By Jen Vineyard | The Playlist December 21, 2011 at 12:30PM
While promoting his new film, Angelina Jolie's imminent directorial debut "In the Land of Blood and Honey," Rade Šerbedžija ("Snatch," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," "X-Men: First Class") drew a parallel between his characters in both Jolie's film and the sequel to "Taken," which he's shooting now with Liam Neeson.
In both films, his characters are fathers in a position of power who seek to perpetuate an endless cycle of revenge, for real and perceived wrongs against their families. In 'Blood and Honey, he plays General Nebojsa, who orders his Serb son Danijel to end a relationship with (and his protection of) the Bosnian Muslim woman prisoner Ajla, and sends in another soldier to rape her – all because he blames Bosnian Muslims for killing his own family in World War II. In "Taken 2," Šerbedžija plays Murad, whose son Marko was one of the leaders of the Albanian sex trafficking ring which kidnapped Neeson's daughter Kim, and who was killed for his troubles – and so Murad swears revenge.
In the case of 'Blood and Honey,' the actor came from a similar situation as his character – he, too, had civilian family members in the former Yugoslavia who were killed during World War II. Unlike his character, however, he did not grow up feeling the need to avenge them.
"My parents never told me much about the war," Šerbedžija told The Playlist. "But I know their situation was like Nebojsa's. One day, my father was somewhere in the woods, fighting against the Germans, and some Nazis occupied his village, and his mother got killed. My sister, who was two years old at that moment, and my grandmother, who was holding her, were shot. My aunt, my father's younger sister, who was thirteen years old, survived by hiding under a group of dead bodies, so she got away, but she saw her mother get killed. But my father and mother, they never told me, 'Son, you have to remember this. You have to make revenge for this.' Never. They said it happened, that it was war, and I was raised with love. But some people were told, 'Never forget,' and this was what happened to Nebojsa."
Where Nebojsa wants to take a more general revenge, targeting anyone from the same ethnicity or religion as those who killed his family (even if they weren't alive at the time), Murad's case is more pointed at the very person who took his son Marko away. And in his eyes, it's about honor and justice.
"He's not a gangster, he's not a criminal," Šerbedžija said. "But he has his besa. He gave his word. He gave his besa to get revenge, to bring to justice this guy who killed his son, to bring him to Albania, to give him to the people who lost their sons to him."
Liam Neeson's character, Bryan Mills, and his daughter Kim are kidnapped while on vacation in Istanbul, where Murad uses both physical and psychological torture to try to break him. But even when Neeson gains the upper hand, Murad refuses to back down, because he can't break free of his need to avenge his son, even if it means his own death.
"Liam has a gun and can kill me at one point," Šerbedžija said. "He says, 'Listen, can we stop this?' And I say, 'I will never stop this. I must do this. I must make revenge.' And he says, 'But I'll kill you.' And I say, 'You'll kill me, but my people will come and kill you.' And he says, 'And then I'll kill all of them, whoever comes. So be clever and stop this.' So I say, 'OK,' but then I try to get the gun and Liam kills me."
"There is something in our nature where we are like animals," Šerbedžija added. "It seems that the first war between two human beings that started thousands of years ago never stopped. We can try to build a better world doing little things, make some good things, but if you seek revenge, this kind of violence never ends."
"In the Land of Blood and Honey" opens this Friday, December 23rd, while we'll see the actor face off against Neeson when "Taken 2" is released on October 5th, 2012.