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Cast | Articles | Making of | News | Notes | Pictures | Production Notes | Quotes
|Old Prince Bolkonsky||Malcolm McDowell|
|Natasha Rostova||Clemence Poesy|
|Prince Andrei Bolkonsky||Alessio Boni|
|Pierre Bezukhov||Alexander Beyer|
|Márja Dmitrijewna Achrosímowa||Brenda Blethyn|
|Mademoisellle Bourienne||Pilar Abella|
|Petja Boy||Juozapas Bagdonas|
|Vasilii Kuragin||Toni Bertorelli|
|Igor - Head Waiter||Pawel Burczyk|
|Marja Bolkonsky||Valentina Cervi|
|Business Manager||Meskauskas Darius|
|Anatole Kuragin||Ken Duken|
|Countess Rostova||Hannelore Elsner|
|Count Rostov||Andrea Giordana|
|Tzar Alexander||Igor Kostolevsky|
|Sonja||Ana Caterina Morariu|
|Count Bezukhov||Laimonas Noreika|
|Helene Kuragin||Violante Placido|
|Father of seduced girl||Sakalas Uzdavinys|
|Medical Officer||Jonas Vaitkus|
Directed by Matilde Bernabei
Written by Enrico Medioli, Lorenzo Favella & Gavin Scott from the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Europe tries Russian roulette
A St Petersburg-based production of War and Peace is the EU's most costly TV miniseries. Now comes the challenge of selling it. Bernhard Warner reports from location. Ii is mid-November in St Petersburg. A stubborn Siberian wind is freezing every molecule of moisture in the city. Inside, though, where the cream of high society has gathered, the enemy is not the weather but that French thug, Napoleon, and his marauding army drawing ever closer to Mother Russia.
For this is the set of a lavish adaptation of the Tolstoy classic War and Peace, where cast and crew are in the final stretch of a 20-week production. The rigors of the shoot seem to weigh on some of the actors. Their shoulders collapse underneath 19th-century ballroom gowns and the men scratch at their ample sideburns. The Romanian-born director, Robert Dornhelm, barks out instructions in English to the scene's principal actors, Ken Duken, from Germany and Harry Potter star, Clemence Poesy, from France. It is a crucial point in the production. Duken's character, the scheming Anatole Kuragin, is hatching his plot to seduce the pure, naive Natasha.
"OK, everyone. Action!" the director shouts. For good measure, a command for silence is repeated in Italian, Russian, Spanish and French. Between takes, the polyglot set resembles more an EU-Russia summit on culture than a big-budget film production. At EUR28 million ($A47 million), War and Peace is considered to be the most expensive TV miniseries produced in Europe - the budget is believed to be twice the usual going price. Shot in English, it involves seven countries, with actors from 10. It is the first time Russia has allowed a foreign production - led by the Italian firm Lux Vide, with France's Pampa Production and Germany's Eos Film - of this size to shoot on Tolstoy's home turf. Italy has put up nearly 50 per cent of the budget, with the French and Germans throwing in substantial chunks. The remainder was funded by Spain's Grupo Interconomia and Poland's Grupo Filmowa and Polsat.
Sergey Shumakov, the deputy general director of TV Channel Russia (formerly called RTR), observes the commotion on set like a proud grandfather. "This is the biggest and most important television project of the century," he says through an interpreter. It is clear he is not just speaking for his Russian audience. Tolstoy's novel, he continues, "gives the possibility for all Europeans to speak the same language. It's a way for us to show we all have the same values and that we all feel part of Europe". Shumakov sees big potential in further cinematic co-productions of this size with his European neighbors.
He envisages Tolstoy's Anna Karenina as a possible co-production candidate. And he says there is promise in Dostoevsky's The Possessed but acknowledges its subject of home-grown terrorism, even in 19th-century Russia, may put off some TV network programmers around the continent. In a spirit of co-operation, Shumakov says the Russians are willing to make creative concessions as they did with War and Peace, opting, for example, to set the film in one city, St Petersburg, not St Petersburg and Moscow, as Tolstoy conceived, and condensing the original narrative's 10-year plot into four.
Shumakov, through his translator, speaks with the trademark anything-is-possible confidence of a TV network head. His partners - financing the production - use more pragmatic language. TV is business, they say, a business that does not necessarily reward risk-takers. TV ratings are down everywhere. Program directors want to hear about reliable ratings-grabbers, not multicultural, cross-border projects. Russia may be the exciting new frontier in TV but will the series work back home in Milan or Milton Keynes in England? And, more importantly, will today's viewers be able to sit through four nights of Tolstoy in prime time when they only managed to get halfway through the book in their teens?
"Everyone is looking for two-day stories these days," Jan Mojto, Eos Film's president and one of the primary funders, says after the day's shooting is in the can. "Four nights makes it more difficult in principle. You have to convince program controllers that they will win on four evenings. That is difficult."
There are elements to War and Peace that make for good TV, the producers insist. But as is often the case with multinational co-productions, not all the producers can agree on which elements to play up. For example, Italian viewers want more romance and less war. German viewers prefer more war and less romance. The compromise? In Italy, the film will run for 400 minutes; the Germans will air their version for 360 minutes. Does this mean Italians will get 40 minutes more love than the Germans? No, replies Dornhelm, the director. It is possible to accommodate national tastes, he says, even if it means films of dramatically varying lengths. The main message will not be diluted. "We will focus on the question, 'Why do men go to war' ?"
Over nearly a two-year period, the script went through a series of revisions, says Nicolas Traube, manager of the Paris-based production company Pampa. The early quibbles, as always, were over casting. Some countries wanted a full-figured actress to play Natasha and a more action-hero type to play her love interest, Pierre. Ultimately, they agreed on France's Poesy and Germany's Alexander Beyer, who resemble in demeanor and physical appearance the original Tolstoy characters.
The fact that the cast consists primarily of young up-and-comers from across Europe, with just a few established actors such as the Brits Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn, is a concern to some broadcasters, the producers acknowledge. One of the most important characters, according to Traube, is Russia itself. "To have the genuine support of Russia means we are not doing a soapy version of War and Peace," he says.
The 1956 version, starring Audrey Hepburn as Natasha and Henry Fonda as Pierre, was an unapologetic Hollywood production, he recalls, adding, "the plot may have been Tolstoy but the soul certainly was not". The film a decade later by acclaimed Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk is considered the authentic cinematic version; it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1969. Still, with so much money riding on putting Tolstoy in prime-time, the producers are more concerned with ratings than critical response. Shooting finished last week in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius - the other principal location - and the focus is now on post-production and pitching the film to broadcasters in Britain, the US and Australia.
Known for its Bible series dramas, Lux - initiator of the idea - is confident its multinational remake will sell abroad. The film will air next summer or early autumn in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Poland, Russia and Lithuania, the countries that have signed on to the co-production. Whether or not there will be future co-productions with the Russians remains to be seen. But both sides say they are genuinely interested in working together again, even if the Russians are bringing very little money, if any, to the project. "What they bring is credibility," Traube says.
Is pricey 'War' too piecemeal?
Seven countries in mix for miniseries
By Bernhard Warner | Variety 11/19/06
Saint Petersburg - If the average going rate for a European blockbuster TV miniseries is around $18 million, imagine what a budget twice as large could produce. Such is the thinking behind "War and Peace," a $36 million TV version of Leo Tolstoy's 19th-century classic about the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Russian families, being co-produced by seven countries, with actors from 10. Italy's Lux Vide and pubcaster arm RAI Fiction together kicked in almost half the finances. Another big chunk of change comes from Germany's Eos Film and pubcaster ZDF. France's Pampa Prods. and France TV, Spain's Grupo Interconomia and Poland's Grupo Filmowa and Polsat also are adding their bit to the pot. Russian pubcaster TV Channel Russia (formerly RTR) is providing production facilities, while Austria gets in on the act via Eos' Austrian film arm.
It's the latest high-profile historical mini for Eos and Lux Vide - they have worked together on a number of projects including "Imperium: Augustus," starring Peter O'Toole, and "Pope John XXIII," which starred Ed Asner as the late pontiff. "War and Peace" is hailed as one of Europe's largest TV co-productions, but the four-episode extravaganza could just as easily be described as Europe's largest TV gamble.
"Everyone is looking for two-day stories these days," says Eos Film prexy Jan Mojto. "Four nights makes it more difficult in principle. You have to convince program controllers that they will win on four evenings." Eos, Lux and Pampa execs all say the film, which involves shooting for 20 weeks at 105 locations in Russia and Lithuania, would be too expensive for one production house to pull off individually.
Even so, the coin contributed by each is among the biggest investments they've made for a single project. The collective pull carried some weight when it came to casting. The project features some of Europe's finest young actors - Germany's Alexander Beyer ("Leningrad"), France's Clemence Poesy ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") and Italy's Alessio Boni ("The Best of Youth") -- plus established stars Brenda Blethyn and Malcolm McDowell.
The size of the project also helped convince TV Channel Russia to join the project. On the set, a former Romanov palace in St. Petersburg, Sergey Shumakov, deputy general director of TV Channel Russia, says the broadcaster is anxious to cut further deals with outside production companies to shoot Russian classics in the land of Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Even shooting in English, as "War and Peace" is doing, is not a problem, he adds.
While the Russians have made little fuss about the language, they have kept a close eye on production to ensure Tolstoy's world is not given an indistinguishable foreign gloss. The minus side of such a huge co-production? Differences of opinion and national taste, which could turn the mini into a Europudding. The production partners all aired their preferences and dislikes before shooting began. These ran from playing up the romance (as the Italians favor) to sticking with more battle scenes (for the Germans).
Romanian-born director Robert Dornhelm is left to juggle the multiplicity of tastes and to cut two versions of varying lengths. The final product will run 360 minutes in Germany, but 400 minutes in Italy. He sums up the pre-production collaboration as, "in some cases, quite natural. At other times, unproductive." However, Lux VP and co-producer Matilde Bernabei calls the project a "future laboratory for Europe's TV industry."
The producers are confident Tolstoy's tale of romance and war will appeal to more than just the literary set when it airs next summer in Europe. The classic-lit genre is already a winner with auds in Russia, where recent adaptations include Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" and Dostoevsky's "The Idiot." As Dornhelm says, the hope is that HBO "or another channel with an interest in Russian literature" will extend the film's reach beyond Europe. Eos recently partnered with HBO and the BBC on "Rome," which may give it some sway in both camps.
Lux, which has developed strong ties overseas after its successful Bible-themed miniseries, has the rights for all English-speaking markets. Its past broadcast partners include CBS and Turner. It hopes to have an announcement on buyers at next spring's Mip TV mart in Cannes, a make-or-break moment for the project. As Mojto says, money was a principle theme for Tolstoy. Once shooting stops next month, it will be bigger than ever.
Not just one, but two new versions of "War and Peace" could soon be
coming to a television screen near you.
By Anna Malpas | Moscow Times 9/1/06
The battles are both on and off-screen as two rival
television versions of "War and Peace" get under way. One is a
European co-production commissioned by Italian state television, while the other
will be made by RAMCO, a Russian-American production company based in Moscow.
Although the two sides have met to discuss merging their projects, they parted
ways due to creative differences.
The more advanced project is the Italian "War and Peace," which started filming in Lithuania on Aug. 7. Planned as a four-part miniseries, it is being made by the Rome-based production company Lux Vide for the Italian state broadcaster RAI. But its international cast -- which includes Malcolm McDowell as old Prince Bolkonsky and Italian actor Alessio Boni as his son Prince Andrei - will speak English, and its director, Robert Dornhelm, is a veteran of US television who has made miniseries such as "Into the West" and "The Ten Commandments."
The project is an international co-production with partners in Italy, Russia, Poland, Germany, France and Spain. Its local participant is the Rossia television channel. A Rossia spokeswoman, Irada Petrova, confirmed by e-mail Tuesday that the channel was taking part.
Meanwhile, the script is still being written for RAMCO's "War and Peace" - which will be slightly longer, with eight hour-long episodes rather than four episodes of 100 minutes each.
RAMCO general director Sergei Konov said by telephone Tuesday that he had met representatives of Lux Vide last November to discuss working together on a single production. "We met to talk about uniting our efforts, the possibility of a co-production," Konov said. But the talks failed, he said, explaining that "we were not happy with their script, specifically, because it is very far from Tolstoy's novel. It does not even remotely get across the idea of the book."
A representative of Lux Vide's press office, Nicoletta Ciardullo, wrote by e-mail on Wednesday, "We had a couple of meetings with [RAMCO] but it could not work out because we were already much more advanced with our pre-production." Lux Vide's final script was written by two Italians, Enrico Medioli -- who co-wrote the screenplay for Luchino Visconti's "Rocco and His Brothers" -- and Lorenzo Favella, and British-born Gavin Scott, who wrote the screenplay for the 1997 film "The Borrowers."
RAMCO's script, which is also in English, is being developed by Ron Hutchinson, who wrote the screenplay for the Emmy-nominated television miniseries "Traffic." He took part in the discussions of Lux Vide's script when the two teams were considering a merger, Konov said.
The general director of RAMCO believes that Sergei Bondarchuk's Oscar-winning adaptation of "War and Peace" from 1968, which runs for more than six hours, did not do the novel full justice. "Our idea is to get across as fully as possible both the plot and, more importantly, Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy's main idea, which is religious and philosophical," Konov said. RAMCO is using specialists from the Gorky Institute of World Literature in Moscow as script consultants, he added. It will take about a year to finish the script and get through pre-production, Konov said. He estimated that the filming itself would take six months.
Lux Vide's production will premiere on RAI Uno and will also be shown by major broadcasters throughout Western and Eastern Europe, press representative Ciardullo said. The company is also in talks with a major English-language broadcaster, she said, without giving a name.
Konov, meanwhile, is hoping to show RAMCO's "War and Peace" in Russia and English-speaking countries. The company is holding talks with several U.S. channels, he said. No agreement has yet been made to show the miniseries on a Russian channel, and Konov was disappointed to hear that Rossia had agreed to show the Lux Vide production. "I won't hide the fact that the Italian company has upset our calculations a little bit," he said. "It's sad for us, of course."
The Italian production has a budget of 25 million euros ($32 million), and it will be filmed over 20 weeks in Lithuania and St. Petersburg. RAMCO's production will have a budget of $80 million, Konov said. Plans are to film at Mosfilm and in Russia, and possibly at other locations.
Exclusive translation of an Italian web piece.
Natasha: "Prince Andrej is maybe...a kind of childhood love. The love of
a young girl for an unattainable person, perfect. It's almost too much!"
Andrej: "In this wonderful ball, in the hall of mirrors in the palace of Tsar Alexander he meets Natasha Rostova and dances with her. He has this extraordinary thought then, he's abiding and such a serious person, who in a frenzied dance with her, begins to feel something inside. He accompanies her to her parents, comes back to his place and while he's there has a crazy thought that says, 'if she turns, looks me and smiles me, she will be my wife."
Pierre: "I love you!"
Natasha: "She's very beautiful, yes?"
Countess Rostova: "Maybe even too much in my opinion!"
Dolokhov: "Drink to the beautiful women and to their lovers!"
Pierre: "You are a bastard Dolokhov! I challenge you to a duel!"
Helene: "You've killed him! Killed…"
Count Rostov: "Natasha is a wonderful character that he would like to see happy. But unfortunately the events and the war destroy everything, it falls on these families, on humanity devastation bringing disarray, misery, death ..."
Andrej: "Do you know what War & Peace is in a word? I love Natasha, Natasha loves an other man and in the meanwhile Napoleon invades Russia."
"My dear Natasha, naturally I miss you and I know that you miss me too, but I think that our nation is more safer after the work that we have done here at the border, although it has kept me away from you!"
Natasha: "My dearest Andrej in this moment I would like so much to have your one little portrait with me always..."
"I think that Natasha could have been with Andrej if she had received passionate love letters from him, because basically she's a passionate person. He has a different character. He is not able to show his feelings, so he writes shallow letters talking about time and so forth. Their love story starts with a very strong passion and then, suddenly, this passion wanes because Andrej's letters are not so passionate like Natasha's. And then, all at once appears Anatole. Anatole says her that he loves her, and that he'll take her around the world ..."
Anatole: "Look at me! Please, look at me! I've waited all evening to be alone with you!"
Natasha: "Give me up! I'm promised to another man!"
Anatole: "I don't want to hear it. It's not my fault if he sees me."
"Anatole tries to seduce Natasha in spite of Andrej, but at the end he really falls for her, rather, I believe that for the first time in his life he has true feelings for a woman, something that he's never experienced before."
Director: "Obviously the war takes place 200 years ago. Not much has changed since then, war is always terrible, brutal, senseless. I believe that the part concerning the peace in our film would be useless if the war wasn't there, and if we could not show how the men and their wives had lived."
Jan AP Kaczmarek: "The orchestra is wonderful. The moment when you hear your music playing for the first time is magic. I am very glad with this high level of quality music. It's fantastic, the emotions coming out."
Violante Placido - Helene: "See if there are interesting men...no, this evening there's only the Tsar."
Andrej: "In order to realize this miniseries we've worked together with people in almost every European nation."
Television companies start shooting of War and Peace in six countries
Television companies start shooting of War and Peace after Lev Tolstoy's novel in six countries, including Italy and Russia. The project was initiated by Italian group Lux Vide which is making a four-episode film by request of Italian state television RAI. The project's budget which is 26 million euro involves a Russian channel, as well as television companies of Germany, France, Poland and Spain. The shooting will start in Lithuania and continue in Saint-Petersburg, RIA Novosti reports.
'It will be the largest latest European co-production,' Lux Vide director Matilde Bernabei stated. 'It is a very ambitious project that Italy has been long striving for. We are very glad that a great international film crew will be shooting the film. As far as our Russian partners are concerned, it was not so easy to convince them of the fact that the masterpiece of Russian classical literature must be shot in English,' Bernabei noted. The serial producer will be Robert Dornhelm who shot the film Into the West in 2005 with producer Steven Spielberg. The scenario was written by Italian Enrico Medioli, famous with the film Once Upon A Time In America, and Lorenzo Favella. International trio was approved of for the leads. French actress Clemence Poesy will play Natasha Rostova, famous with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Italian Alessio Boni will play Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, and German Alexander Beyer (Good-Bye, Lenin!) will play Pierre Bezukhov. One cannot but mention such a world star involved in the film crew as Malcolm McDowell who will play old Bolkonsky.
Fabrizio Lucci became the chief cameraman of the film, Francesco Bronzi was charged with scenography, Enrica Riscossi designs suits. The film shooting is planned to last for almost five months.
The premiere of the new screen version of the great novel in Italy will take place on Channel One of State Television RAI in 2007. The first attempt to translate War and Peace into the language of cinematography was made by producers Gardin and Protazanov in 1915. The novel's screen version shot in 1956 by producer King Vidor and producer Dino De Laurentis became world famous. The leads were played by Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer and Henry Fonda, In 1957 American film was nominated for "Oskar". However, that award rewash conferred to the last screen version of the novel shot by outstanding Soviet producer Sergey bondarchuk almost 10 years after.
Malcolm's longest film with the full version clocking in at 6 hours 40 minutes!
$36 million budget, made for European TV, filmed in English.
Malcolm's character first appears 32 minutes in.
Malcolm is dubbed by Giancarlo Giannini in the Italian version.
Malcolm's screen credit 1
Malcolm's screen credit 2
(Notice Malcolm is spelled wrong)
Bolkonsky's first scene - greeting guests in a wig
Malcolm in character during an interview
50 types of carriages
25,000 food servers
Actors from 10 countries
Directors from 7 countries
20 weeks of shooting
700,000 Euros for special effects
The battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, the French army pull out and the fire of Moscow were shot in 35mm.
The two imperial palaces of Peterhoff and Pushkin are used.
"I'm also in a miniseries of War and Peace as Prince Bolkonsky, which is a wonderful part. I've no idea when that will be shown in the States, but they’re going to screen it right through the night in Rome, the whole nine hours of it. It's a big Euro-pudding, with seven or eight countries involved. I’ve seen quite a bit of it and it’s really quite wonderful. I do most of my scenes with Brenda Blethyn, who’s terrific. I think it’s quite a remarkable event and a beautiful production." - Malcolm 5/07
"It's a huge European production, many countries involved, many producers…and they saw in their good sense to come to Lithuania to shoot a lot if it. I think the services provided here are extremely good, very professional crews. It's a beautiful place, I'm sure it will be more beautiful in this summer, of course I have not been here in the summer. But I do believe there is a golf course nearby that will interest me greatly. Vilnius is a very nice city, very compact, some good restaurants, very good hotels, very good to shoot the movie here, because there's not a lot of traffic like Los Angeles or some huge city which makes it very difficult to get around. You have a wonderful work force, as I said beautiful crews, what more do you want? Come to Vilnius and make a movie!" MM at Lithuanian Film Studios 2007
"I'm filming it in Russia at the end of the year." - Malcolm 8/06
Making of © 2006-08 by Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net