reluctance to cast her and asked Pawlikowski to cast a “proper” actress. After viewing the first week’s rushes, they believed that she did not have any emotional range, but Pawlikowski believed he had the right person precisely because she was very calm, quiet and grounded. To Pawlikowski, this was a character who knew how to listen and think before speaking - everything was to be internalized, not emoted openly.