Thursday, April 26, 2012

CONFIDENTIAL: Once Upon a Time in the Movies:

SOLIDARITY: Robert De Niro, Roman Polanski and Arnon Milchan
Close collaborators and friends from the "old days", Arnon Milchan, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Robert De Niro and Elizabeth McGovern will be appearing at the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate an ode to Arnon Milchan and Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, along with a few other classics. The book Confidential: The life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon contains an entire chapter on the making of Once Upon a Time in America, with never-before revealed details. As you read the excerpts below from Confidential, please keep in mind that as all of this is going on, according to FBI files, Arnon Milchan was shipping nuclear weapons triggers from the US to Israel though a front company called "Milco", which was actually discovered by the FBI during the filming of Once Upon a Time in America. Just an amazing set of circumstances:
Robert De Niro, Arnon Milchan and Polish President Leach Walesa 
As Leone began casting, Milchan rented an apartment in New York, on 48th Street between 2nd and 3rd, right next door to legendary actress Katharine Hepburn. They considered hundreds of actors for the film’s various parts, which was a long and difficult process in itself. Early in 1981, Brooke Shields was offered the role of Deborah Gelly after Sergio Leone had seen The Blue Lagoon, claiming that she had the potential to play a mature character. However, a writers’ strike delayed the project, and Shields withdrew before auditions began.

There had been more than three hundred applicants for the lead female role, including Kim Basinger, Glenn Close, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Jodie Foster, Carrie Fisher, Daryl Hannah, Liza Minnelli, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep and Debra Winger - a virtual who’s who of America’s leading ladies.

As word spread of the production, Leone personally received numerous phone calls from top talents, such as Warren Beatty. As he did with most of the others, Leone turned him down cold. “He’s a hairdresser, for Christ’s sake,” Leone said to Milchan. “But he only played the role of a hairdresser in Shampoo,” Milchan said, in hopes of changing Leone’s mind. “No, no, he is a hairdresser,” Leone insisted. A few days later he received a call from Clint Eastwood. “No, no, I have already cast him in three movies. I need something fresh.”
Arnon Milchan with the "Hair Dresser" Warren Beatty.
Close friend Meir Tepper is in the middle 

If there was one person Sergio Leone wanted for the film, it was Robert De Niro, who had played the lead in Milchan’s The King of Comedy. According to Milchan, it was not easy to convince De Niro to read the long script, but finally the actor claimed that he’d read through the entire manuscript and agreed to meet with Leone.

The meeting was scheduled at the Mayflower Hotel in New York City. Leone, obese at the time, was dressed in a gigantic robe as they convened in a top-floor suite that Milchan had reserved for the meeting. Leone and De Niro were to talk one-on-one as Milchan waited for a call in a separate room. When the phone finally rang, it was De Niro whispering on the other end; “Arnon, I need to talk with you.” Milchan rushed over to De Niro’s room and knocked on the door. De Niro said, “I can’t do the movie.” Milchan was stunned. “Why not?” De Niro led Milchan to the bathroom and pointed at the toilet. Milchan was puzzled.

“Can’t you see that he pissed all over my toilet seat?” he asked in that tone that only Robert De Niro can do. The seat was indeed soiled. “Come on, Robert, he didn't do that on purpose. He’s fat, he didn't see.”
“No way, Arnon, he did this on purpose.” De Niro implied that it was a power game, a marking of territory of sorts, showing who’s the boss. Milchan calmed him down, and ultimately De Niro was cast in the lead role as the Jewish gangster David Aaronson.

The highly sought-after lead female role was not filled until shortly before filming began. Milchan had his heart set on Elizabeth McGovern, who, while studying at Julliard at the age of twenty, had been offered a part in her first movie, Ordinary People, in the role of the girlfriend of a troubled teenager played by Timothy Hutton. It was Robert Redford’s first film as a director, and it won four Oscars. The next year McGovern earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for her portrayal of the early-twentieth-century actress Evelyn Nesbit in the movie Ragtime, in which she had a controversial and very lengthy nude scene. Out of the long list of star actresses who sought the role, Elizabeth McGovern got it. She was seventeen years Arnon’s junior – and his real life lover.

De Niro only later learned that  McGovern was Milchan's girlfriend
As Milchan remembered:
"There was a scene in the movie where De Niro was supposed to rape Elizabeth McGovern in the back seat of a limousine, after she informs him that she’s leaving and moving to Hollywood to realize her dream. A real complicated scene. De Niro suddenly suggested that I should play the role of the limousine driver. I reacted with skepticism. After all, I’m not an actor. There were four pages of text in that scene; it was not inconsequential. In any event, the idea caught on, and Sergio conducted a formal audition for me. After that my skepticism suddenly disappeared and I found myself wanting to play the role more than anything in my life. It was like catching a bug. It became my lifetime ambition. Sergio, on the other hand, was not impressed and rejected my participation. I, the producer and financier of the entire project, was rejected! I was boiling. I was sure that everyone would come to me on their hands and knees but I was treated like the lowest extra on the set. They continued to do auditions for the part right in front of me and I was completely frustrated.
 Then I received a call: “We are ready to film the scene, come on down.” But I was in Paris and the scene was to be filmed that same night in Canada. “No problem,” they tell me on the phone. “Tickets are waiting for you at the airport. There are three other candidates for the role that are also being called in.” I was genuinely hurt by now, but I arrived at the airport nonetheless. I couldn’t find my name listed in first class and not in business class. Where did they put me? In coach, all the way at the back next to the toilets!
I finally arrived in Canada and I went straight to the set. It was like magic. Everything was lit up, and there they were, God and his deputy, Leone and De Niro. Two personal friends who in this case were both paid by me. I reached out to them warmly: “Sergio, Robert, here I am!” They gave me a look as if I was the guy delivering the sandwiches, an actor-wannabe, a rank amateur. They were focused like lasers on their tasks. I was looking for direction. “You know this is my first role,” I mentioned to Leone, who ignored me. De Niro turned to me and said, “Look, this movie is not about you and it’s not about the limousine driver. It’s about my character. Remember that.” 
It took thirteen takes to get the scene down. Leone literally showed De Niro how to rape Elizabeth McGovern and asked De Niro to physically repeat his instructions before filming commenced, and I couldn’t remember even once how to open the limousine door. On take two I forgot to stop the limousine where I was supposed to. In the meantime, De Niro was repeatedly “raping” my girlfriend in the back seat, for thirteen takes! And you know Robert De Niro, a real actor; every take was from the heart! He was totally committed to the realism of the scene. And I was supposed to stop the limousine and ask Elizabeth, “Are you all right?” as I exited the limousine, opened the door, and removed my hat. That’s it.

Elizabeth McGovern after the rape scene in the limo.
In the end, they cut the scene down so much that I was only left with that one line, “Are you all right?” And even after that, Leone did not like the sound of my voice so he hired another actor to do a voice-over. It was a completely humiliating experience, but it was exhilarating at the same time."
Of course, Elizabeth McGovern is currently enjoying a new wave of success in her performance as Cora, the Countess of Grantham in the BBC/PBS smash hit, Downton Abbey.

30 year's later: McGovern as Lady Grantham


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Top Master Spy, LAKAM Chief Benjamin Blumberg, Tells His Story, And About His Relationship to Arnon Milchan

"Blumberg carried with him 
cyanide capsule to kill himself if he 
was ever caught"

Sara Leibowitz – Dar. | 04/07/2012 16:00,  Ma’ariv

This is the English translation of the original article published in Hebrew, in the Ma'ariv newspaper, one of Israel's oldest and largest daily publications. Note the repeated use of the term "according to foreign sources". This term is used to avoid violating Israeli Defense Ministry censorship regulations, which allows journalists to reveal highly sensitive material only if it legitimately comes from a credible foreign source that has been published. It might also be noted that Benjamin Blumberg is the recipient of Israel's highest defense-related award: The Israel Prize for Defense. It was given to Blumberg in a secret ceremony and has never been publicly revealed. That revelation was apparently removed from this article.

Master spy, Benjamin ‘Vered’ Blumberg is the most secretive man in Israel. It is not surprising that few have heard his name. His life has been lived in the shadows, those places that no one should know about, and should certainly not know your name.

First public photo ever of Benjamin Blumberg, one of the most
Important Intelligence figures in Israel’s History
(photo by Arik Sultan) 


Benjamin Blumberg is one of the most important security-related individuals in the history of the country, and apart from senior members of the security establishment, hardly anyone in the country would recognize his name. Yet suddenly now his name is known worldwide, and many romantic terms have been attached to it: "The Prince of Silence", "The Mysterious Agent", and the “Master-Spy ".

All of this publicity does not come naturally for Blumberg who has kept his silence for decades. No interviews and no publicity for the man who stood at the very center of Israel’s espionage campaigns. That is until two weeks ago when the FBI released classified documents proving his relationship to Arnon Milchan, the famous Hollywood producer, who was exposed after purchasing sensitive items for Dimona and the nuclear weapons program.

Milchan's operator in Israel, according to those documents, was none other than Benjamin Blumberg, who headed LAKAM (the Science Liaison Bureau), the most secret body in Israeli intelligence networks, which operated from the 1950’s until the mid-eighties.

Blumberg, according to foreign sources, was the one who taught the future Hollywood producer, the art of setting up shell companies and secret bank accounts. Blumberg is not really amused by the rare publicity he is receiving. In recent years, he is concerned mostly about his economic problems and not about any grand intelligence operation. "It hurts me that for years I was more worried about the fate of our country than that of my own house," he says in an exclusive interview to Ma'ariv.

Two weeks ago, when the American media mentioned his case, he was busy seeking a bank loan to finance an urgent operation. The bank refused. He took several loans in the past, and at his age, Blumberg is 88, the banks are not confident that he is in a position to pay them back. "I never thought about my personal gain, only for national security, today I regret it," he says.

The Third Man
Shimon Peres, Arnon Milchan and
Benjamin Netanyahu in a new conference

Passersby in Tel Aviv do not recognize Blumberg and have no idea who he is, a handsome man, slightly stooped; his hair had turned white long ago. Although Milchan once called him "the third most important person in Israel", Blumberg's picture has never been published, until now.

Many Israelis owe him a great debt. According to foreign reports it was he, through his agents, who obtained the foundations of Israel’s most sophisticated defense systems. His LAKAM agents, and often he personally, gathered the equipment, technology and materials that provided Israel’s military industries with the technological breakthroughs that have made it one of the most advanced in the world today.

Arnon Milchan, it was claimed, was one of his favorite agents. A recent book featuring Blumberg and Milchan, Confidential - The life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan, was written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman. The book claims that the now Hollywood producer worked for LAKAM for years, and was one of its most important agents, securing mostly American technology for Israel's nuclear program, and that it was Blumberg and Shimon Peres who recruited Milchan.

For years, the company "Milchan brothers" acquired, according to foreign reports, chemicals and various applications for the Dimona reactor. The Americans, of course, could not sell these products directly to Israel, because Israel had not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, so alternative methods of shipment were invented.

They claim the products were transferred to front companies, and shipped through Germany or France to Israel. Also in the book Critical Mass by William Burroughs and Robert Weindram, Blumberg was noted to be involved in lucrative defense transactions in the United States and else ware, fronted by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

With Milchan and Polanski at the cabaret
Arnon Milchan and his close friend Roman Polanski
took the LAKAM Chief out for an uncomfortable night on the town.

At the request of David Ben Ben Gurion, Blumberg had changed his name to ‘Vered’, but now he is recognized in the foreign media and Israeli documents simply as "Blumberg ". Blumberg says that he was never involved in buying sensitive products in America, but he says that to this day he fondly remembers Arnon Milchan.

He cannot forget the evening he spent with director Roman Polanski at Milchan’s luxurious villa near Paris. Milchan suggested that they all go out for a night on the town at a cabaret. Polanski immediately agreed. Blumberg, the LAKAM Chief was hesitant. "I went with them but after half an hour I wanted to leave. Naked girls were dancing on stage, it's not my taste. I asked Milchan to take me back to the hotel, but we could not move because Polanski was so enthusiastic he refused to go. So I had to spend half the night there watching that. It was horrible. "

Blumberg spent many days, including one Yom Kippur at Milchan's villa in France. "I never saw such luxury, elegance, size." he recalls wistfully. But for some 20 years now, he has not exchanged a word with Milchan. "When I left the LAKAM he severed our relationship," explains Blumberg.

In the mid 1960’s it was Shimon Peres who asked Blumberg to meet with Arnon Milchan. "Milchan's father had just died and he inherited a small fertilizer and pesticide company.  Milchan’s mother called the company’s suppliers and told them not to work with her son because he was not as successful or experienced as his father. I met him [Milchan] and saw a bright young man”, recalled Blumberg.

Blumberg was close to the leaders of the Jewish communities in South Africa, European millionaires and of course the heads of Israel’s security forces and Israeli politicians, many of whom called him a genius and considered him an extremely capable person who can achieve anything, anywhere in the world.

I bought a plane

One of the many stories in foreign publications tells how LAKAM agents secured the production plans of the French Super-Mirage, after France had declared an embargo on arms shipments to Israel. They bribed a Swiss engineer who worked at the factory that manufactured the Mirage engine.

In better times the LAKAM Chief rubbed elbows with world leaders. He described how he once flew abroad with a certain billionaire trying to close a deal on military equipment. The billionaire was acting as the middleman. "He talked about the profits that the deal will produce for him. I called Milchan and told him that I do not want to work with that man, and I will need a private jet to fly me to the seller directly. Milchan put me in touch with a Hollywood film producer who wanted to sell his plane. So I bought the plane from the producer intending to fly over there and continue the relationship that the man had started, but realized I could not work behind the back of that billionaire. Eventually, Israel Aircraft Industries sold the plane for a profit. “The man [Milchan] did a number of things for the country, I could work with him.”

"When I was coming to Washington I would stay with Yitzhak and Leah Rabin at the ambassador’s residents. Rabin was always willing to help. I Happened I asked him to arrange a dinner and invite whoever he wants but to also invite a certain person that I needed to work with. He did it without asking a single question."

I was crazy, abnormal

Many plots are only memories now. Blumberg, married with two children, a daughter and a son who is a kibbutz member who is sick and needed emergency surgery. He lives on a pension from the Prime Minister’s office, is in debt to the tune of a few tens of thousands of dollars after helping relatives, and for several years cannot escape the economic troubles which have befallen him.

At 88, he lives in a tiny apartment in Tel Aviv, on the third floor without an elevator. He only recently finished paying off the mortgage. The stairwell is neglected and most residents in the building are renters. Senior defense officials who lived in the building have long-since moved on to more luxurious homes, only Blumberg remains.

Doctor's told him that he is forbidden from going down the three flights of stairs too frequently. He has not visited Jerusalem in years and he dreams of seeing the old city and the amphitheater on Mount Scopus. He hasn’t even been to the beach, not far from his house, in years.

On good days he walks the streets of Tel Aviv alone, often going to The ‘Midina Square’, for a cup of coffee in the hope of meeting old acquaintances at random, "although most have already died," he says. Most of the day he is holed up in the bedroom of his tiny apartment. "For years I worked for the country," he says. "I had to think about myself and my family before the State of Israel and its security. While other people took care of themselves, built beautiful houses and saved money, I traveled the world and worried about the country. Today all those former colleagues live well, and I'm in debt".

A few months ago he wrote a letter to his daughter and granddaughters and apologized to them for not taking care of his home. "I never thought of taking care of myself, I was mad, not normal, I worked only for the good of the country, that's why I have no savings, just debt," he explained.

He wrote various committees that examined his medical condition: "From age 16 I have held positions in the defense establishment and took personal risks outside the country, and I neglected to take care of my family. I'm ashamed I have gotten myself into such a situation. I've put all of myself into the security of Israel, but I neglected myself and my home."

I never thought of personal benefit

Earlier this week, as noted, he applied for a loan from a bank to help pay for urgently-needed surgery. With an "HMO I have to wait months. A private doctor will do it much faster, but I have to pay several thousand dollars," says Blumberg.

After a brief consultation, the branch manager decided not to extend the loan. He has already taken a loan and at his age, the manager is not sure he could pay the loan back. In recent years Blumberg has tried to get assistance from various sources, after everything that he contributed to the state, the state declined his request not pay taxes on his paycheck.

"Cutting the 3,000 shekels a month in taxes would help me close the debt and start my life from scratch economically," he says. But Blumberg did not meet the criteria, and his request was denied.

"When I left, the LAKAM offered me to become an arms dealer. I had many contacts all over the world, and I imagine I would've made a lot of money. I refused. I never liked this kind of pursuit of the money. Only one time in all the long years I worked in the defense establishment did I allow myself to take two days off. I spent a whole weekend relaxing. I've always just worked, I never thought about my personal gain. I took the flight, met with the one I needed to meet with and come back home. I was all over the world but did not see a thing, only offices and hotels."

Involved in defense since age 14

In recent months, late at night, he began writing a book in a thick notebook. He describes the operations that he participated in, the dangers which he was exposed to. Due to censorship laws, he is not allowed to document his memories on a computer. He doesn’t have one anyway.

"I Keep everything in my head," he says, "I do not need a computer." He forgets certain dates and names of people but fluently recites the words of David Ben Gurion to President John F. Kennedy, in a meeting that Blumberg participated in.

 Blumberg was born in 1923 at Mikveh Israel. His maternal grandfather was a founder of the agricultural school, his father was the manager of the school. "That's one reason for my bad economic situation," he says, "My parents never left me a thing, when they passed away. Even their apartment belonged to the agriculture school of Mikveh Israel."

Security matters flowed in his blood from a very young age, he says. "I was already a squad leader in the Haganah at 14 years of age. At 15 I left home and went to live with the family of Sheikh Zayed Giora. Zeid introduced me to the Druze in the region and thanks to them I learned to speak Arabic."

In the War of Independence in 1948 he fought in the Tiberius region.  After the war he returned to Zaid and he dreamed of becoming a farmer, but Isser Harel, former head of Shin Bet security service asked him to establish the security system within in the defense industries.

"I recruited security officers and established procedures. It started off as a mess. It was not easy and I had to convince the military industry executives that they actually needed security. Tzvi Dar, director of the military industry, told me what the hell, let them steal”, he recalls.

Uranium reactor
Blumberg refused to turn to Peres for help

During his time in the Defense Ministry, Blumberg established a special relationship with, and worked very closely with Shimon Peres, who at the time was the Director-General of the Ministry of Defense. When he [Blumberg] ran into his financial difficulties, it was suggested that he contact President Peres for help, but Blumberg refused to reach out to his old colleague Peres on the matter.

However, when President Obama declared that it was time to march towards a world free of nuclear weapons, Blumberg said he considered calling Peres to ask him to crack down on the more talkative ministers in the government who were reacting to that..

It was Shimon Peres who introduced Blumberg to the most closely guarded secret of the State of Israel in the late fifties – the plans to build the Dimona nuclear research complex. In '58, when they started to build the nuclear reactor, according to foreign reports, Blumberg was appointed the lead security officer of the reactor. To this day, in his little bedroom at home, is a painting of the Dimona reactor, a gift from an artist friend.

According to foreign reports, from early on, Israel stepped up its efforts to obtain uranium for the reactor. In November 1968, Blumberg’s LAKAM devised a plan, together with the Mossad, to steal 200 tons of natural uranium (yellow cake) from the deck of a cargo ship sailing in the Mediterranean

The ship was carrying the flag of Liberia and was scheduled to reach the port of Genoa. The uranium on board was for a German chemical company acquired by the Belgian company Societe General de binary. The ship never reached Genoa. Journalistic investigations revealed that she had rendezvoused in the Mediterranean with an Israeli cargo ship, and her cargo is claimed to have made it to Israel instead.

Iran - a small and harmless reactor

Until the early eighties, Bloomberg was a significant figure in the security established and was involved in most of the secret operations of that period. He told a close friend that for years he carried with him a cyanide capsule so they he could kill himself if he was every caught. In The Unspoken Alliance,
Sasha Polakow-Suransky writes that Blumberg was heavily involved in the security relationship that developed between Israel and South Africa during the 1970’s, which included nuclear cooperation.

According Polakow-Suransky, Blumberg wanted to buy hundreds of tons of "yellow cake", a substance needed to begin the uranium enrichment process for nuclear reactors. Blumberg does not confirm his involvement but says he frequently visited South Africa and became friends with Jewish community leaders and even convinced one of them to immigrate to Israel.

"I was not just hanging around. On my very first drive from Pretoria to Johannesburg I saw the way a white rancher beat a black worker with a whip. Later at the hotel I took an elevator that was separate from my luggage because I was not allowed to ride in the same elevator as a black person. It killed me. All that happened there disgusts me, but for the country I was ready to absorb anything,” he says.

Despite his age and the fact that for many years now he is not part of the establishment, Blumberg sometimes participates in security discussions, mainly because of his long and deep experience in the nuclear field. "Sometimes, they send me a taxi with a driver who waits for me outside the building until the meeting ends." On the one hand they won’t increase my pension, even though I need the money to survive, and on the other hand, spend money on taxis for me. "

He cannot always get to the hearings; "I am a member of another security committee which meets in Tel Aviv," he says, "but a taxi ride costs 25 shekels each way, it is too expensive for me, so I do not go to those discussions. The biggest mistake that Israel is doing is that we're talking about the Iranian nuclear program. This topic is not a topic that should be talked about, he warns. "I do not understand the hysteria over Iran's nuclear reactor, it’s small and harmless."

The Firing
Sharon allowed no appeal for Blumberg, but over time developed a close 
relationship with Arnon Milchan
Blumberg did not make many friends over his many years as the LAKAM chief. Even though all of the higher ups in the defense establishment knew who he was, he was distant, secretive and all powerful; the true holder of the secrets. He did befriend the poet Natal Alterman, “I enjoyed his genius and consulted with him from time to time.” 

 In recent years he [Blumberg] is very lonely. His sister died many years ago. His brother, who also worked for the security establishment went blind and lives alone in Holon. "I would like to see him, but I have no way to reach him," says Blumberg. His bitterness stems not only from his economic situation and his loneliness, but by the way that he was let go after so many years of hard work for the country.

In 1977, when the Likud came to power, Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Tzipori, asked the new Defense Minister, Ezer Weizman, to replace Blumberg with somebody that was identified with the Likud party. Blumberg took his case to newly elected Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and convinced Begin to put a stop to the efforts to fire him. But two years later, in 1981, Ariel Sharon was appointed Defense Minister. Sharon did not show the appreciation for Blumberg that Begin had showed, and replaced him with one of his cronies, Rafi Eitan.
More than 20 years of security work ended abruptly, without even a chance to appeal.

"I never even saw Sharon," says Blumberg. "I was driving north to Tel Aviv and on the way I heard on the radio that Sharon plans to replace three senior officials. I had a bad feeling. I stopped by and I called from the pay phone to someone who told me that Sharon had fired me. So that’s when I knew I was fired after 40 years of defense work."

"On the one hand, I felt terrible; on the other hand, I felt relief, after so many years I wanted to rest".

There is no fault

Blumberg was still relatively young and determined to work. He became Vice President of a small electronics factory in the town of Migdal Haemek. The Company used laser welding machines to manufacture metals and military electronics.

"When I was looking for investors in the factory, I was offered a meeting with Nahum Manbar, before he was prosecuted. He agreed to invest a half million dollars in the factory, but I decided to give up on his investment. I always operated according to feelings about people and I usually was not mistaken.

In 1998, he retired from the company, and since then passes his days in near total isolation and existential anxiety. In thin plastic bags and worn binders he keeps correspondence with banks the nation insurance company. He knows every document, and each line explaining his accounts.

"I am hurt by the fact that I did so much for the country, and this is how I am treated."

There is no single person at fault in this story; only a single person who contributed so much to the security of the state who now finds himself in difficult circumstances. Earlier this week, Amos Malka, former Military Intelligence Chief, and Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, upon learning of this situation, said that they will try to help Blumberg. "I hope that they will succeed," Blumberg says.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ma'ariv: Legendary Israeli Spy-Master, Benjamin Blumberg, Confirms That Arnon Milchan Was Top Secret Agent Working For Him

The first photograph of legendary Israeli spy-master Benjamin Blumberg
ever published. Blumberg created and ran Israel's super-secret LAKAM spy
agency. Image published in Israel's Maariv Newspaper 04-06-2012.
The Passover addition of one of Israel's oldest and largest daily newspapers, Maariv, contains a huge interview with Benjamin Blumberg, one of the most important hero's in the non-fiction book Confidential. At age 88, these are the first words ever uttered publicly by the legendary spy-master who, on orders from David Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres, created the LAKAM, the Science Liaison Bureau spy agency focused on obtaining technology and materials for Israel's clandestine nuclear program. Blumberg headed LAKAM until the early 1980's, a very active and successful  period. In 1981, the agency was taken over by spy-master Rafi Eitan following a reorganization by then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. For the first time ever, Blumberg confirmed his relationship with prolific Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was one of his most important and productive agents over a period of many years. The article is in Hebrew, and also contains the only known photograph every taken of Benjamin Blumberg since his high-school days in pre-Israel Palestine. (link to the Maariv article is now available).

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Regency Staffers Whine about Arnon Milchan's Internal E-mail... And Leak It!

One would think that it is not unreasonable during these difficult economic times for the owner of any business to ask his staff to step it up a notch. And that is exactly what Arnon Milchan did in an internal e-mail. Apparently, one of his staff members felt so offended by the e-mail that they felt the need to leak it to a Hollywood gossip web site. A remarkably disloyal act. The e-mail:
From: Arnon Milchan
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 3:46 PM
To: * Group -Internal ALL NRP Only (Bldg.12)
Cc: Chase Carey; Tom Rothman; Jim Gianopulos; Oren Aviv
Subject: New Regency
I’ve committed $300M in fees which translates to $5 billon in movies and TV over the next 10 years, which forces me to have sleepless nights. I’d like to know what the 3-5 best connections you have in the movie industry, that can move the needle and create added value beyond what Fox does. I’d like to be reassured that if I don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. I can afford not to – you cannot. I’m contemplating a major decision, and before I do that, I need your feedback.
As a reminder, the world is heading into a huge financial crisis. I have only one request – be honest. I expect caring, pro-activity, creativity and thinking outside the box with tangible results. We’re not here to continue the old regime creatively, but to create a new world. If this is not within your reach, please be honest with me. I’ve done it for the last 35 years and built a great company – I do not feel I deserve to have it evaporate. I need a timeline for Regency to become the home of great TV and movie makers.
I expect you to improve on a conscious basis with our friends at NewsCorp and Fox. They’re our friends. I need accountability and responsibility. Anything less doesn’t work for me. This is not pep talk – this is serious. I’m just now finishing my day job at 2am, which are my regular working hours because of the time difference. I expect resolutions by the end of next week.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New York Times and Ha'aretz: Israeli Air Force Major (Ret.) Is Rebuffed by Milchan in His Efforts to Make a Documentary Film About Milchan

By the way, has anyone noticed that Documentarian Elan Frank, and
Arnon Milchan kind of look alike?
Arnon Milchan... not to be
Confused with Elan Frank
The New York Times states that "You don’t want an Israeli Air Force pilot on your tail, especially not the kind who has turned documentary filmmaker. But Elan Frank remains undeterred. “As a pilot in the air force, I’m very mission-oriented,” Mr. Frank said. “I won’t let go of it.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Milchan insists that his life as described in the book is "not worthy of being adapted". We can't imagine why! Mr. Frank is a Major in the Israeli Air Force and the recipient of a "Tzalash" (medal of courage) for his actions in combat on behalf of Israel. Mr. Milchan of course is a former operative for the LAKAM, a top secret Israeli intelligence outfit that has since been disbanded, at least officially. Ha'aretz' Yossie Melman also picked up the story.