JAKOB THE LIAR
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
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
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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