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Clown, yes. Nazis, yes. Jerry Lewis, no.

December 20, 2006|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A film about a clown forced to entertain prisoners in a German concentration camp might conjure up the ill-fated 1972 movie "The Day the Clown Cried," a Jerry Lewis project that was tied up in litigation and never released.

But producer Ehud Bleiberg said "Adam Resurrected," a just-announced drama about a Jewish circus clown who survives the Holocaust, has nothing to do with the misbegotten Lewis movie.

"It's a completely different story," said Bleiberg, whose L.A.-based company Bleiberg Entertainment developed and is partially financing the film, set to begin shooting in April in Romania. Scenes will also be shot in Germany and Israel.

"Adam Resurrected" is based on the acclaimed 1969 book by Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk. Adam (Jeff Goldblum) is a popular entertainer in Berlin sent to a concentration camp with his family, where the commandant (Willem Dafoe) spares his life -- but makes him perform for the other prisoners being led to the gas chamber.

The bulk of the story takes place after the war, when Adam goes to Israel seeking his last surviving family member, only to have a nervous breakdown and end up in a desert asylum for Holocaust survivors. There, he connects with another patient, a boy who acts like a dog.

Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo") is directing.

Bleiberg said he had never even heard of "The Day the Clown Cried" until Schrader told him about it, adding that there are few similarities between the two movies.

"This is not a Holocaust film," he said. "What happened in the camp is a small part of it."

Over the years, many have attempted to turn "Adam Resurrected" into a film, but struggled with the story's stream-of-consciousness style.

"It is a very, very complicated point of view," said the Israeli-born Bleiberg, whose family lost relatives in the Holocaust, adding that he has sought to make the project for five years. For the last 2 1/2 years, he worked with screenwriter Noah Stollman on the script.

"It was a dream to make this book," he added. "Nobody ever touched on what happened to the minds of people after the Holocaust. They always touched on the events.

"This is one of few stories that has an optimistic ending," Bleiberg said. "You can torture someone, but you cannot take the soul."

matea.gold@latimes.com

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