Meet the 6 Donkeys Who Played EO in Jerzy Skolimowskis Oscar Contender

EO, the furry, sad-eyed friend in Jerzy Skolimowski’s Polish film of the same name, was played by not one but six donkeys: Marietta, Tako, Hola, Rocco, Mela, Ettore. While accepting the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the director thanked them all for their contribution to this film about the four-legged creature’s melancholy, mundane trudge through life from one exploiting hand to another adoring one. In an exclusive featurette courtesy of Janus Films, which is currently rolling out the movie across the country in limited release, you can meet all six and hear a little bit about each from director Skolimowski and writer-producer Ewa Piaskowska.

As it turns out, playing a donkey passing through life’s cruel indifferences requires half a dozen to do the job properly. “We found [Marietta] on Facebook,” Skolimowski says, adding that this donkey starred in the film’s hallucinatory opening sequence, taking place amid a sort of traveling circus performance of which EO is the main attraction. It is briefly operatic: “The donkey pretends to be dying, the owner tries to resuscitate and it all ends with mouth to mouth, and the donkey gets up.”

“This film is obviously made out of love for nature and animals. There are hundreds of different breeds, but Sardinian donkeys are the most beautiful breed. The eyes are larger, more expressive, especially with that melancholic look, accepting everything,” Skolimowski says.

Tako, meanwhile, is the star of all the film’s “action” shots, according to Piaskowska: “He’s like Tom Cruise, he’s doing all the stunts.” Hola is described as the feminine one with a “seductive” look.

“They look exactly the same, you cannot say which is which. We can tell, but no one else can tell,” Skolimowski said.

“An animal doesn’t know it is acting,” Skolimowski told IndieWire in an interview earlier this year. “They just behave.” That echoes something he says here in this clip, which is, “The audience believes the animals don’t act, that they are just themselves, that it’s real, that they are not performed, the emotions … of the animal cut your heart in half. You really feel this is the truth.”

“EO” most recently won Best International Film from the New York Film Critics Circle and Best Film Not in English from the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle. It’s representing Poland in the International Feature Oscar Race at the 95th Academy Awards.

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