When casual observers arrive in the sleepy Negev Desert town of Arad, they see Sudanese workers, cacti, and a lot of dust.
But on a visit to the city Wednesday, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman said he sees Hollywood stars Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt coming soon to a state-of-the-art movie studio he hopes will be built there.
Lieberman came to Arad with Arnon Milchan, one of Hollywood's most respected producers, who has a long list of hits to his credit, including Pretty Woman and Fight Club. The MK first met the Rehovot-born producer when Liberman was a college student who took a job as an extra when Milchan filmed the 1981 movie Masada in Israel.
“I played a Zealot then and I still play one today,” Liberman joked at a press conference with Milchan at Arad's City Hall.
Liberman expressed confidence that he could bring the tax breaks necessary from the government to make the project succeed. He promised Milchan to “be his lobbyist at the Knesset Finance Committee” and to help secure funding from organizations and donors around the world.
“They say that out of a hundred good ideas, one comes to fruition,” Liberman said. “I hope this will be the one.”
Milchan, 68, said tax credits persuaded movie studios to film top movies in Romania, Hungary, and New Zealand, so he saw no reason why films cannot be made in Israel. He said thee money invested by the countries came back in jobs, hotels, restaurants, construction, and tourism.
“This could be great public relations for Israel,” Milchan said. “It is possible to build a first-class studio here in Arad. If we do and there is cooperation from all sides, there is no reason why the biggest productions won't come to Arad instead of Budapest.”
Keren Kayemet Le'Israel chairman Effi Stenzler, who pledged his organization's vast resources, said that “what was the Wild West can become the city of movies.”
Asked by The Jerusalem Post
whether the multiple conflicts in the Middle East might turn off movie studios from filming in Israel, Milchan downplayed such concerns.
“There are zero worries about Israel,” he said. “Hollywood considers it the safest place in the world.”
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