AP NEWS

Trailer Out For ‘The Polka King’, A Movie Based On Area Musician Jan Lewan

December 20, 2017

A trailer for the movie based on the life of a fallen band leader from Hazleton has had almost 463,000 views since it was released four days ago. “The Polka King” tells the story of Jan Lewan, a native of Poland who gained a following as a polka musician. Actor Jack Black plays the lead role in the movie, which will be released Jan. 12 to Netflix. The trailer, which is available from YouTube, is just over 2 minutes in length. Lewan, born Jan Lewandowski, performed with his orchestra throughout Northeast Pennsylvania and at casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Las Vegas. He earned a Grammy Award nomination in 2005. Later, he was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme in which he defrauded about 400 people out of millions of dollars. He spent five years in prison for his crimes, and survived an attack in which a cellmate slit his throat. The trailer features Black wearing colorful stage costumes and belting out polka tunes. On his website, www.janlewandowski.com, Lewan wrote about being on the set. “When we arrived at the place I heard myself singing outside only to realize that it was actually Jack Black filming a picnic scene,” he wrote. Lewan also wrote about Black wearing his “costume full of Swarovski rhinestones” and performing in front of the original Jan Lewan Orchestra stands. “As Jack Black held my signature handkerchief in his hand, he called out into the microphone, ‘Is Jan in the house?’ Realizing I was there, he invited me onto the stage to show him how to do the handkerchief toss. By surprise of many when I walked on the stage I received a standing ovation. This really made me feel part of the movie. I did what I used to do, ‘Zygy, Zagi, Zygy, Zagi, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi’ and the handkerchief went flying,” Lewan wrote. “Can you image how proud I was that my family and friends witnessed that moment?” The movie also stars Jenny Slate, Jason Swartzman and J.B. Smoove.

In addition to performing with his orchestra, Lewan led tours to Poland. He brought back jewelry and other goods that he sold at his gift store in Hazleton. He also peddled shares in the business and promised investors returns of between 12 percent and 20 percent. Even though the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania told him to stop selling securities, Lewan continued. Around the time the band’s van was in a 2001 crash that killed two musicians, the store went bankrupt. He later went to prison for defrauding investors. In 2004, a cellmate slit his throat. After serving five years, Lewan returned to Hazleton in 2010 to perform a concert with many of his former band members at the J.J. Ferrara Performing Arts Center. “The Polka King” is based on the 2007 documentary film, “The Man Who Would Be Polka King,” and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. According to his webpage, Lewan is organizing a 12-day trip to Poland in September. Contact the writer: jwhalen@standardspeaker.com