The greatest Serb scientist Nikola Tesla and his many important discoveries will receive a new audience, thanks to not one but two new films about the great man and his life. Limited international awareness about Tesla allows for both films, although the big budget Tesla, Ruler of the World from Serbian screenwriter Vladimir Rajčić and two-times Oscar-winning Croatian producer Branko Lustig (Schindler’s List and Gladiator) is likely to win at the box office.
Batman actor Christian Bale has been linked to this big screen project since February 2011, when internet rumours first circulated about his appearance in a Tesla biopic. Before Bale was associated to the role, Vladimir Rajčić, himself an actor, was said to be in line to play Tesla. Croatian actor Rade Šerbedžija and Lolita Davidović, a Canadian actress of Serbian descent, will feature in major roles.
If Batman actor Bale does make the move from the Dark Knight to the inventor of electric light, his performance is likely to be held up to intense scrutiny by those who believe that Tesla has been hard done by in the history of invention. The internet can be a rats nest of rumour and unsubstantiated gossip coming out of Hollywood, much of it used to inflate the value of a project and attract greater interest from investors, but this is one rumour that appears to ring true. So far, Bale being linked to the film has attracted mostly positive reaction from Tesla watchers and Serbs.
Mike Newell In Line To Direct?
British director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) has been approached to direct this important film that will link events from Tesla’s life to a modern day story of technological crisis. Nicolas Cage is believed to be in negotiations for the role of Thomas Edison and VPR Studio Productions is in talks with other major names to play prominent historical figures such as banker J.P. Morgan, industrialist George Westinghouse and actress Sara Bernhardt.
The film, with big-gun support from Universal Studios, will shoot in Chicago. The Serbian production team is likely to receive a warm welcome there, after the city’s mayor wrote to producers to point out that this is seen by the city as a film of great importance.
Previously, VPR Studios Production was responsible for the action thriller Serbian Scars (2009). Set in Belgrade, Chicago and Kosovo, the film charted the strained relationship between estranged brothers, Alex and Peter and the forbidden love of a Serbian Soldier for a young Muslim woman
But this is not the only film in the works about the life of Nikola Tesla. There is another film coming out of America, which is already moving ahead with its production schedule.
The $4 million production Fragments From Olympus relates to a race by the FBI to get their hands on the details of Tesla’s experiment to produce a so-called ‘death ray’ super-weapon that it was said could destroy objects 250 miles away. The screenplay by Joseph Sikorski and Michael Calomino, based on recently declassified documents confiscated by the FBI after Tesla’s death, has already achieved recognition from US film festivals. Howard J. Smith, who lensed some of the Harry Potter and Matrix films, is on board as cinematographer.
Fragments from Olympus is being shot at some of the original locations from Tesla’s life in New York State, including Wardenclyffe, the 16-acre Long Island site where Tesla built an early wireless tower. But before they could call action, Calomino and Sikorski (pictured above with actors Leo Rossi and Miro Besic) wanted to contribute $1 million towards the Tesla Science Center’s purchase of Wardenclyffe from digital imaging company Agfa-Gevaert.
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor of household appliances. Tesla studied at the Realschule in Karlstadt, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague. He began his career as an electrical engineer with a telephone company in Budapest in 1881. Before going to America, Tesla joined Continental Edison Company in Paris where he designed dynamos, and then in 1883, while in Strasbourg, he built a working prototype of the induction motor. Unable to attract European interest to promote this new device, Tesla accepted an offer to work for Thomas Edison and emigrated to American in 1884. He lived in New York State for more than sixty years and became a naturalised American citizen.
Tesla was a scientist, poet and visionary who contributed much to the way we live today. He held more than 700 patents in 26 countries and, among his other achievements, Tesla is credited as a pioneer of modern electricity, radio, x-rays, radar, robotics, remote control and missile science. Yet, despite his many successful inventions and being feted by American society, he was mocked by American captains of industry and was victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by Thomas Edison. He also suffered from convulsions and, while others went on to profit from his discoveries, Tesla died alone and in poverty.
Whether either of these films will satisfy those who justifiably believe that Nikola Tesla has been criminally overlooked by the world remains to be seen. The involvement of so many people passionate about what he achieved, an accomplished actor known for diving headfirst into his roles, and a Serbian production team on one of the two projects means that all bodes well for a re-evaluation of the great man’s legacy.