The Dolby 88 Theatre in Midtown Manhattan was a packed house Monday, March 31, 2014 with a room filled with quite a few noteworthy individuals for a special screening of Liberty Studios’ "Walking With The Enemy." When your entire world is ripped away from you, there’s only a few routes left to take - it's kill or be killed, and save your people while you’re at it. Based on the true depiction of Hungarian Pinchas Rosenbaum during the Nazi occupation of the second World War; Elek Cohen (Jonas Armstrong) escapes a Hungarian Labor Camp only to find that the Nazi’s had captured his family and then set out for their unfortunate recovery. With nothing else left to live for, he risks his all for the safety of thousands of Jewish people whose government had been overthrown by the Germans with the help of the Arrow Cross Hungarian Nazi party in 1944.
Director Mark Schmidt is monumental with his story-telling tactics as he shared his admiration for this particular Holocaust hero through film. One of many out of the books driven by courage, suspense, love and sacrifice from start to finish. This man inspired some of his comrades to pose as Nazi soldiers where they helped save countless of lives from the ghastly fate of the camps. Without giving too much of the story away, as it debuts in theaters on April 25, be sure to bring a pack of Kleenex along with you when you see it!
Last night, Examiner.com spoke with Director Mark Schmidt and actors Jonas Armstrong and Simon Kunz at the after-party at Circo. Read our exclusive interviews below.
Mark Schmidt (Director)
Q: How did you discover this particular hero amongst all the stories of the Holocaust?
Well I came across the story first on a general search of Jewish heroes and his name was in there. I later found his story in some old books and started researching further, and thought it was a story that should get out to the world. Here was a young man who didn’t have an army or government backing him and he just did the right the on his own. He could have hidden away during the war, but he chose to put his life on the line and did the best he could.
Q: What was the process like when trying to put together the pieces of creating this remarkable story?
Well it was a lot of work. It took a while with working with different screenwriters and so on. And, we kind of got the story the way I felt it should be. And then searched around the world for locations, got some great actors from Great Britain and a few from the US, actors from all over. We were so lucky. And I’ll tell you, Sir Ben Kingsley was such a professional, nice gentlemen, he worked so hard. Even when his time on the set was up, he was willing to help out with the other actors. Such a true professional, we were really honored to have him in the film.
Jonas Armstrong plays Elek Cohen.
Q: What were some of the passions that helped to create the necessary emotions for your role in the film?
I just try to think about how I would even begin to comprehend how those people would have been feeling in those circumstances. What I tried to do was think about my own family, and I would just imagined my younger sister for instance, who I am very close to being taken away, imagining her going through atrocities and those sort of things, and that would sort of get the emotion in me going. Sometimes when I watch, I thought was I giving too much because it has to be on this sort of level constantly, but then I think it was required for the role, you know.
Q: I often hear about actors locking themselves away for periods of time in order prepare for a role, what were some of your methods while preparing?
I did as much background reading as I could around the Nazi’s and the War which I knew quite a bit about anyway, and I spent a lot of time in Budapest with a previous job, spending almost three years there for a series, so I knew the lay of the land as it were. And, I went back there on my time off to revisit, I found the Glass House and stuff like that, and I just did as much reading as I could to submerse myself in it, I didn’t lock myself away in a hotel room trying to come up with a sort of accent, but we had to do a lot of work on dialect and speaking German. I had to have two different dialects, English with a Hungarian accent, and then also speak English with a German accent; that aspect was quite fun actually.
Simon Kunz plays Jozsef Juhasz.
Q: How do you go about choosing your roles?
You can only really go on the written word, which is all you get as an actor. The first thing you see is the word and the story. And I know this what every actor says but it's kind of true. You want to tell a good story. I like the idea of when I look at a script and I tell myself, “I can’t do that”, and then I go out and make myself do it. That’s the buzz for me, to get scared by it. That’s always a good sign. Every job you take on should be a challenge.
Q: With other films out there similar to this one, the telling of how the Nazi’s became to be, taking the lives of thousands of Jewish people during that time, how would you describe your feelings of this film its main character?
It’s an extraordinary story. And it’s basically true, I mean, there were some dramatizations here and there. There’s almost too much story for the film. This guy actually did this stuff, out of sheer balls just kind of went and took people out of death's jaws and saved them. By all accounts, he was a fascinating guy. People who knew him said, “yeah, he was a great guy, but he was mad”. He just didn’t care, he had everything taken away, and for a guy like that, what does it matter? It’s admirable. And as an audience member you think, “could I do that”. You know we are so lucky, we are blessed that most of us have lived in an age where we have not been asked to go to war, we have not been asked to do anything like this, although it's going on around the world now. Not many people would know about this guy, and how this actually happened, its an important story that needed to be told. A story of extraordinary courage.
Sade Graham contributed reporting.