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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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