Did Hollywood bigwigs help Israel buy arms in the 1970s and '80s?
Longtime Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan says they did, in an interview set to air Monday on the Israeli investigative journalism program 'Uvda.'
Arnon Milchan, the Israeli producer of such smash hits as "Fight Club," "Pretty Woman," and hundreds of other films, is opening up for the first time ever about his involvement in clandestine deals to acquire arms for Israel and his work to promote the country's alleged nuclear program.
The film tycoon sat down with Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan for the season premiere of her current affairs show "Uvda" ("Fact"), in which he discusses his efforts to engage Hollywood colleagues in his work for Israel's Defense Ministry. Keshet's show is scheduled to air Monday, November 25, on Israel's Channel 2.
This isn’t the first time Milchan's role in Israeli arms dealings and intelligence has surfaced: Just two years ago authors Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman published a book titled “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan" – which alleged that Milchan was an operative for Israel's Bureau of Scientific Relations. The bureau, headed by spy-masters Benjamin Blumberg and Rafi Eitan, gathered information for secret defense-related programs, including Israel's alleged nuclear program. The bureau was closed after Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying on behalf of Israel in 1986.
The "Uvda" report does, however, contain some shocking new details about Milchan's work, including claims that other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney Pollack and at least one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for Israel.
The report reveals that Pollack, who died in 2008, acquired arms and other military equipment for Israel in the 1970s. When asked if Pollack knew about the details of the deals, Milchan tells Dayan, "Pollack knew, but I didn't want to scare him because he's American… He could have said 'no.' He said 'no' many times, but he also said 'yes' many times."
Milchan also tells Dayan that he used at least one big-name actor's star quality to lure U.S. scientist Arthur Biehl – an expert on nuclear weapons and a co-developer of the hydrogen bomb – to a meeting. According to the report, Milchan invited Biehl to the actor's home under the pretense that the actor was seeking scientific advice for a project he was working on.
Milchan said he thought Biehl would cooperate because, "Anyone who lives in California is a 'star-fucker…' They hear 'star'…they come running."
The producer also confides in Dayan that his double-life wasn't always easy to lead, particularly when what he really wanted was to dedicate himself to filmmaking. "In Hollywood they don’t like working with an arms dealer, ideologically," he said. "[They don't like working] with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing. Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I'm not an arms dealer..."
Milchan continued, "If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country. And suddenly, [I have to] defend myself – 'I'm not an arms dealer, I don't sell guns, I don't sell rockets ' I should have been aware of that, of what I'll go through, and said, 'Fuck you.' You know what, I did it for my country and I'm proud of it."
The show also features interviews with Robert De Niro, Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and other major Hollywood players.
Meanwhile, New Regency films, Milchan's company, is working on four films slated for release in 2013-14, including "Noah," a Darren Aronofsky-directed take on the Biblical flood story starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.