Michael Frost Beckner may not be an instantly recognisable name, but the work of the screenwriter and novelist probably is. Beckner wrote the screenplays for Sniper, starring Tom Berenger, Spy Game with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, as well as the upcoming WW2 epic The Forgotten Soldier. His TV work includes CSI and upcoming American Civil War mini series To Appomatox. We recently caught up with Michael for an interview, particularly to quiz him on The Forgotten Soldier.
ManlyMovie: It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything on The Forgotten Soldier. Why did Paul Verhoeven drop out?
Michael F. Beckner: This is property my brother purchased from Guy Sajer. Only then did I bring Paul Verhoeven aboard. We dropped Paul from the project. After the second draft (approved by Sajer), Paul Verhoeven wanted to make substantial changes to Guy Sajer’s story with regard to relationships and events.
MM: How is Guy, anyway?
MFB: Very elderly, very cynical. His health is good but he isn’t holding out to see the film. He had many offers over the years, but only ever trusted my brother.
MM: It’s not typical subject matter, the German POV. The Eastern Front. Is that an obstacle in trying to get the movie made?
MFB: Very much so. There is no interest in the U.S. for a story about “bad guys as heroes.” The Germans didn’t want it because of French angle. The French didn’t want it because it was a French kid fighting for the Germans. Russian co-finance got furious when we approached them… Like Sajer himself, it becomes a story without a country. I think the time right now is much better–lots of WWII films are coming out worldwide and there’s a willingness to look at fresh angles and new stories to tell. The plan now is go back to the Germans. My brother and I have a partner, Thomas Augsberger (IMDb Link), a producing partner of mine on various projects and TeleMunchen’s chief exec here in the States. We’d look to attach talent and new director.
MM: Do you have a director in mind?
MFB: We do not have a director or actor in mind. We’d probably cast a French or British up and comer for Guy. We’d probably also go strong on Paula — it’s a cameo role and we could afford a top young female (European) star. Our production budget is still solid — if anything we could reduce it from $70 million as we would do this as an independent film.
MM: Aside from The Forgotten Soldier, what else is in the pipeline?
MFB: Our current project is the Civil War mini series To Appomattox. Our original eight episode production as a one-off miniseries, I’ve recrafted into a limited series with two six hour installments. You can check out the website at http://www.toappomattox.com/ and the Facebook link for the project can be viewed at www.facebook.com/ToAppomattox. From these sites you’ll find a lot of info — including a big music component on the website.