By Edward Davis | The Playlist February 7, 2011 at 3:46AM
You've won the prestigious Palme d'Or twice within the span of ten years for the films "When Father Was Away on Business" and "Underground" -- a repeat winner's feat that puts you in an elite group of six filmmakers that includes Francis Ford Coppola and the Dardenne brothers -- you're world renowned for your whimsical, whirling dervish-like serio-comedies (the aforementioned pics, plus "Time of the Gypsies," and more) and yet still, you haven't had proper U.S. theatrical distribution for your last four films, making it twelve years since one of your features has been shown stateside (1998's "Black Cat, White Cat" was the last real U.S. limited release).
Welcome to the world of heralded Bosnian/Herzegovian director Emir Kusturica who seemingly can't catch a break. However, having ventured into U.S.-made filmmaking only once (1993's "Arizona Dream" starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Vincent Gallo and Jerry Lewis), Kusturica may not care. His last film, the documentary "Maradona" focused on Argentinian soccer superstar Diego Maradona -- not a figure that well-known in North American -- and while almost all of last few pictures have premiered at Cannes, his concerns seem to be decidedly outside the North American zeitgeist.
Now Kusturica is trying to mount a homegrown historical epic -- an adaptation of the Bosnian novel, "The Bridge On The Drina," by Nobel-prize winning Yugoslav author Ivo Andric. Amazon synopsis below.
The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history. "No better introduction to the study of Balkan and Ottoman history exists, nor do I know of any work of fiction that more persuasively introduces the reader to a civilization other than our own. It is an intellectual and emotional adventure to encounter the Ottoman world through Andric's pages in its grandiose beginning and at its tottering finale. It is, in short, a marvelous work, a masterpiece, and very much sui generis. . . . Andric's sensitive portrait of social change in distant Bosnia has revelatory force."—William H. McNeill, from the introduction
However the filmmaker needs funds to build a historical town called Kamengrad near the famous bridge in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad and has been urging his own government publicly to back the picture. "In order to fulfill this grandiose cultural project, the state has to back it up", Kusturica told the local Glas Srpske daily, via the AFP. "As it stands, Serbia is interested to help filming Andric's tale and the president of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik is willing and very eager to help [the] construction."
Kusturica is hoping Bosnian officials will help him build a replica of the town, which could also serve as a tourist attraction afterwards. We're not sure what kind of cachet the award-winning director still has in his own country, but this would be a massive undertaking and he's conveniently left out what the price would be in his statements to the local press.
So what does this mean for the Pancho Villa epic "Wild Roses, Tender Roses" that was meant to reunite him with his "Arizona Dream" star Johnny Depp, plus actress Salma Hayek? In 2010 we had heard that a Feb 2011 shoot had been planned, but that's obviously not happening. Depp has Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" filming this March and Kathryn Bigelow's "Triple Frontier" possibly shooting this fall (he's not officially attached yet), so if it does happen 'Roses' probably can't shoot until 2012; Depp generally only shoots 2-3 movies a year so he isn't away from his family for too long.
Our guess is that Kusturica has either shelved or delayed the project until Depp's schedule opens up again or he's dropped it entirely. Waiting for one of Hollywood's biggest stars to make time for a quirky European epic is a bit like waiting for Godot.
Update: Is Depp officially off the film? Well, it definitely sounds as if it will not be next for either the director or the actor. In a recent interview with Spanish-Language website Espectaculos Depp says that it would be a little irresponsible for him to be playing Pancho Villa, a project that has been delayed for the moment. "I think that this role has to played by a Mexican actor," he said. That may have just solved our riddle.