WELCOME TO SARAJEVO
About The Casting
Returning from Sarajevo, Winterbottom began casting
Returning from Sarajevo, Winterbottom began casting. He purposely
sought an international cast of both stars and unknowns to mirror
the situation in Sarajevo where journalists from dozens
of nations, some very famous, others barely known, were thrust
together into this chaotic and frightening situation. Since many
of these men and woman kept their sanity intact through a sense
of dark wit and humor, Winterbottom also sought actors with a
bit of attitude.
British television and stage star Stephen Dillane was always the
first choice to play Michael Henderson. "Henderson is an
observer, someone who starts off quite neutrally and gradually
becomes more and more involved in what's happening to the people
in Sarajevo. We wanted someone who has the kind of intellectual
strength to be believable as a journalist and also that kind of
neutrality and seriousness which Stephen has."
The film quickly attracted an allstar cast in some of its
smaller roles. "The nature of the film is that it's made
up of lots of short stories and everyone's role is quite small,"
explains Winterbottom. "I think a lot of the actors wanted
to do it partly because of the story and script but also because
they wanted to be involved in a film they thought people should
go and see."
Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei were both eager to lend their
support to the project. Says Harrelson: "There were two things
that really made me want to make this film. One was to work with
Michael who I think is just a brilliant director and secondly,
I thought it might be a really worthwhile education, to find out
what happened in Bosnia."
Stephen Dillane echoes Harrelson's sentiments. "I felt I
didn't know enough about what happened. I found it hard to get
a clear picture of what was going on. I tried to read about the
war, but however much you read about something like this, it's
not really until you get there that you can get any closer to
it. I think something can be gained by going there and seeing
the place and the people."
Goran Visnjic, who plays Risto, the local driver who is drawn
into the fighting, was excited by the accuracy of the script.
"I think it presents a very realistic image of what happened,
which is very important. A lot of people lived so long under the
siege that they developed a very black sense of humor and the
script very accurately reflects that. I think the film can only
be good for this city."
The filmmakers made a special effort to cast most of the Sarajevan
roles with people from the city or region. They were particularly
interested in casting a Sarajevan child in the role of Emira,
the orphan who has an unforseen impact on one journalist. Jones,
Broadberit and Winterbottom all felt it was important to capture
the realism of a face that had experienced war from a very young
age. Over 3,000 Sarajevan children auditioned for the role, but
ten yearold Emira Nusevic stood out as a child with an unusual
inner strength and maturity.
Although Emira had no acting experience, she did have plenty of
experience on Sarajevo's frontlines. The war began when Emira
was just five and she lived in her family's apartment in a heavilybombed
area of the city called All Pasinopolje. Emira can recall shells
exploding in the room next to hers. Her father was wounded by
shrapnel while standing in line for humanitarian aid in front
of their apartment building and her sister was also injured.
For Emira, the filming was not only a chance to show the world
what Sarajevan children experienced, but an opportunity<
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