Mladen’s father Petar comes from Bileca, and being a great actor, he was born and grew up in Illinois, he remained tied to his Serbian roots. Upon going to kindergarten, he only spoke Serbian, which he didn’t forget in his later years, although he only changed his name to sound more American, he always found a way to put the name Sekulovic into the script.
There are many examples, and the most famous one was from the TV series “Streets of San Francisco“, his character, Mike Stone hires a boy with that last name, and just like the movie “Birdman of Alcatraz”, he read the names of the prisoners, including Sekulovic. His father was angry and he said: “Mladen, no Sekulovic was in prison, ever”.
According to the local newspapers, Mladen told the reporter Miroslav Radojicic during the break from filming the movie “Dusk”:
– They always asked me how do I speak our language, and I was born far away, in America, and I saw our old area when I was in my sixties… I had a father, you know, and we all loved him, as much as he loved us, our children. He always spoke where he came from and what are our roots… I carry his and my Bileca in me as if I was born there. That’s right, we in America grew up as a family in Herzegovina: father Petar delivered milk over Chicago and that is how he supported us, until the end of his life, when he was 90 years old, he kept some of the strength and serenity. I have gathered friends and I made some immigrant choirs (“Branko Radicevic” and “Karadjordje”). The message I listened from him the most was: “Who sings can’t be a bad man”. Our father was really good, we really loved him… I will never forget our farewell – forever. I was somewhere on the other part of America, and I knew he was sick. One day, I felt unbearable desire to go to our city. They let me go and I reached my father. He looked at me and he told me: “Mladen, you came back home…” – wrote the local papers.
However, he never saw Bileca. There is a plaque in the center of the city, on Sekulic house, and he has a monument in Belgrade, in front of the building of Yugoslav cinema.
HE REFUSED WALT DISNEY
The second famous “movie” man from Bilece, Dusan Vukotic, won the Oscan 11 years after Sekulovic. It was the first Oscar awarded to a non-American author of a cartoon. After the success of “Surrogate“, Walt Disney offered to make 60 episodes with the same character for huge money. He refused because that would destroy his idea.
Vukotic continued his career in Yugoslavia, more precisely, in today’s Croatia. He made 16 animated movies during his career, and he got 146 awards for them, both from home and abroad, from prestigious festivals.
Dusan Vukotic revealed the residents of Bileca that he was in contact with Malden and he was interested in the birthplace of his father. Petar Sekuilovic taught his son when he was little that “Who is not a good Serb, can’t be a good American”.
People of Bilece boast that their blood runs through the veins of other great actors from movies, like Emir Kusturica.
Belgrade actors Dragoljub Denda and Zagreb actress Ankica Dobric also come from Bileca.