Remaining mum on 'Munich'

Spielberg refuses to release early details on his controversial film, and miffs several overlooked sources.

steven spielberg 88 298 (photo credit: )
steven spielberg 88 298
(photo credit: )
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg has taken his customary secrecy to new heights by imposing what amounts to a news blackout on his upcoming movie Munich. While other Oscar contenders are organizing press junkets, cocktail parties, TV appearances and lavish advertising campaigns, Spielberg intends to keep mum until the movie is released at some 400 theaters on December 23. The film opens with the killing of 11 Israeli athletes after an attack by Palestinian Black September terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, but the main focus will on the subsequent campaign by Israel's Mossad to hunt down and kill the responsible terrorists. Marvin Levy, Spielberg's personal spokesman, on Wednesday confirmed media speculation of the news embargo, though Hollywood's most successful director (Schindler's List) may change his mind between now and the end of December. It is Spielberg's hope that movie viewers will be able to judge the film on their own, without preconceptions, said Levy, adding that neither Spielberg, nor co-screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels in America) will grant interviews. The news void on what is widely expected to be Spielberg's most political and controversial film to date has been predictably filled by speculation. For months, there have been reports that Mossad officials are miffed at not having been consulted by the filmmaker and that the screenplay is based on historically inaccurate sources. There is considerable Israeli concern that the terrorists will be portrayed in too favorable a light and some Mossad agents as conscience-stricken by their mission. Even Mohammad Daoud, the mastermind of the massacre, let it be known from his hiding place that he was displeased at Spielberg's failure to check the facts with him. Spielberg himself seems to anticipate some flak, not least from the American Jewish community which has long idolized him, and has engaged three crisis strategists, including former Mideast trouble shooter Dennis Ross. On the record, Spielberg has spoken only once, via a news release in June, stating: "It is easy to look back at historic events with the benefit of hindsight. What's not so easy is to try to see things as they must have looked to people at the time. Viewing Israel's response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge the tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political and military terms. "By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic stand-off we find ourselves in today."