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July 18 2020
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Jerzy Kosiński, photographed by Czesław Czapliński in Israel, 1988.

It took the Czech director Václav Marhoul 11 years to make his film version of Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial Holocaust novel The Painted Bird. Two of those were spent negotiating the film rights to Kosiński’s book, which the Polish writer had refused to cede during his lifetime. According to Marhoul, Kosiński, who committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 57 after accusations of plagiarism and falsifying his life story, even turned down his good friend Warren Beatty in whose film Reds he had appeared as a Bolshevik bureaucrat.

When the deal was finally signed, Marhoul, 60, celebrated by downing 27 whiskeys in 10 hours. “I was so happy to have the rights, yet incredibly stressed that I now had to make this film of a book that has had millions of readers all over the world,” he explained.

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