Harvey Keitel Joins Stellan Skarsgard and Udo Kier in Holocaust Drama 'The Painted Bird'

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Vaclav Marhoul's film is the first screen adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski's story.

Harvey Keitel will play a Catholic priest in Czech director-producer Vaclav Marhoul's adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski's Holocaust story, The Painted Bird.

Keitel is the third top international star to sign up for a role in the film, which tells the story of a Jewish boy who wanders through Eastern Europe passing himself off as a Gentile to avoid death at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

He joins Stellan Skarsgard and Udo Kier in playing characters the boy meets during his travels.

The actor is due to arrive in the Czech Republic in early November for five days of shooting, beginning Nov. 9 on location near Cesky Krumlov and Hartmanice, near Susice.

Marhoul, who spent years developing the script after buying the rights to the book, says Keitel heard about the project last year and was impressed by the script.

"His approach to the role is different and quite impressive. So far I have yet to meet an actor who prepares for the role by breaking the character down into such minute detail so far ahead of filming," Marhoul, who also wrote the script, said. "I truly believe that the way he creates his role will be a huge contribution to the film."

The Painted Bird was Kosinki's first novel, and when it was published in 1965, its unflinching portrayal of wartime horrors, enacted not by the Nazis but by Polish peasants, was the cause of much controversy.

Kosinski took the title from a rural tradition of catching birds, painting them in bright colors and then releasing them into the wild. The "painted birds" were never again accepted by their own and were pecked to death — a fate Kosinski uses as an analogy for the young boy.

Kosinski, who had emigrated to America in the late 1950s, is best known for his 1971 novel Being There, which was made into a film starring Peter Sellers.