Arts, Culture & Media

Titanic Movie Set at the Former Yugo Factory in Serbia

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The Zastava facility dates back to the 1950s, but it is serving as a set portraying the construction of the Titanic in Belfast, which began more than 100 years ago. (Photo: Nate Tabak)

The Zastava factory in the Serbian city of Kragujevac has the dubious distinction of producing one of the most maligned cars in history — the Yugo. The cheap subcompact made a splash when it entered the American market in the mid-1980s, with a price tag of under $4,000.

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The Yugo never quite caught on here, though, to say the least. It became known as everything you don't want in a car: ugly, unreliable and unsafe.

Now Kragujevac is associated with another doomed vehicle: the Titanic. But this time it's a point of pride. A miniseries in the making called "Titanic: Blood and Steel" tells the story of the ocean liner's construction in Belfast. Some of the scenes were actually filmed at the former Yugo factory.

The production didn't spend much time in Kragujevac, but it certainly made a mark on the central Serbian city. For one, it created some new stars.

Bojan Ilic and his white horses made cameo appearances, Ilic as a stagecoach driver. They endured sweltering heat in three days of shooting, but Ilic said he enjoyed the experience, and the paycheck.

No doubt, Kragujevac made out nicely from having a big-budget miniseries come to town. It is part of an increasing number of international television and movie productions filming in Serbia. The Serbian Film Commission expects them to bring $100 million into the country over the next two years.

But it wasn't the cash cow that made the people of Kragujevac so excited. It was one of the Titanic's stars, American actor Chris Noth. Noth played Mr. Big, the on-again-off-again love interest of Sarah Jessica Parker on the American TV series, "Sex in the City." When the show came to Serbia several years ago, translators turned Mr. Big into "Zverka" or "Beast."

As Noth discovered when he checked into his hotel in Kragujevac, Beast is very big in Serbia.

"I heard some maids left a note on his mirror saying 'we love you Mr Big,' " said Miroslav Stefanovic, a receptionist at Hotel Sumarice. Stefanovic said he actually thinks a journalist, and not a maid, wrote that message in lipstick.
Whatever the case, word traveled fast.

"The best looking guy in 'Sex in the City'. So, I think yes, we have a lot of young girls come to photograph him and talk to him," Stafanovic said.

But it may not be the 56-year-old actor so much as the character he played that's making Serbians swoon.

"We're not excited by him. We're excited about what he presents for us," said Tamara Ralevic, a 23-year-old university graduate having cocktails with some friends. She said Mr. Big has qualities that are in short supply in Serbia.

"Hard to get maybe. Dangerous guy," she said.

Her friend, Sandra Vitkovic, chimed in: "He's just the Mr. Big. It's not him, the actor. It's just what he stands for. The one in every girl's life, I guess."

As for Stefanovic, the hotel receptionist, he wasn't bothered that Mr. Big stole all the female attention in Kragujevac. Stefanovic just wished Samantha, the sultry "Sex in the City" character played Kim Cattrall, had come too.

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