Fantastic Mr. Fox

The award-winning director is walking on water as his first television show ‘Mary Lou,’ opens at international film festivals

eytan fox 311 (photo credit: Francois Rousseau)
eytan fox 311
(photo credit: Francois Rousseau)
Eytan Fox, the acclaimed director of such films as Yossi & Jagger, Walk on Water and The Bubble, has changed. “I used to be a one-film man, I mean I used to work on just one film project at a time,” says Fox, on a recent visit to his hometown, Jerusalem.
The director, now based in Tel Aviv, talks about what he’s been up to since his last feature film, The Bubble, was released in 2006.
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“My agent is always telling me to work on a few different things. I know most directors have a lot of projects going at once, and now I do, too.”
His most recent work is actually a television show, Mary Lou, a four-episode musical that aired on the HOT Network last year. Featuring music by Zvika Pik and very loosely adapted from the stage musical of the same title, the drama has taken on a new life as it travels to film festivals across the world.
“It was just shown at the Washington Jewish Film Festival. It’s also showing at gay festivals. It can fit into three categories: Jewish, gay and international, so it’s showing at all kinds of festivals.”
But after The Bubble, he had other plans, which changed after the death of his father a short time after that film was released.
“Gal [his personal and professional partner, critic and writer Gal Uchovsky] and I went to the South of France. We watched a lot of movies. We watched all of Six Feet Under on DVD,” he explains.
After he recharged his batteries, he planned to start work on a film biography of Gad Beck, a gay, half-Jew who was involved in hiding Jews and resisting the Nazis in World War II Berlin. The film was planned as a big, international production, but there were problems, not least of which was finding an English-speaking actor who could portray the hero. While he worked on that project, he began another one a screenplay for a promising-sounding film about a Taglit tour group in Israel. Fox, who was born in the US and moved with his family to the Jerusalem as a child, would seem to be the ideal person to direct such a story. But in the end, it didn’t come together.
FOX’S YOSSI & JAGGER was originally a made-for-television movie that was so good it ended up being distributed internationally as a feature film, and he had no problem returning to his television roots. He found out that HOT had the rights to the musical, Mary Lou, which was scored to the music of Zvika Pik.
He enjoyed Pik’s music – “It brought back memories of my first dance party in sixth grade” – but wasn’t crazy about the show. Fox was relieved to hear that he could just use the music from the show and not the story.
Shiri Artzi, the daughter of pop star Shlomo Artzi, had written a new script for that he did like. In Artzi’s version, the focus is a young man, Meir (Ido Rosenberg), whose beloved, musically gifted mother (Maya Dagan) abandoned him on his 10th birthday. Meir comes to Tel Aviv, searching for her, and ends up finding happiness as a dragqueen cabaret performer.
“Shiri and I became very close friends,” says Fox.
“The work was wonderful. It was one of my best directing experiences.”
The drag queen cabaret performers are played by a real group, the Peot Kedoshot, or Holy Wigs, that Artzi saw in a Jerusalem bar. The series was recently screened at the Washington Jewish Film Festival to an enthusiastic response. The newspaper Metro Weekly called it, “a cross between Mamma Mia and Glee – in Hebrew.”
While Fox doesn’t mind the description, he does mention that he had never seen Glee before he made it. Now that he’s seen the American hit television show, he says, “I do see the similarities, especially with the storyline about a closeted gay bullying someone who is out of the closet.”
Now that Mary Lou is traveling the world, Fox is set to start filming not one, but two films later this year, one a light comedy and one a more serious film.
If all goes well, around Pesach, shooting will begin on a sequel of sorts to Yossi & Jagger. It will pick up 10 years later, showing how Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is coping with the tragic death of his lover. A doctor in a hospital, he will meet Jagger’s mother by chance and get to know her.
“It’s about how Yossi works through his trauma,” says Fox.
A couple of months later, filming will start on a comedy-drama about five women friends whose impromptu serenade captured on a cell phone video ends up representing Israel at Eurovision.
Some of Israel’s best loved actresses will be starring in it, including Anat Waxman, Yael Bar Zohar, Rotem Abuhav, and Maya Dagan, again, as well as Efrat Dor, a newcomer. The role of the guy who gets them into the song contest will be played by Ofer Shecter.
“It will be a sweet, feel-good film,” Fox explains.
“I’m really busy now making these films happen.”