Fedja Stukan has long been a big name in Hollywood. But his artistic range is very diverse, without it harming his acting career. Thanks to Brad Pitt, he has written down his experiences in the Balkan War. The book “BLANK” is now a bestseller – even beyond the country’s borders. But his greatest passion is
Fedja Stukan has long been a big name in Hollywood. But his artistic range is very diverse, without it harming his acting career. Thanks to Brad Pitt, he has written down his experiences in the Balkan War. The book “BLANK” is now a bestseller – even beyond the country’s borders. But his greatest passion is flying. He is one of the few in possession of a flying licence for a gyrocopter. Today he lives with his family in Sarajevo.
Why did you become an artist?
I don’t know if you can become an artist through anything. I grew up in a family of architects. Everyone in my family became an architect except for an uncle who studied geography. Only I am the “black sheep” who took a different path. However, architecture still interests me today. It is even the most complex and beautiful of all arts because it leaves something behind. In acting, that only happens in film. In theatre, nothing is left behind except emotions that you can convey to the audience.
I don’t know how crazy you have to be to become an artist. For me, it was never a question of whether, but what kind of artist I would become. I always had the need to deal with art. That’s how I got into film production. The camera is my instrument.
What does it mean to be an artist in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
I just shot a series in Bosnia and Herzegovina after not working here for ten years. I had offers, but I didn’t like them. Either I didn’t like the roles or the fees. I have a special rate for the Balkans and one for Hollywood projects that is considerably higher. Why I don’t work here at the usual fees? My biography with Oscar winners I have worked with should be taken into account. Money is not important to me. I really do this job for love. But if someone tells me they have a small budget for a film, I know immediately that the project is no good. I don’t want anyone to practice on me.
Never sell yourself short, because patience pays off. All the years before, one or two Hollywood projects a year were enough to maintain my desired standard of living. So I could afford the luxury of turning them down. In the end, it turned out to be the right decision. The choice of roles for an actor is very important for his career. You may not have to accept anything for 30 years. One wrong decision can seal your fate forever. Especially as far as film is concerned. Once you accept a wrong role, it will probably be your last.
What do you want to achieve with your art?
I will explain this through the book I wrote. This work made my alcoholic friend stop drinking. And if this book never made a difference again, that would be enough for me! Now he is a husband, a father and enjoys his life to the fullest. He became a billionaire very young and started drinking because he could afford everything. We met through aviation because I am a passionate flyer myself and own a gyrocopter. Now I’m producing a series that is about aviation. Why? There are no suicides among paratroopers. If people knew what skydiving can do to a person’s life and psyche, there would be no more depressed people. I had a friend who was extremely suicidal. I persuaded him to jump out of a plane. That was 13 years ago. The difference of before and after is immense! We are dealing with two different people here. My goal with my new project: to prevent people from getting depressed.
What is your message beyond your national borders?
I am a mixture of all the nations that live here. In my family there is a criminal who demolished the Old Bridge in Mostar during the Balkan War. Another was a colonel and advisor to the Yugoslav National Army when the war started here in the Balkans. I also have two black people in my family and I am very proud of that. My daughter’s godmother is a friend of ours, along with Angelina Jolie, and my wife’s sister is married to a man, also a helicopter pilot, who is now commander of the Okinawa base in Japan. I feel most comfortable in places like New York where there are 40 nations on the bus at the same time. Even if I could belong to a nation, it would certainly not be one of these three in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because what they promote as their virtues is nothing to be proud of.
I think that the premise that we are descended from apes is wrong. In my opinion, we are still a species of ape that has evolved and from which nationalism originates. The French Revolution is seen as the beginning of nationalism. That is the atavism of our territoriality, which we should have overcome through revolution but did not. Whether we ever will, I don’t know. Unfortunately, it is not going in the positive direction. We should not be bound to the territory in which we were born, because that location is artificially limited. It was created by wars, blood, murders and rapes … Just because I was born somewhere, I have no right to any territory. I never wanted to be a member of a club because that implies praising something based on an artificial creation and devaluing someone outside that group. And that is fascism. So we lose identity instead of having one.
As a pilot, I fly over all borders, because from above you realise that they don’t exist at all. All borders are exclusively and only in human minds. They are artificially created. Religions do the same. Their role has been enormous in the bloodshed in these areas. And I will never forget that. Nationalism and fascism are born through religions. At least in our country.
What wisdom moves you?
Live each day as if it is your last. Maybe it is.
Interview: Mirella Sidro, Sarajevo