American director Michael Anton will bring Nikola Tesla to Serbia with The Mad Scientist, a big screen movie that will shed light on the Serb scientist’s life in the US and tell the truth about his relationship with Thomas Edison.
Tesla is considered one of the world’s greatest scientists, responsible for some of the most significant inventions and discoveries, but his influence has gone largely unrecognised outside of his Balkan homeland.
Speaking days before the anniversary of Tesla’s birth on 10 July, 1856, the film’s director Michael Anton was keen to share his intention to increase international awareness for Tesla and his legacy.
“Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein are household names not only in the US, but across the globe,’ he said.
Nikola Tesla Surpassed Newton, Franklin & Einstein
“In the scope of Nikola Tesla’s time on this earth I think one could make the argument that his contributions not only matched but, in most cases, surpassed the accomplishments of these great names. But outside of Serbia he remains a mystery. Often it can seem that he is spoken of only through social media, where the mention of his name can coincide with some elaborate over speculative conspiracy theories.
“This film is designed to end the mystery behind the man. It is my intention to define who Tesla was and where he came from. Most importantly, we will be sharing Tesla’s story and his legacy with a generation who grew up oblivious to his impact on the world then and now.”
So keen is Michael to remain true to the integrity of Tesla that, as well as casting German-born Serb actor Branko Tomović in the role of Nikola Tesla, he will shoot some of the film in Serbia. “I think the people of Serbia would agree that a movie about Nikola Tesla should be shot in Serbia, even if for a short time,’ said Michael. “So, while most of the film will be shot in the US, we will be shooting key scenes in Serbia.
“It has not been easy for us to get the necessary permission and financial support to relocate some of the shoot to Serbia, but it is important that we take steps to make that happen. We hope that big business and the government in Serbia will see the importance of this film and will help us bring it home. Surely, we owe it to Tesla’s legacy to make this happen.”
Moviegoers Will Hear Tesla Speak Serbian
In an unusual move for an American film, some scenes will be filmed in Serbian, as Michael explained. “Tesla was a Serb. He spoke Serbian with his family and I believe that he would want his language portrayed accurately in this film. For me, there wasn’t any decision to make. When speaking with his mother, for example, Tesla will be heard speaking Serbian. That is how it should be, to help recreate the atmosphere and get closer to the real man.”
This also means that Michael is currently looking for Serbian actors to play key roles in the film, including in the role of Tesla’s mother. “Authenticity is very important to me,’ said Michael. “I want The Mad Scientist to be as true to the facts as possible, so I want characters in the film to be Serbian. I would not have it any other way. We have already cast Serb actor Branko Tomović to play the lead role but, since the scenes including his mother and sisters are in Serbian, I am actively looking for Serbian actresses to play those roles.”
For Michael, The Mad Scientist is the story of a great man who deserves far greater international recognition. But he is also well aware of the passion that is felt for Tesla in Serbia, where his picture still hangs in classrooms and everyone grows up hearing his story.
“I want Serbia to be proud of this film,’ said Michael. “It is important for Serbia to hold this film in the same regard as it does its history books, which teach a more accurate depiction of Tesla than any history books in the US. In many ways, my success as a scriptwriter and director will be judged by how Serbs react to my representation of Tesla’s story.”
The Time is Right for Reassessment of Tesla
While Balkan schoolchildren still learn about Nikola Tesla, it would seem that the time is right for an international reassessment of the man and his impact. Michael hopes that The Mad Scientist will serve as a document for a new generation.
“The wave of interest in Nikola Tesla is growing,’ said Michael. “People today are searching for something more. They want to hear about people who lived their lives for more than just money or fame. Success today is often measured in terms of big business, but that was not the endgame for which Tesla strived all his life.
“Over the past year, Tesla has been one of the five most searched scientists on the internet, ahead of Newton. This tells me that we have hit the mark. The time is now to tell Tesla’s true story, before it is manipulated into the absurd. That is the most important thing driving me forward: to tell the true story that does justice to the life and legacy of a great man.”
Call for Serbian Business Leaders to Make Film Happen
It is this drive to make a film that best represents Nikola Tesla’s worth that has led Michael to make some tough decisions about the film and its shooting schedule, as he explained.
“When we announced this film, the attention not only from Serbian but also international press led to an influx of interest from production companies, distributors, and then finally from some of the top American actors on the planet. Oscar nominated actors have expressed strong interest in roles, which shows how everyone involved can see what we are capable of achieving with his film.
“We quickly realised that our relatively low budget was no longer a reality, if we were going to do justice to the power and momentum that was gathering around this project. I have a responsibility to produce a film that should be a viable Oscar contender, and that is entirely within our reach. It is the only way we can implant Tesla and his great legacy into the minds of the masses for good.
To achieve this will take money and support, not just in the US but from Serbia,’ too. “We have taken the decision to move back the shooting dates to later this year, allowing us time to explore our investment deals to elevate the film to the €2m budget that it clearly deserves,’ said Michael. “It would be good to think that Serbian businessmen, investment groups and government officials could come on board to help ensure that Tesla’s story reaches the widest possible international audience. It is time for Tesla to receive the respect and appreciation that he earned so dearly. Surely the great man deserves nothing less.”