Czech director Václav Marhoul drew some acclaim for his previous two films, 2003’s Smart Phillip (Mazaný Filip) and 2008’s Tobruk, both of which won multiple Czech Lion awards. But his latest feature comes with an even higher pedigree.
Marhoul has been filming The Painted Bird (Nabarvené ptáče), slated for release in 2019, in the Czech Republic this year with a cast that includes acclaimed international actors like Stellan Skarsgård and Udo Kier.
The film is an adaptation of Polish writer Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial 1965 novel about a young boy’s harrowing journey throughout Eastern Europe during World War II. Kosiński also wrote the novel Being There, which was adapted by Hal Ashby for the 1979 film starring Peter Sellers.
Later this month, Oscar-nominated actor Harvey Keitel will be coming to the Czech Republic to shoot a supporting role as a Catholic priest for the production.
Keitel has just wrapped shooting for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman, also starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, where he plays infamous mob boss Angelo Bruno.
Skarsgård and Kier filmed their roles for the production earlier this year. Joining Keitel among new cast members is Russian actor Aleksey Kravchenko, who was unforgettable as the young lead of the 1985 war movie Come and See.
The level of international talent in the film is unusual for a local Czech production, and Keitel’s involvement surprised even the director.
“Negotiations about Harvey Keitel’s involvement began in August last year, when he requested a script during his stay at the Locarno festival after he accidentally learned that I wanted to shoot The Painted Bird,” Marhoul said.
“I really did not believe that it would happen. However, he decided first on the script and then the role I offered him.”
Keitel is set to film his scenes during November in Český Krumlov and Hartmanice. The actor will be in the Czech Republic for 10 days, 5 of which will be shooting days.
“I deeply believe that the role [Keitel] plays will be a huge contribution to the film,” the director added.