Director Mark Herman Looks at the Holocaust with New Eyes
- Wednesday, November 19, 2008
“The worst thing that can happen to kids, though is that they’ll get upset,” Herman relates. But the best thing that’ll happen is that kids will ask questions, and it will force parents to answer the questions, which can provide some great dialogue.”
Now about that aforementioned tear-jerker ending, did Herman ever consider Hollywood-izing it a little and making it more palatable for the feel-good world we live in?
“Not for a second,” Herman says. “There would’ve been no point making the film if it didn’t have that ending. But we purposely saved those scenes for the end of the shoot—for the kids’ sake, but also our own. It was certainly the most trying days of shooting I’ve ever had on many, many levels. But that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with such enormous subject matter.”
Reminiscing a Little
Looking back on the experience, Herman says the strong relationships forged during the film made those final, bittersweet days on the set of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.
While Herman has worked with child actors in the past, (but “none this young”) Herman says that working with Asa Butterfield who played Bruno, the eight-year-old son of a Nazi officer and Jack Scanlon, who portrayed the young boy bound inside the confines of the camp, was truly out of the ordinary.
“They [Butterfield and Scanlon] really didn’t have a lot of acting experience prior to this, and because legally you can only have kids on the set for so many hours in a day, we were very limited in when we actually had both of the boys together,” Herman recalls. “So when I look back at some of the scenes, I still can’t believe how good they are when the kids were acting up against a wooden panel.”
Herman credits the help of a “very good actor’s coach” in setting the mood and the right frame of mind for the scenes. And when it came to his own directing, Herman knew he had to step it up. “You’re directing only one line of dialogue sometimes, but it really paid off,” he says.
After such a heavy yet pivotal snapshot in his filmmaking career, Herman is admittedly up for “something lighter” next time around. While Herman “takes a bit of a break,” though, he says he’ll never forget this glimpse inside the head of a brave boy like Bruno.
“It wasn’t easy to lift Bruno’s thoughts off the page and translate them to film, but I enjoyed every second,” Herman concludes. “I’ll never forget this experience, and I hope the audience will feel the same way when they’re watching. This is a story worth hearing, and the unique perspective should be a great drawing-in point.”
Photo credit: David Lukacs/Courtesy of Miramax Films
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