Israelis in Hollywood

This week we take a look at Ali Suliman, the well-known Israeli Arab actor, as well as profiling other behind-the-scenes Israelis that have conquered Hollywood off-screen.

Hollywood 521 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hollywood 521
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Many Hollywood A-listers owe their appearance to Pini Benzaken, the celebrated Israeli-born hair stylist for the stars.
Whether it was designing the pop culture-defining styles for John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, or his makeovers for everyone ranging from Dolly Parton and Charlie Sheen to Cher and Shirley McLaine, Benzaken has been at the forefront of hair styling for decades as a leader in the hair extension and replacement industry.
A former professional soccer player in Israel, Benzaken moved to California in 1975 and launched a career at a salon in Beverly Hills, where his client list soon included the likes of Farrah Fawcett and Liberace. His first job in a movie was to work on Tom Cruise’s hair for the film Rain Man.
Perhaps the most well-known Israeli Arab actor outside of Israel, Ali Suliman has built a successful career branching out beyond the Hollywood stereotype of a Middle Eastern villain.
The 33-year-old native of Nazareth studied at the prestigious Yoram Levinstein Acting School in Tel Aviv, where he graduated in the year 2000. He then joined the Commedia Dell’Arte Masks Theater group in London, before taking a position as an acting teacher back in Israel.
His big break came in 2005 when he portrayed the lead character in the acclaimed terrorist-themed drama Paradise Now, which won a Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film. His harrowing portrayal of Khaled, a young Palestinian man who drifts casually into a suicide-bombing mission, helped Suliman land a role in Peter Berg’s counter-terrorism thriller The Kingdom (2007) alongside Jamie Foxx. In addition to key roles in Israeli films The Syrian Bride and The Lemon Tree, Suliman also appeared in Ridley Scott’s political thriller Body of Lies (2008).
The manager to the stars, Guy Oseary is the definition of a Hollywood insider. The 39-year-old Jerusalem native got his start in Los Angeles at age 17, working in the music industry and launching his own label, Maverick Records.
Among the artists he piloted to stardom are The Prodigy, Alanis Morissette and Paul Oakenfold.
Oseary's stable of film clients include Hilary Swank, David Caruso, Penelope Cruz, Naomi Watts, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Lucy Liu.
However the main claim to fame for Oseary is his longtime relationship with Madonna. Both her business partner and manager, Oseary is the singer's closest confidant. Oseary also manages magician David Blaine and New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez. Oseary's production company, Maverick Films, produced the Twilight series. He has also had in cameos in movies such as Charlie’s Angels and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.
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