Demanding a rewrite

He talks about his courage. Well, it takes no political or moral courage to bash Israel in Europe today.

June 21, 2011 22:28
3 minute read.
Dan Gordon

Dan Gordon 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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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 democracy

Law 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 privately.

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 manners.”

Gordon also feels, quite passionately, that the recent events of the Arab Spring uprisings should inspire Leigh to take another look at his stance.

“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 Gordon.

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