The Shmooze

Casting Call: Michael Douglas Plays Rabin

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

“Why Sandra Bullock as the voice of Golda Meir?” I asked Richard Trank, director of the documentary “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers” which opens October 18 at The Quad, in New York City.

Bullock, now starring in the mega-hit “Gravity” may leave filmgoers speechless, but as the voice of prime minister Meir, she lacks the prime minister’s earthy gravitas. Michael Douglas with whom I last spoke at the 2008 Elie Wiesel Foundation Gala he attended with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones channels Yitzhak Rabin’s voice. Also stepping up to the mic are Leonard Nimoy as Levi Eshkol and Christoph Waltz — who won an Academy Award for his role as Col. Hans Landa in Quentin Tarrantino’s ”Inglorious Bastards” — as Menachem Begin. Trank explained: “We have always used celebrities as narrators for our prior [Moriah Films].”

Karen Leon
Michael Douglas

Based on British-born Ambassador and ministerial advisor Yehuda Avner’s best-selling tome of the same name, Avner —as narrator — shares with the viewer the behind-the-scenes travails of Israel’s wars of survival and in Zelig-like relish, dishes insider tidbits. He recalls Eshkol saying of Aba Eban: “He does not know to make the right decision, only the right speech.”

Among poignant cameos is Levi Eshkol’s visit to president Lyndon Johnson’s vast Texas ranch. A former kibbutznik, Eshkol bent down in a cowshed to feel the legs of a newborn calf that had LBJ kvelling Texas style. It was a good moment for Israel.

Avner recalls Menachem Begin, saying — in Yiddish —”Men darf makhn a shehecheyanu” (one needs to make a blessing). There’s take-no-prisoners Golda Meir giving orders and in one sequence dressing as an Arab woman for a secret rendezvous; a motherly Meir shown talking to reservists before a mission during the Yom Kippur War; the painful recollection of Israel getting Phantoms… only to have Charles de Gaulle issue an embargo on spare parts.

Dense with facts and names, what comes across is how close Israel came to being vanquished — and at what cost its survived. For those old enough to remember all — or several of — the wars, this is a revisit to familiar history. Younger and less informed viewers are at a disadvantage due to lack of dates — chronology between wars — one layered one upon another.

“The underlying current [of the film],” Trank told me, “is the desire for each of the prime ministers to find peace. Each one worked for, loved and yearned for peace — most important was Jewish freedom.” Apropos Golda’s resignation [in the film clips], Trank said there will be a follow-up film “ that will stand on its own.”

Finally there is the Yiddish cunundrum! At a time when Yiddish — mame loshn — was perceived as a lingua non grata, a relic of the diaspora which Israel was intent on burying — to be replaced by Hebrew as is post-Holocaust Emah-loshon(mother tongue) — Eshkol, Begin, Meir all resort to Yiddish expressions when no other language will do.

Gey veys. Go see.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: yitzhak rabin, the prime ministers, sandra bullock, michael douglas, menachem begin, leonard nimoy, golda meir, christoph waltz

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.