Filming in Croatia: From Zagreb to Vis, 35 Years of Meryl Streep

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Continuing our series on Hollywood classics filmed in Croatia, we look back to the time when Meryl Streep graced these parts with her presence – and we’re not talking about Mamma Mia

So far, this film series of ours has been a real pleasure to participate in – and to be honest, it kind of happened on accident. We started out by presenting the story of Lekenik, the village that hosted Fiddler on the Roof, and from that point on, the whole thing was like puzzles spontaneously clicking into place: Vižinada, a quaint Istrian town that played a French village in Kelly’s Heroes; Draguć, another Istrian gem visited by the Old-Hollywood star Karl Malden.

Along the way, it became clear that Croatia’s role in cinematic history spans way beyond the Adriatic coast playing a part in modern box office champions such as Star Wars, James Bond or Mamma Mia. There’s an entire treasure trove of overlooked gems to discover, and now that we’re all warmed up, we’ll make sure to bring you more stories of Academy Award winners leaving behind some stardust in these parts.

Speaking of Mamma Mia and the Academy Awards… It’s obvious who’s the common denominator in this case: Meryl Streep. Having been nominated for the Academy Award twenty times – and winning three – Streep makes many of her contemporaries look pale in comparison. Of course, golden statuettes aren’t necessarily to be taken as irrefutable proof of someone’s acting abilities, but we all like impressive statistics, and her IMDb page does state “Won 3 Oscars. Another 167 wins and 343 nominations.” Here’s another fun fact: the longest she has managed to go without securing an Oscar nomination is five years, from 1990 to 1995. It must have been hard holding back.


I’ll go as far as to state it hasn’t only been a joy, but a privilege getting to witness Streep’s mind-blowing performances as I was growing up, with all of her earlier work now available just a couple of clicks away. Sharing my birthday with this legend is just the icing on the cake when it comes to this particular star-crush. All things considered, I’m somewhat amazed it has taken me three film-themed features to remember to share a fact I’ve known for a really long time: Mamma Mia isn’t the first role that brought Meryl Streep to Croatia, and it definitely isn’t her finest performance delivered in these parts.

In fact, it was her previous work in Croatia that helped her land one of those three Academy Awards and score the third place on the Premiere Magazine’s list of 100 greatest movie performances of all time. Cinema buffs out there might have already used those 35 years mentioned in the title to figure out we’re talking about the 1982 classic Sophie’s Choice, the shattering drama about a Holocaust survivor unveiling a soul-crushing secret from her past.

Part of Sophie’s Choice was filmed in Zagreb, and even though it’s next to impossible to dig out any details on the filming process and Streep’s presence in the city, I can tell you that the Croatian capital played Warsaw in Sophie’s flashbacks of WWII. If you have some knowledge of Zagreb’s urban landscape and decide to rewatch the movie, you’ll spot some parts of the Upper Town such as the Stone Gate (Kamenita vrata), as well as certain streets in the Lower Town.


Screenshot / CityPal

Sophie’s Choice belongs to a golden era of foreign filmmakers swarming to Croatia to create some of the best-known masterpieces in the cinematic history. A couple of decades ago, Jadran Film from Zagreb held a reputation of the biggest and the most successful motion picture company in this part of Europe. Between the 60s and the beginning of the Homeland War, the famous film studio co-produced 145 foreign films and TV shows; even though the days of glory are long gone, it’s still a fact to be proud of.

And no, I’m not about to name any of the 140+ remaining ones – I do have a series to keep going. Keep an eye out, for we have many more interesting stories to share.



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