'Restless' notes - A Teddy Kollek-inspired movie

In the wake of the former mayor's death, his screenwriter/director son creates a film centered on father-son relationships.

restless 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
restless 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I met Moshe Ivgy for the first time on May 11, 2004, in a coffee shop on 21st Street and Ninth Avenue in New York. For two years he had been trying to make a career in New York. We talked about the subject of Israelis in America and the possibility of making a movie about it. Osnat, my wife and I moved back to Jerusalem with our two daughters Avigayeel and Noaa in July, after five years of living mostly in New York and making films back to back. The move was a traumatic experience for me. But we didn't want our daughters to grow up to be American teenagers, and our parents were getting old, especially my father, Teddy. He was 93 and fading. Although I saw my parents two or three times every year, the separation had become too hard. In Jerusalem I wrote the script for Restless over the period of a few months. The story of father and son, New York and Israel. It was very personal because there was some of me in both characters, and both were angry. Ivgy, too, returned to his home in Zichron Ya'acov, with his wife and two daughters. We kept in touch. Periodically. He introduced me to some producer, but nothing came of that. Osnat was the person who pushed all the time for Restless to be made. She thought it was a powerful story and would reconnect me with Israel and Israeli filmmaking. The other person who pushed was Ivgy and through him I met Michael Tapuach and Talia Kleinhendler. They wanted to produce the film and expressed their confidence that they would succeed. I went to see my aging parents often and for the first time in my life I had free access to my father. In my youth I never had enough of him, and now he was too old. Together with Moshe Dayan, John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Clint Eastwood, he was my biggest hero. I had felt closest to him in my boyhood, when we traveled on weekends all over the country and he would point out all the archeological sites that were being discovered. He was a very enthusiastic man, filled with energy. When he came home from work in the evening, he always ran up the stairs to our apartment on the third floor. When he was mayor of Jerusalem, he always consulted with me about his crucial decisions, and we wrote articles together even after his defeat in 1993. Still he was always very busy and had relatively little time for just being with the family. And now he was just silent, having accepted without much joy that he could no longer do much work. AT SOME POINT I realized that Restless might actually happen. We started searching for an actor for Tzach, the son. We saw a lot of actors, one of whom was Ran Danker. I had never heard of him until two or three months prior when I noticed my daughters were watching Hashir Shelanu on TV with religious fervor, cutting his pictures out of magazines and so forth. I also knew his father Eli a bit, an excellent actor whom I had met both here and in New York. So I was very interested to meet him and we got his autograph for our daughters, who flipped out with excitement. They were also very familiar with Ivgy, particularly from his famous commercial. On one outing together Ivgy removed a thorn that got stuck in Avigayeel's toe. They were going through the equivalent of what spending time with Laurence Olivier and James Dean would have been for me when I was a child, and they started looking at Osnat and me as though it suddenly had dawned on them that they had misjudged us a bit all those years. Ran read a couple of times with Ivgy. I realized he had prepared and worked hard. There was a lot of tension in the air when they read together. So I felt this would work out fine, despite some people's opinions that Ran was a soap-opera actor with no real skills. I thought they were great together. I think maybe Ivgy was a bit threatened because Ran was such a teen idol. And Ran was insecure because he was acting in strong dramatic scenes with the greatest actor in the country, Moshe Ivgy. I thought those charged feelings might actually help the film. So we signed Ran and went on to casting the other Israeli parts. All terrific actors. Preproduction was to start of January 2, 2007. On that morning my father died. His death was not unpredictable, as he was over 95 and had been very weak for the previous few weeks. I saw him the night before he died. He was asleep, or maybe even unconscious, I don't really know, and I am thankful that I had this time with him. I took his hand and he was breathing. I held on to his hand and the tears were coming down my cheeks. I had known him for 59 years. And he was always the strongest person I had known, the most optimistic and lively. And now sitting next to him, I felt I was saying my good-bye for the last time, and it seemed both unbelievable and unbearable. I tried to brace myself. Still it was a terrific shock when the doctor called me at 9:10 the following morning. I went to see him and on the way called my sister. I was fearful of her reaction because I knew how attached she was to him. But I had no choice. I came to my parents' apartment. He lay there on his back in his room. The same way he did the night before, only he wasn't breathing. I touched him and he was beginning to get cold. My glorious father. I think I made a supreme effort not to cry when there were other people around. I was functioning, a bit like a robot but functioning. I sat next to my mother who was having breakfast and said to her: "Teddy is dead." She stared at me and just said: "Really?" I said: "He didn't suffer. He died in his sleep." I couldn't believe I was saying those soap-opera words to my 89-year-old mother about the man she had been madly in love with since she was 17. My sister soon arrived and many other friends and relatives. There were a lot of arrangements to be made. The government decided to give him a full state funeral in the Nation's Great section on Mount Herzl. It took place the following day and was very precisely organized. Few people spoke at the grave. As the firstborn, I eulogized between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres. Immediately after the shiva I flew to New York and Montreal for an intensive preproduction before the beginning of our March shoot. There was something inhuman about all of it: My father had just died, and I was hard at work on a movie - about a father-son relationship, no less. Still, so much effort and preparation had gone for a year and a half to get Restless going that I felt I had no choice. And maybe it was the easiest way for me to deal with the grief. I don't know if and how my father's death affected the movie. I have no idea. The shoot of Restless was unexpectedly pleasant. The atmosphere was good. I had feared working with male actors. Maybe because I had always been a bit intimidated by my father. I dedicated the film to my father because he had been the most important man in my life. I knew it would be the first premiere of any of my films he would not attend.