Dr Luka Kovac
“My only goal here in the States is to really try to work on the accent as much as I can, to really polish it to be really good. With an accent like this, you're still forced to play certain parts and some parts you can't get, so that's my first concern.” Goran Visnjic
Tall, with a dark, matinee idol look, Croatia-born television and film actor Goran Visnjic is well-known as pediatrician Dr Luka Kovac in NBC’s hit medical drama “ER” (1999- ), in which he received nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Initially, the actor gained attention portraying Risto, the driver and translator for a British news team, in Michael Winterbottom’s highly-praised Welcome To Sarajevo (1997). He has continued to make both U.S. and International films and worked with such popular names as Nicole Kidman and George Clooney in Peacemaker (1997), Sandra Bullock and Kidman in Practical Magic (1998), Matt Damon and Edward Norton in Rounders (1998), Heather Graham in Committed (2000), Tilda Swinton in The Deep End (2001) and Jennifer Garner in Elektra (2005).
On stage, Visnjic made a name for himself while starring in the production of “Hamlet” at the prestigious Dubrovnik Summer Festival (1993-2000). Due to his virtuoso performance, he took home three national Best Actor awards, including an Orlando. His additional theater credits include “Les Fourberies de Scapin,” “L’Ecole des Femmes,” “Miss Julie,” “Ivanov,” “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Le Baruffe Chiozotte.”
Off screen, Visnjic was named People magazine’s “The Sexiest Import” in 1999 and was ranked #18 in the Croatian-based monthly film magazine Hollywood in “Best Croatian Male Movie Stars of All Time” (2005). An avid animal lover and owner of a dog named Bugsy, Visnjic participated in an anti-fur billboard campaign for PETA, where he was featured cradling Bugsy. The ads read, “If you wouldn’t wear your dog, please don’t wear any fur.” The campaign was PETA’s first in Eastern Europe.
As for his private life, Visnjic has been married to Ivana Vrdoljak since 1999. The couple resides primarily in Los Angeles, California, with their only son.
Childhood and Family:
In Sibenik, Croatia, Goran Visnjic was born on September 9, 1972, to parents Zeljko (former bus driver) and Milka (former saleswoman). The younger of two sons, Goran has an older brother named Josko (born in 1970), who works as a salesman.
Goran Visnjic, whose nickname is Sime, decided to become an actor at a very young age and appeared in plays throughout his childhood. As a teenager, he trained during peacetime for basic crowd control and as a paratrooper in the Yugoslavian People’s Army (JNA). When Yugoslavia began to dissolve, Goran served a year-long tour of duty with the JNA before returning home to Sibenik to join the new Croatian Army in defending his hometown against JNA-supported Krajina Serbs. Leaving the military, he relocated to Zagreb to study at the Academy of Dramatic Arts and later joined the Croatian National Theatre.
On May 8, 1999, Goran happily married Croatian sculptor Ivana Vrdoljak, the daughter of film director Antun Vrdoljak. From the marriage, he has one son. When not working, Goran enjoys swimming, fencing, diving and wind surfing, as well as practicing kung fu.
“This cute woman walked into my favourite bar in Gavella, Croatia, about 5 years ago. When I saw her I said ‘Uh-oh, that's it.’ But I was shy, so I didn’t ask her out until a couple of days later, when I finally found someone who knew her phone number.” Goran Visnjic on meeting his wife
Welcome To Sarajevo
A veteran of two military forces in his homeland, Croatia-born Goran Visnjic always wanted to be an actor. Starting his acting training while still a teenager, Visnjic made his screen debut at age 16 when he landed a small role in the controversial Yugoslavian film Maternal Halfbrothers, where he appeared as a young Croatian extremist. However, Goran soon put acting on the backburner to serve in the Yugoslavian army.
After leaving the military, Visnjic made his way back to film in 1993 to appear in Paranoia before making it big with the title character in a production of “Hamlet” at the prestigious Dubrovnik Summer Festival that same year. The production earned critical raves, with Visnjic’s performance earning three national Best Actor awards, including an Orlando (the Croatian equivalent of a Tony), as well as star status. He went on to play the role throughout Croatia until 2000. He also performed in a number of plays, including “Les Fourberies de Scapin,” “L’Ecole des Femmes,” “Miss Julie,” “Ivanov,” “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Le Baruffe Chiozotte.”
With new found popularity, Visnjic secured steady work both on TV and film. He found work in local TV productions like Michele va alla guerra (1994), See You (1995), Prepoznavanje (1996), “Olujne tisine 1895-1995” (1997) and the Croatian movie Puska za uspavljivanje (1997). Moreover, Visnjic broke into the Hollywood scene with the made-for-TV film Night Watch (1995), where he appeared as an United Nation’s security officer.
Visnjic’s breakthrough role and international exposure arrived in 1997 with his English-language role in the highly acclaimed drama Welcome to Sarajevo, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Drawing on his own experiences, Visnjic offered a strong supporting turn as Risto Bavic, a translator-driver for a British news team covering the war in the former Yugoslavia. Visnjic’s performance won him notice and became his Hollywood calling card.
Next up, he was featured alongside George Clooney and Nicole Kidman in the thriller/crime Peacemaker (1997), had a small role in the John Dahl-directed Rounders (1998, also with Matt Damon and Edward Norton) and was cast opposite Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in the fantasy movie Practical Magic (1998). Visnjic further increased his popularity in the English-speaking country when he starred in Madonna’s video for the hit track “The Power of Good-bye.”
Visnjic gained even more recognition and fame when he joined the cast of the ever-popular U.S. television show “ER” in the sixth season (late 1999), portraying Dr. Luka Kovac, a Croatian doctor who immigrated to the United States after the violent deaths of his wife and children. For his fine performance, Visnjic earned nominations with the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2000 and 2001. Now, as one of the series’ lead characters, Visnjic is currently contracted through Season 13, and has not ruled out a further extension of the role.
Following his “ER” breakthrough, Visnjic appeared in a string of small films like the comedy Committed (2000) with Heather Graham, the Sundance-premiered The Deep End (2001) opposite Tilda Swinton and helmed by Scott McGhee, and the Croatia Productions The Last Will (2001) and Long Dark Night (2004), where he also served as a producer. He also starred as a hypnotherapist with telepathic powers in the UK thriller Doctor Sleep (2002) and provided his voice for the character Soto in the Fox animated feature Ice Age (2002). After starring in the title role for the TV remake of the classic film Spartacus (2004), Visnjic was cast in his first major US starring role on the silver screen, playing Jennifer Garner’s potential boyfriend in the Daredevil spin-off Elektra (2005). 2005 also saw the actor star as Ivan Kolar in the Croatian television serial “Duga mracna noc.”