Stellan Skarsgard has signed on for a major role in the screen adaptation of The Painted Bird.
The Swedish actor will play a German soldier in the upcoming film, which Czech producer-director Vaclav Marhoul is adapting from Polish novelist Jerzy Kosinski’s controversial 1965 Holocaust story.
Kosinski’s book describes World War II from the perspective of a young boy, “Gypsy or Jewish stray,” who does his utmost to avoid Nazis as he wanders through small towns scattered around Poland.
“You are probably familiar with the story,” Skarsgard told The Hollywood Reporter of the movie. “It follows a young boy and his encounters with a lot of different people, and I am one of them.”
Koskinski’s book has been a topic of contention, due to its portrayal of various kinds of violence and cruelty, not only by the Nazis, but Polish peasants.
It has also become famous due to its controversial authorship, with the narrative originally introduced by Koskinski as autobiographical. However, it was discovered to be a work of fiction two decades after initial publication, with some parts of the work allegedly plagiarized from popular books written in the Polish language.
Marhoul bought the screen rights to The Painted Bird in 2010, and has also engaged actor Harvey Keitel to appear in the film. Petr Kotlar, a young Czech actor, will play the young Jewish boy, with the cast also including a range of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian actors, as well as talent from Germany and Slovakia.
Marhoul added that the narrative is a “deeply dramatic” story that examines the relationship between innocence and terror.
“Although the novel itself has been perceived as highly controversial since its publication, it has won global recognition and several prestigious literary awards,” he shared.
Principal photography on the project will begin shortly in Prague and parts of Ukraine, with the film slated to hit theaters in May, 2019.