Anyone watching HBO's ongoing miniseries "House of Saddam" surely must be struck by the lead actor's resemblance to the late Iraqi dictator. Me? I was struck by something else: his Israeli accent. "Why does Saddam Hussein sound like my old grocer in Jerusalem?" I called out before checking the movie credits online. (Yes, an Israeli, but no, not my grocer.)Ephron runs through a list of Israeli actors, including Topol from Fiddler on the Roof, who have portrayed Arabs--including Arab terrorists.
Israeli actors are often preferred, some in the industry say, because their English tends to be good and their acting style is Western—as opposed to the more florid, theatrical technique popular in Arab drama. "It's hard to find good actors anywhere," says Avy Kaufman, a New York casting agent. "Israel happens to have some phenomenal ones." In terms of technique, the crossover is not much of a stretch. Many Israeli actors grew up hearing Arabic and know something about the culture.Good for them!
Of course, the Arab moviegoers who end up seeing these movies probably don't see things that way.
Still, moviegoers across the Arab world must find it unsettling to see themselves so often depicted by their enemies. Arab conspiracy theorists, already convinced that Israel engineered the war on Iraq, must view "House of Saddam" as further evidence. As for my old grocer, he might be wasting his time. He could be a movie star.
Technorati Tag: Israeli Actors.