Harvey Weinstein,co-chairman of Miramax Films, says he is now considering himself as the director for Mila 18, an ambitious screen adaptation of Leon Uris' novel about the ghetto uprising in WWII Warsaw in which a small group of Jews held off Nazi forces for 42 days using only handmade weapons.
Even before Miramax finally acquired the rights to the 1961 novel in 1999 and then hired screenwriter Hossein Amini last July to bring the book to the big screen, Mila 18 has been a pet project of Weinstein's.
That obsession began, he told the New York Times in an interview published on Friday, when his Aunt Shirley introduced him to the book while he was growing up in the New York borough of Queens. Now, as he has told others in the film industry, the project may lead him to the director's chair for the second time in his career.
"As a kid I swore to my aunt that Mila 18 would be made into a great movie, and the rights to it ended up being owned by everybody but me over the years. Than a year and half ago I got the rights, and now it'sfinally going to be made into a movie, and I might direct that movie myself because I swore to my aunt that I would make it," Weinstein is quoted as saying.
Weinstein's remarks to the newspaper came during the latest series of New York Times articles in which prominent filmmakers and other industry figures discuss a movie that has personal meaning for them while thefilm unfolds before them. In this particular case, Weinstein shared his thoughts on Otto Preminger's Exodus, the 1960 film that was based on Uris bestseller with Paul Newman in the lead role.
At the very least, Mila 18is set to be produced by Harvey Weinstein, possibly in conjunction with his brother and fellow co-chairman Bob Weinstein. This would be the first time the Miramax co-founders have shared a full producing credit since their joint directorial debut Playing For Keeps, a 1986 youth comedy that is most memorable for featuring an early screen performance by Marisa Tomei. Neither Weinstein has venturedinto directing since.
Although no one other than Amini has been publicly attached to the Miramax project so far, Weinstein has indicated in the past that "no stone would be let unturned with respectto casting." Amini himself is no stranger to Miramax: he was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar for The Wings Of A Dove and has since been involved in two other upcoming Miramax co-productions, Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York and Shekhar Kapur's Four Feathers.
Set up once at Hollywood Pictures as a directorial project for Jon Avnet, Mila 18 takes its name from the street address for thebunker where 120 Jewish fighters led by Mordechai Anielewicz fought off a bombardment from German and Ukrainian soldiers. Mila 18 was the last bunker tosurrender in the battle of the Warsaw ghetto.
Should it finally make it onto the screen, Mila 18 would follow in the footsteps of another film set against the Warsaw ghetto, Roman Polanski's The Pianist. Now in production at the Babelsberg studios just outside Berlin, it stars Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman, the Polish composer who was one of the few to survive among the 400,000 Jews that were originally crowded into the ghetto in 1940. Polanski's film is based Szpilman's autobiography and is being made for StudioCanal.