Michael Lynton is running late. It almost should be expected that the chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment would not be waiting around his Culver City office for a reporter to show up with a notebook full of questions. Especially a studio head as closely guarded as he.
Half an hour after we were set to meet—not so bad, really—Lynton steps into his office foyer and extends a hand. Short and tan, wearing suit pants and a light-blue shirt with the top two buttons undone, he leads me to a table in his office.
“OK,â he says as he slips into a chair. âWhat are we talking about?”
Lynton seems surprised, as I note in a short profile of him in this week’s Jewish Journal, because during his meteoric rise to the third floor of the Irving Thalberg Building, he’s never liked to talk about himself.
He doesn’t speak publicly about his wife and three children, he says, because they didn’t sign up for the scrutiny. And he doesn’t talk much about being Jewish because that’s not something he did growing up in the Netherlands.
“I was one of two Jewish kids in my school. We were probably one of two Jewish families in our town. And it was a really tolerant country. So it is not that you are hiding your Judaism, it is just that you don’t identify yourself as a Jew because there is no critical mass to identify with,” Lynton recalled. “So you identify yourself by other criteria. You identify yourself by what your dad does for a living, what your mother does for a living, what sports teams you like—that sort of thing.
“What is unusual about the United States—and it’s something that I have never gotten used to—is that Jews here, there are so many of them and they are so important to the culture,” he said. “And they feel, rightly, so comfortable being visible and outspoken, that they identify themselves in a very prominent way in the communities they live in, whether it is the entertainment community or the banking community or whatever it is. That’s not a phenomenon you would see in Holland at all; that’s not a phenomenon I grew up with.”A multi-lingual media renaissance man, Lynton proclaimed his Jewishness—and set up a lot of Jews-in-Hollywood jokes/slanders (I think I’ll pass on linking to the white supremist Vanguard News Network)—last spring when Newsweek published a list of America’s top 50 rabbis that he wrote with Jewish Television Network CEO Jay Sanderson and News Corp. spokesman Gary Ginsburg.