Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová was born in Brno on 22.3.1953. Having completed her studies at a conservatory she entered Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno from which she graduated in 1975. While she was studying at the Academy the talented actress was noticed by film director Juraj Herz who invited her to a talent contest for the film Holky z porcelánu. Dagmar, then Veškrnová, won the three rounds of the contest and landed her first film role in what is now a cult film, Holky z porcelánu, which made her immediately a new Czechoslovak star (1974). For the best acting performance the debuting Dagmar Veškrnová won the award Little Golden Sun at the International Film Festival in Trutnov. A year later she won the same award at the IFF in Banská Bystrica for the film Holka na zabití. Her film career took off at lighting speed and Dagmar Veškrnová became one of the most frequently cast film actresses with an extensive and wide range of styles. Film publicist Jaroslav Sedláček said this about her talent: “We have not had many really good film comediennes in those almost 115 years of Czechoslovak and Czech film. I would put in the extra league of comediennes Nataša Gollová, Jiřina Bohdalová, Iva Janžurová and Dagmar Veškrnová. And if I were to draw a comparison between Nataša Gollová and Dagmar Veškrnová, well, Nataša Gollová played a role whereas Dagmar Veškrnová became the character. When a spectator doesn’t have a chance to see that an actress is playing, this is really uncommon.”
In the extensive filmography of Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová containing more than 50 feature films and over 300 television productions we find many titles dedicated to children. She played a child spectator for the first time at the age of 14 when the National Theatre in Brno held an audition for the role of Verunka in Broučci by Jan Karafiát (1968) and Dagmar Veškrnová passed the audition.
The best known titles intended for children in which Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová include a comedy by Věra Plívová-Šimková Jak se točí Rozmarýny (1977), which lets the viewer look inside the film trade. Her unforgettable role of Mother in a television miniseries by Jindřich Polák Chobotnice z druhého patra (1986) met with a good viewers’ response and is still regularly repeated. She became children’s great favourite in the role of loving mother in a six-part series Bylo nás pět (1994) and the character of a doctor in the television series Když se slunci nedaří (1995). She dazzled children and adult viewers in the role of an acrobat on horseback in the series Cirkus Humberto (1988). Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová acted in a number of fairy-tales for television, such as Hejkal (1978), O vysoké věži (1978), Ježčí kůže (1978), O hruškách ušatkách a jablíčku parohátku (1979), Jak se tančí brumbambule (1985), O závojích bez nevěst (1983), Andula a pán pětiočko (1983), Princezny nejsou vždy na vdávání (1985), O princezně na klíček (1987), O princi Bečkovi (1988), My se vlka nebojíme (1988), Sedm sestřiček (1988), Království stromů (1989), Jaké vlasy má zlatovláska (1992), Vodnická čertovina (1995), Kulihrášek a zakletá princezna (1995), Šťastný smolař (2012).
Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová is also a celebrated stage actress. Although at the beginning of her acting career she appeared in comedy films, in theatre she played from the outset dramatic and tragic characters. Let us name, for example, Tatiana in Pushkin’s Onegin (1974) or Joan in Anouilh’s The Lark (1970). She began her professional theatre career in the theatre Husa na provázku. Here she shone in a play by Vladimír Páral Profesionální žena (1974), and later she moved to Prague’s Jiří Wolker Theatre, where she played a number of major roles, for example Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew (1978) and Checca in Brawling in Chioggia. Since 1979 she has been a member of the theatre company Divadlo na Vinohradech, where she has performed many demanding roles requiring excellent character acting. Her most distinctive performances at that time include the role of Lady Macbeth (1991) and Gazdina roba (1992) considered by critics the production of the decade, for which she was awarded the spectators’ prize Alfréd. In the title role in Strindberg’s Queen Christina (1995) she took temporary leave of her spectators, and having collected almost five million crowns during the last seven performances Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová sent this through her foundation VIZE 97 to people stricken by floods.
In 1997 Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová married President Václav Havel. She cut short her very successful acting career to acquit herself of the role of the First Lady of the Czech Republic. Until 2003 she met the obligations arising from the position of wife of the head of the state. As there was no institute of Ombudsman then, the First Lady pursued some of this agenda, dealing for instance with citizens’ requests for assistance, in addition to playing the social and representative part of a statesman’s wife.
In 1998 the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97 was established by merger between the Olga and Václav Havel Foundation and the Foundation VIZE 97, where the founder and chair of the board of trustees has been working diligently to this day.
Dagmar Havlová returned to the stage in Divadlo na Vinohradech in 2006 in the role of Kathleen Hogan in a piece by Israel Horovitz Park Your Car in Harvard Yard. This was followed by other major roles from the world repertory – Lyubov Ranevskaya in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (2008), Marie Stuart (2010) in Schiller’s eponymous drama, Roxana (2011) in Kohout’s version of Rostand’s Cyrano of Bergerac, Rebecca (2013) in Ibsen’s drama Rebecca (Rosmersholm), and Baroness Castelli–Glembay in Krleža’s play Messrs. Glembay (2014). For the two last roles she won the spectators’ prize ‘August’.
She returned to television in the television film Kanadská noc (2008) and to the film screen in the film Normal (2009).
Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová has worked with a number of noted directors and screen writers. A symbolic link is the film Leaving (2011), which Václav Havel wrote for his wife and himself directed. Homage to the consummate actress is the story trilogy Setkání s hvězdou: Dagmar Havlová (2012), where she excelled in three outstanding acting transformations. Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová also played in a series of chamber television stories Nevinné lži (2013) and in the serial Sanitka 2 (2013) in the role of a senior medical doctor.
Dagmar Havlová Veškrnová has won many awards for her acting, but also for her charitable activities.