As he’s continuing production on the upcoming Limonov, Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov has tapped August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds) to headline his next feature, The Disappearance, per a new report from Variety. Diehl will take on the role of the infamous Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele, nicknamed The Angel of Death for his horrific experiments on the prisoners of Auschwitz, and especially twins. Filming is currently slated to begin in early June.
Based on Olivier Guez‘s acclaimed novel The Disappearance of Josef Mengele, the film will follow the doctor as he eludes capture in South America following the end of World War II. Using a wealth of historical documents, the original book tracked Mengele’s journey as he kept just a few steps ahead of Mossad Agents, journalists, international police, and anyone else that wanted to bring him to justice. Mengele was one of the few high-ranking Nazis to avoid prosecution for his crimes, remaining on the run for over three decades before finally collapsing in the Brazilian Surf in 1979. The film will follow the globe-trotting manhunt through Mengele’s eyes as he fled through Paraguay and the Brazilian Jungle to escape capture.
The book earned immensely high marks upon its release, winning the coveted Renaudot Prize in 2017 in France and later releasing in over 30 countries. It also sparked plenty of controversy upon its release for how it implicated South American leaders in their relationships with high-ranking Nazis. Serebrennikov worked closely with Guez to ensure the historical accuracy of his adaptation. For the film, he’s also reuniting with his regular collaborator Ilya Stewart (Tchaikovsky’s Wife) to produce through Hype Studios alongside Charles Gillibert at CG Cinema (Annette). Co-producers include Mélanie Biessy at Scala Films, Felix von Boehm at Lupa Film, and Julio Chavezmontes at Piano (Triangle of Sadness).
Diehl was selected to portray Mengele after a painstaking audition process. He certainly has the experience to pull it off, taking on major roles throughout his career including as Major Hellstrom in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds and in Terrence Malick‘s 2019 Palme d’Or nominee A Hidden Life. More recently, he stepped in to portray Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in The King’s Manand will soon be seen in Season 4 (or 53) of Documentary Now! in the episode “Soldier of Illusion.”
“Kirill Serebrennikov is one of Russia’s greatest contemporary directors and we’re very proud to have been accompanying him on this project for the last four years,” Gillibert said of the director. The Disappearance has been long in the making, but the producer spoke to Serebrennikov‘s passion for adapting the novel, adding:
Telling Mengele’s history through his own eyes is a difficult gamble but Kirill was able to find the right angle, telling the metaphysical escape of a man haunted by his crimes and a hidden story about Europe which resonates with present times in a powerful way.
The Disappearance is expected to be Serebrennikov‘s biggest project yet with filming taking place across South America, mainly in Uruguay, Brazil, and Mexico along with some shoots in Germany. We’ll have more on the film as production gets underway.