"Johnny believed in my madness" - interview in Vercenje Novosti, serbian magazine, 26 July 2009

I'm going to the south of Spain, from Granada to Mursia where Sergio Leone filmed his “speghetti westerns”, and there I will set half of my film” says Emir Kusturica, during the visit a studio under construction at Drvengrad. ”Here, I will build a very large studio, in Drvengrad. It is here that with Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp and Miki Manojlović, I will shoot the interior scenes. ” The saga about the Mexican revolutionary will be represented by these actors, all friends of the famous director.

I must say that this film will have nothing to do with “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The fate of Pancho will look more like our epic “marriage of Maksim Čarnojević” 1). At the end of the film, Juanita (Salma Hayek) can not admit her love for the revolutionary because he has killed members of his family, but she still has the option to say no at the last moment, when she should get married with another man …

  • Salma Hayek has recently accepted the role of Juanita, and Johnny Depp read the script Gordan Mihić a few days ago …
    • Emir Kusturica : He is very excited with the script, and Salma, too, but Johnny is a friend. He agreed mainly because he believed in my madness. We met in Saint-Tropez, in his villa of fifteen hectares, an place similar to Drvengrad, except that it is closed to curious. He rebuilt stone houses and built a small town with his family. But he is not often because of its great popularity.
  • Can you remember your first meeting with Johnny, when you have proposed Arizona Dream. He was already a star in Hollywood ?
    • EK : We have met five times before starting the shooting. I almost never accept to work with people I do not know well, and indeed I was in a “natural phase” of my job, and I refuse formalities. Also, he works a bit like that. This has taken time, but something has rung into my head when I recognized him in his greatness as a human being and as an actor.
  • For this recognition, you may want “blame” Fellini's “Amarcord”, don't you ?
    • EK : Exactly. In the communist Czech Republic, there were films labeled as “forbidden” which were shown every week. That was in 1974. I took the train the weekend to return to Sarajevo. And with the same train, I came back just for the “forbidden” movie. But I was tired and 19 times, I fell asleep and I missed the scenes of this great masterpiece. Each time, I watched a little more, but I finished by falling asleep. At the twentieth time, I saw the film in full length, and it has shaped my world view. Also, the same delay took me with Johnny Depp, which is normal when we discover something important.
  • Can you describe Johnny in private and what is the secret of his success ?
    • EK : In private, Johnny is truly a hero of modern times. His nice face, for which half of the world is crazy, doesn't have the first role in his life. He lives for his wife and children. His father comes from France and his mother is Indian - the kind of roots that makes you explode in art, and which talk to the whole world. He chooses the best directors, and he does not care to win 2 million or 22 million.
  • Will there be room for serbian actors in “Pancho Villa” ?
    • EK : Sure. I already know that I will propose a role to Miki Manojlović, and we will see what he decides.
  • Before this new film, we will have the chance to meet other big names in film Küstendorf Film Festival. Can we already name a few ?
    • EK : First, Johnny Depp will be there, then Salma Hayek. Ken Loach, with his film about the football player Eric Cantona, and other famous directors we can see in Cannes, like Pavel Lungin for example. This will be the largest edition of this festival.
  • It is as if we have our own Cannes Film Festival in Serbia. But is there still a place for us in Cannes ?
    • EK : I read in the press that there was only me who has access to Cannes. But selectors have choice, and when they choose between me and Tarantino, they do in their own mind, then they add young filmmakers and authors. There is no relationship, nor brotherhood, only the architecture of the festival. The malicious theorem is we would be accepted only with films about Gypsies. I have made two, but ten have also found their way to the public.
  • What lacks to Serbian films, apart from money ?
    • EK : As long as we suffer from this lack of originality, we won't pass. Cannes seems to take big film in appearance. Belgrade tries to imitate the Hollywood device to “conquer the world market,” thinking that we will screw up the Americans. You can not do on film Dorćol2) or the “Silicon Valley”3), but it could be done in Surdulica4) where you can discover the myths and rare stories that could be translated into the language of cinema. The film must rise up from our land. One must feel our love, our smells. One must create in our sun and our sky, from our dust and our land. All the other recipes have already been seen.
  • Have you heard the comments on the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” which won an Oscar ? It is said that it recalls your style.
    • EK : I have not seen it yet. But, yes, I was told that there were connections. If I can have influence on the work of others, I'm delighted !
  • Do you think you can finish ”The bridge on the Drina” before 2011 for the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize for Ivo Andrić ?
    • EK : The terms are always uncertain. But this opera-film will be done, because it is a capital project. This novel is our testimony, and after decades of doubt, I finally found the formula for uniting the centuries and all the pieces of the puzzle will get assembled.
  • Did you not planned to invite Oliver Stone at the Küstendorf film festival ?
    • EK : Yes, but in 2011. You know, I met Oliver 23 years ago because we had the same agent in Los Angeles, Paula Wagner. It was the time when I thought I needed an agent. Hollywood is the worst of this factory, and Oliver Stone succeeds in resisting. But more than his masterpieces, there is something that says it much better : when, in Serbia, some people wanted to influence the decisions of NATO to stop the bombings, he was clearly opposed to the Operation “Merciful Angel” 5).
  • People are very curious about the film by Christian Carion ”Farewell”, and your performance as an actor. The opening will take place on September 23.
    • EK : I play a Russian spy during the 80's who gives the Americans some confidential secrets, and all that for free. What is different from other spy movies, is the tension within the character, but also within his family.

Interview by Nikola Janković, translation by Nina Novaković and Matthieu Dhennin

1) theatre play of the Serbian poet Laza Kostić
2) neighborhood of the old city of Belgrade
3) nickname of Belgrade downtown because of the large number of women who come to make breast surgery
4) small town near Belgrade
5) The code name for the operation of the bombing of Serbia by the NATO, in response for the atrocities in Kosovo, was named “Merciful Angel”. This had shocked the Serbs, mainly Orthodox Christians, while the KLA had strongly damaged Serbian monasteries
en/itv_09-07_vecernje-novosti.txt · Last modified: 2009/08/01 20:39 by matthieu1