Dan Gordon 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dan Gordon, an established Hollywood screenwriter who is giving a series of screenwriting workshops all over Israel, doesn’t just get mad. He gets even.
Director Mike Leigh was set to give a series of master classes at the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television in Jerusalem last November (and to attend tributes and workshops around the country).
The state of Israel’s democracyLaw and disorder
Yet when he cancelled at the last minute, saying that he was joining the boycott movement, many in the film Israeli community were upset. But most grumbled privately and then quickly moved on.
Gordon decided to do something about it.
“Mike Leigh did it as a political statement. He said it was in response to a motion tabled in the Knesset for a
loyalty oath that would have required immigrants to pledge allegiance to
the democratic, Jewish state of Israel. That was the very last straw
for him, that someone would do something so horrible. . . He talks about
his courage. Well, it takes no political or moral courage to bash
Israel in Europe today,” says Gordon Gordon also objected to the fact
that Leigh announced his decision in a “snotty open letter” rather than
contacting Sam Spiegel’s director, Renen Schorr, personally and
So he published an open letter to Mike Leigh, which ended
with the promise that he would establish a Mike Leigh Scholarship for
Political and Moral Courage at the Ma’aleh School for Television, Film
and the Arts in Jerusalem.
“It [the scholarship] will be awarded to the student whose work displays
examples of those qualities your letter to Renen Schorr [founder and
director of the Spiegel School] so woefully lacked…You’re invite,” wrote
Gordon He takes issue point by point with many of Leigh’s objections,
including the idea that a loyalty oath is unique to Israel. “The US and
Great Britain have citizens take an oath to the state. As I wrote in the
letter, there are many Muslim immigrants to England, who have become
naturalized citizens and were forced to bare true allegiance to the
Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth II.”
Asked why he thought Mike Leigh would accept an invitation and then
refuse to come at the last moment, Gordon responds, “That’s just bad
Gordon also feels, quite passionately, that the recent events of the
Arab Spring uprisings should inspire Leigh to take another look at his
“Now the world sees in [President] Assad of Syria a world-class villain
slaughtering his own citizens,” says Gordon, urging Leigh to reconsider
his take on the Middle East.
Gordon, who lived in Israel for many years, has written many
screenplays, including The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington;
Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes; and Murder in the First with Kevin
Bacon. Gordon has taught screenwriting in Tel Aviv and currently runs
his own film school, the Zaki Gordon Institute in Sedona, Arizona. He
founded the school to honor the memory of his late son, Zaki, and has
already given a scholarship in his son’s name to the Sam Spiegel Film
School and to other institutions throughout the world.
Gordon, who visits Israel frequently, is a captain in the IDF reserves
and served as an escort officer in the Military Spokesperson’s Unit
during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Currently, he is at work on a variety of projects, including several
Broadway adaptations of his movies, such as Murder in the First. He is
also working on a film script about a former captain in the Columbo
crime family, “the only man to walk away from the Mafia and live.” And
then there’s a project about the truth behind the crucifixion of Jesus,
which Gordon calls, “the greatest Mob story of all time.” But unlike Mel
Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, “It won’t be in Aramaic,” says