Kreshnik Xhelilaj (born 5 March 1983), better known by his stage name Nik Xhelilaj, is an Albanian film and stage actor. He began his international career with the movie The Sadness of Mrs. Snajdrova, directed by Pirro Milkani and was the leading actor in three critically acclaimed Albanian films of the last few years, of which two entered in the List of Albanian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008 and 2009. Nik has collected several “Best Actor” Awards in various international film festivals.
Nik Xhelilaj was born in Tirana, on 5 March 1983, in a family originally from south Albania, his father was born in Vlore and his mother was born in Tepelena. Both of his parents are high military officers by profession. Thus, at the age of 14, also thanks to his father’s interest, he went to Istanbul to follow the military high-school. But his new path did not last more than 7 months and he decided to give up on the pursue of the military career and come back to Albania. Eventually he engaged with other young artist into the “Sirea Film” projects, with movie directors Leonard Bombaj and Alfred Trebicka, who advised him to compete and sign up for the Fine Arts Academy. Firstly Nik was a candidate for the Faculty of Law, where he did not win.
Then, in 2004, at the age of 21, he entered the Fine Arts Academy for acting. In 2005, after just having finished his freshman year, Nik was chosen by the experienced movie director Pirro Milkani to play the leading role of Lekë Seriani in the film The Sadness of Mrs. Snajdrova (Albanian: Trishtimi i zonjës Shnajder), which had strong autobiographical elements. The plot itself dealt in general with the life of director Milkani in the ’60, during his studies in then-Czechoslovakia. Even though he didn’t know the Czech language at all, the young actor memorized and learned to pronounce his Czech lines for the entire film. Nik appeared nude in shower scene in this film. Also it was here that he became widely known with his stage name or nickname Nik, since the producers of the film found it hard to pronounce the Albanian name Kreshnik and thus suggested a shorter version of it. The movie was released in 2008 and was the Albanian submission of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for that year, but failed to be nominated.
- Single Use (short length film) – 2005
- Trishtimi i zonjës Shnajder (The Sadness of Mrs. Snajdrova) – filmed in 2005, released in 2008
- Gjallë! (Alive!) – 2009
- Der Albaner – 2010
- Kayıp Şehir-Lost City (Turkish TV Series) – 2012
- Real Playing Game – 2013
- Këmbanat e Muzgut (English: Dusk’s Bells) – National Theatre, 2007
Directors: Alfred Bualioti, Andon Qesari
Leading role: Lieutenant Llukan
- A Streetcar Named Desire (play) by Tennessee Williams – Academy of Arts of Albania, 2007
Director: Timo Flloko
Leading role: Stanley Kovalsky
- Tango (drama) by Slavomir Mrozek – Theater “Aleksandër Moisiu”, Durrës, 2008
Director: Driada Dervishi
Leading role: Arthur
Dancing with the Stars Experience
Nik Xhelilaj was part of the first season of the reality show Dancing with the Stars (Albania), that was held between February 18 and May 7, 2010. The couple of the actor and the professional dancer Olta Ahmetaj was the 5th to be eliminated from the competition (out of 12 couples) and thus resigning from the 1st prize of 50 thousand Euros.