'Unknown' Sequel May Happen, Director Jaume Collet-Serra Says (Berlin)

 Courtesty of Berlinale 2011

BERLIN -- Liam Neeson and January Jones didn't make the European premiere of Jaume Collet-Serra's thriller Unknown, leaving it to Diane Kruger and Sebastian Koch to provide the star power for the film's Out of Competition bow at the Berlin International Film Festival.

But the city of Berlin itself is the real star of Unknown, as Neeson's character barrels through the German capital desperately trying to find out who he is and the nature of the deadly conspiracy against him in Collet-Serra's fast-paced actioner.

And the local audience lapped it up.

The amnesia/mistaken identity/spy tale was greeted by whoops and applause at its festival press screening, with Berlin locals howling with approval as the Spanish helmer demolished some of their city's cherished landmarks. Pokes at German history and current tensions between Germans and recent immigrants were taken in stride.

Unknown opens wide in the U.S. this weekend before speeding across the globe. Speaking off the cuff at the packed press conference following the screening, Collet-Serra left the door open for a possible sequel to the film. "That's up for the audience to decide. It's a possibility," he said.

The director also spoke of his decision to move the story of Unknown from Paris to Berlin because the German city "at least for an American audience, isn't as familiar as Paris and thus better suits the film's themes of amnesia and lost identity," he said.

Berlin local Sebastian Koch, best-known stateside for his role in Oscar-winner The Lives of Others, said it was a relief to be a German actor in a Hollywood movie and not be playing "the Nazi or the bad guy. It's taken a while but roles and the image of Germans in Hollywood is starting to change and I'm very pleased to see that."

Andrew Rona, who co-produced Unknown with Joel Silver, noted that Berlin's attitude to Hollywood has also changed, citing the generous public subsidies and top-end facilities at Studio Babelsberg that enticed the production to shoot here.

"This is the fifth movie Joel Silver has made with Studio Babelsberg and we look forward to coming back here," Rona said. "It's a great place to make movies and the subsidies definitely make it work for us."

Diane Kruger added that she'd shot films in Berlin for three years running: Unknown, Mr. Nobody and Inglourious Basterds.

"I've been working in Germany more than I have since I left here 17 years ago," she said.

But while Collet-Serra also heaped praise on the city of Berlin for its help during the shoot of Unknown, he couldn't resist one small dig at his German hosts.

"We had a lot of Germans on the crew, most of the crew was German and were excellent," he said. "The caterers were German too. Next time they're going to be Spanish."

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