Spielberg’s Munich Begins Production

Three-time Academy Award-winning director-producer Steven Spielberg has commenced production on an as-yet untitled historical thriller set in the aftermath of the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Universal Pictures will release the film in the United States and Canada on December 23 2005; DreamWorks Pictures will handle international marketing and distribution.

The film recounts the dramatic story of the secret Israeli squad assigned to track down and assassinate 11 Palestinians believed to have planned the 1972 Munich massacre — and the personal toll this mission of revenge takes on the team and the man who led it. Eric Bana (“Troy”) stars as the Mossad agent charged with leading the band of specialists brought together for this operation.

Inspired by actual events, the narrative is based on a number of sources, including the recollections of some who participated in the events themselves. The script is the first feature film written by Tony Kushner, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony Award and many others for his epochal Broadway drama “Angels in America” as well as its Emmy Award-winning adaptation for HBO. The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Spielberg and Colin Wilson.

The international cast also includes Daniel Craig (“Layer Cake”), Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”), Mathieu Kassovitz (“Birthday Girl”), Hanns Zischler (“Walk on Water”) and Ciaran Hinds (“Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera”). The production will shoot on location in various cities in Europe and in New York City.

“The attack at Munich by Black September and the Israeli response to it was a defining moment in the modern history of the Middle East,” Spielberg stated. “It’s easy to look back at historic events with the benefit of hindsight. What’s not so easy is to try to see things as they must have looked to people at the time. Viewing Israel’s response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms. By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic stand-off we find ourselves in today.”

Steven Spielberg earned his first two Academy Awards for directing and producing “Schindler’s List” and his third for directing “Saving Private Ryan.” He also has been honored with Oscar nominations as director for “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He has won three Directors Guild of America Awards for “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Color Purple” as well as nominations for “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.,” “Empire of the Sun,” and “Amistad” for a record nine nominations. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the DGA and the American Film Institute and the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His films have also been among the industry’s all-time most successful motion pictures worldwide, including “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park,” “Jaws” and the three “Indiana Jones” films.

Pictures from early shooting are up at Times of Malta.