May 15, 2008
Hollywood-Israel link flourishing
(Page 2 - Previous Page)After pointing to a visit by director Oliver Stone to Yasser Arafat's headquarters, the editorial complained, "Here in Israel we have.... Not Steven Spielberg. Not Barbra Streisand. Not Philip Roth."
Nevertheless, such prominent personalities are often seen as American Jewish spokespersons and are frequently generous financial supporters of projects in Israel. For instance, Spielberg, who still has a picture on the Israeli air force on his possible development list, endowed the Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Still, the Post's editorial noted, such celebrity names "are lending neither their bodies, nor their voices, nor their pens to the defense of the embattled Jewish homeland."
Israel is still not visited by as many Hollywood stars as it would like, but the traffic is slowly increasing.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, escorted Jerry Seinfeld and DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg to Israel around last Chanukah and recalled some highlights of their meetings with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Peres said he had heard that Seinfeld was in town to promote a movie and asked for the title. "Bee Movie," responded the TV star and stand-up comic.
"Mr. Seinfeld," Peres then declared, "a man of your talent shouldn't be making B movies. You should be doing A movies."
While visiting the Western Wall on Friday evening, the American visitors were approached by a Chasid in full regalia, who offered, "A guten Shabbes, Mr. Seinfeld. Welcome home."
"How did a man who doesn't even watch TV know who I am?" Seinfeld marveled. "They have their own way of getting information," Hier explained.
Later, the two Hollywood personalities joined in a 20-minute dance with the Chasidim and followed up dancing with a soldier's minyan.
"Jerry and Jeffrey raved about their experiences," Hier said. "You don't forget this sort of thing."
Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight was scheduled to arrive in Israel this week to visit the missile-targeted town of Sderot, following in the footsteps of other non-Jewish stars, such as the late Christopher Reeve.
One goal that has largely eluded Israel so far is to persuade Hollywood producers to shoot some of their features in the Jewish state, with its varied scenic locations, excellent production facilities and highly trained technical personnel.
Israel's security situation has been one deterrent but so has the lack of financial incentives for American filmmakers that are offered by many other countries.
Yaacov Dayan, Israel's consul general in Los Angeles, said that the Knesset is currently considering a bill that would provide a substantial percentage of the production costs to foreign producers filming in Israel.
Dayan recalled a recent conversation with director Peter Berg, set to helm the desert sci-fi saga, "Dune," already heralded as the next "Lord of the Rings" box office franchise.
"I told Peter that Israel would be an ideal location and that we hope to see him there next year," Dayan said.
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