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(Fruehstueck mit einer Unbekannten)

Jan Josef Liefers, Julia Jentsch in “Fruehstueck mit einer Unbekannten“ (photo © SAT.1/Stefan Rabold)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 02/2007

The idea for Fruehstueck mit einer Unbekannten came during a conversation after the awards ceremony of the Cinema for Peace gala during last year's Berlinale.

The British screenwriter Richard Curtis, whose credits include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mr Bean and Bridget Jones, had just received an award for his BBC/HBO film The Girl in the Cafe and was talking to event organizer Jaka Bizilj and Bob Geldof about the possibility of making a German version to coincide with the G8 summit being held in Germany in June 2007.

"Jaka very quickly got SAT.1 onboard and then approached us to be the producers," recalls Berlin-based producer Judy Tossell who was reunited on this project with director Maria von Heland with whom she made the comedy Big Girls Don't Cry in 2001. "Jan Josef [Liefers] was the first choice for the male lead, but we decided to make him much younger than Bill Nighy in the original," Tossell explains. "Julia Jentsch was cast as 'the girl' [played by Kelly McDonald in the BBC version] just before Christmas, and the rest of the cast includes Iris Berben as the Federal Chancellor, Stefan Kurt, Andrea Sawatzki, Joerdis Triebel and Juergen Heinrich."

Moreover, Tossell landed quite a coup during the shoot in February by persuading French diva Catherine Deneuve – who is one of the leading lights of the Cinema for Peace initiative – to make a cameo appearance as a mysterious French delegate at the summit in a morning shoot at the Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt just hours after the Cinema for Peace gala had been staged there.

But it was quite a race against time for the production, since, as with the BBC film, the idea all along was to have the finished TV film aired in the days leading up to the G8. Thus, SAT.1 is planning to broadcast von Heland's film at the end of May in a primetime slot.

Adapted by Martin Rauhaus from Curtis' original screenplay, the German version has Liefers as a research assistant of the Finance Minister and shy workaholic who falls in love in a coffee shop with the unconventional Gina (played by Jentsch who was in Berlin this year with Jiri Menzel's competition film I Served the King of England). She follows his invitation to accompany him to the G8 summit in Heiligendamm where she not only changes his life but also causes ripples among the other bureaucrats there.

"It will be younger, sweeter and lighter, but the political side is just as pronounced as in the Curtis original. It is more of a classical romantic comedy with a political twist," Tossell observes. "We have made the couple younger and the girl is more like a normal young woman that the audience would be able to identify with."

Tossell points out that the project will come into its own with the DVD release of Fruehstueck mit einer Unbekannten: "It is more than just a one-off TV film, there is so much more you can do with background materials on the G8 and Cinema for Peace."

Moreover, the venture will also be benefiting some good causes: SAT.1 is donating all income from DVD, video and international sales to the UNICEF schools in Africa as well as "Deine Stimme gegen Armut", the German branch of Richard Curtis' "Make Poverty History" campaign. Furthermore, producers Egoli Tossell Film and Cinema for Peace will be waiving any profit and all proceeds from the production, and Curtis has committed to donate his fee for the adaptation rights to "Make Poverty History".

Genre Romantic Comedy

Year of Production 2007
Director Maria von Heland
Screenplay Martin Rauhaus
Cinematography Gero Steffen
Patricia Rommel
Biber Gullatz
Ulrika von Vegesack
Cast Julia Jentsch, Jan Josef Liefers, Andrea Sawatzki, Stefan Kurt, Jürgen Heinrich
Producers Judy Tossell, Jens Meurer, Jaka Bizilj
Production Company Egoli Tossell Film/Berlin
Format Super 16, color
Shooting Dates Berlin and Heiligendamm, February - March 2007
Sound Technology Dolby SR
With backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg

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