The Survivor, directed by Barry Levinson with Ben Foster in the title role, tells the true story of the indomitable Harry Haft, who was forced into gladiatorial boxing matches while imprisoned in a World War II concentration camp. After the war, Haft emigrated to the U.S., where he made his living in the ring and was nicknamed “the pride of Poland.”
The movie alternates between those two timelines, plus Harry’s later years: the constant is his uncrushable spirit – and enduring hope to be reunited with the woman he loves.
Before filming began, Levinson, Foster, and a small group visited Auschwitz, where Haft was held. “It set the tone. Touching the rails, seeing the pile of children’s shoes. It’s not something you can unsee.”
To play Harry in these different eras, Foster went through extreme physical transformations. “It’s got such scope, we’re following three decades of a man’s life. Fortunately, we shot in order. I lost 62 pounds for the camps, took five weeks off, changed locations, put on 50 for the ring.”
In America, Haft hopes that if he can schedule a bout with famous fighter Rocky Marciano, so he’ll get his name in the newspapers, and his lost love will be able to find him. “That goal takes Harry on this emotional journey,” Levinson says.
The Survivor, Movie Premiere, Wednesday, April 27, HBO