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About The Production

Production on JAKOB THE LIAR began on October 12, 1997 in Piotrkow, Poland, an hour and a half southwest of Warsaw. After two weeks, filming moved to Budapest.

Hungarian-born director Peter Kassovitz lives and works in Paris, France. It was while visiting his parents in Budapest in 1990 that he first came across the novel JAKOB THE LIAR. He read the book over a weekend and found the story so compelling that he immediately contacted the book's author, Jurek Becker.

Becker, who was born in Poland, spent most of his youth living in the Lodz ghetto and in concentration camps. He was living in East Germany writing for film, television and cabaret when Kassovitz caught up with him and expressed his interest in the story. JAKOB THE LIAR, he discovered, was originally written as a screenplay. When his hopes of making JAKOB THE LIAR for German television were not realized, Becker wrote it as a novel, which rapidly achieved international popularity. The German production company DEFA then reconsidered the idea of making the film JAKOB DER LUGNER, and in 1974 the film won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. Enticed by the prospect of telling his story to a worldwide audience, Becker enthusiastically granted Kassovitz the rights to bring his story to the screen as an English-language film.

"I got an option on the book," Kassovitz recalls, "with a French production company and quite an important producer, Ms. Gouze Renal, and we developed the script. We tried to make it, and almost did. There was quite a lot of interest. When she lost her rights to the book, I bought it back." He then set about writing a screenplay with French writer Didier Decoin. They created a script which pays homage in every respect to the original novel. Their script gives an aura of liveliness and wit to the bitter theme of ghetto life.

It was then that Kassovitz's manager, Gary Ungar, having read the new version of the script, thought of sending it to Robin Williams to play the reluctant hero Jakob Heym. He sent the script to Blue Wolf Productions where Marsha Williams, the company's president, also saw the possibilities.

"Peter brought this project to me obviously hoping that Robin would like it also," recalls Marsha Williams. "It worked out great for all of us, because to me this story has universal appeal. The story is one that I have great passion for. It's the kind of thing that continues to happen in the world. The characters are good, it's a wonderful part for Robin. The story has an appeal that moves me and I hope others as well."

"She just has amazing instincts," says Robin Williams of Marsha. "She's the one that found this piece, and she's the one that basically went out and got a lot of this cast."

Marsha and Robin Williams met with Peter Kassovitz and his son, writer-director-actor Mathieu Kassovitz, for the first time at a restaurant in Paris. From that meeting they knew they shared a common appreciation and recognition of what the film could be. "Once Marsha decided she wanted to do the movie," Kassovitz recalls, "everything happened very quickly."

They began to assemble the creative team that would bring the story of JAKOB THE LIAR to the screen. Cast in the main ensemble are some of the most outstanding actors working in film today: Alan Arkin, Bob Balaban, Michael Jeter, Academy Award nominee Armin Mueller-Stahl, Liev Schreiber and Academy Award winner Williams as the title character.

"The time was right," Marsha Williams recalls. "I knew that because of previous commitments on 'What Dreams May Come' and 'Patch Adams,' it would be a very long time before we could release the film. I had my dream cast together and couldn't count on them all being available at the same time again, so we went aggressively into production." After an exhaustive location scout through different areas of Eastern Europe, Williams and Kassov


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