Monday, October 29, 2007
Between Two Rivers, my friend and the Saddam Hussein dreamroll
18 years ago, in 1989, I left The Department of the Theater Arts in Tel Aviv university and joined a fringe production written by a friend who was studying with me, and served as assistant for director Rami Danon who was already a well known and reputed theater director. The young writer was Ilan Hatzor and the play was named "Reulim" (AKA "Masked") which is the Hebrew word for the face cover used by Palestinian activists, demonstrators guerrilla fighters and terrorists.
The play was about the story of three Palestinian brothers struggling with their loyalty to duty, family, principles and survival when one of them is accused of collaboration during the first Intifada. After about a year of hard work we went to the Acco Fringe Theater Festival and won 5 first prizes for best play, best leading actor, best decoration (Amnon Levi) best soundtrack and best direction (Rami Danon).
After it was purchased by The Cameri, a leading Israeli theater production house, I continued working with the Reulim production for almost two years. It was one of the most exciting times in my life. We played all over the country about 10-12 times a month, earned well and had time for lots of others things. But I also made a few very good friends with some of the folks in this production, mainly with Yigal Naor, the leading roll actor who won the first prize for his performance and was already becoming a mega star in the sky of Israeli Theater. The play gained enormous success, helped Ilan become a leading play writer and was recently even launched in the DR2 Theater in Union Square, New York as you can see in the above screenshot.
Here is a short bio of Yigal Naor, shown above (with his dear friend and wife Lilach, btw, not just "with a guest...") written by Nathan Southern from All Movie Guide:
"A thickset character actor with an exotic countenance (piqued by his bushy black eyebrows and bald pate), Yigal Naor opted to parlay his appearance into gritty, evocative portrayals of thugs and heavies onscreen -- often, though not always, characters of expressly Middle Eastern origin. He took his premier onscreen bows around 1987 but peaked in activity approximately two decades later, in the early 2000s. Memorable portrayals included that of a principal in the 2004 Israeli comedy Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi, the terrorist Mahmoud Hamshari in Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005) and the intimidating head of an underground prison in the thriller Rendition (2007)."
I think I can safely say Yigal and I liked each other from the minute we met. Other than being a huge muscled body person with a thunder tenor voice and a genius stage performer, which was pretty cool, Yigal had a very interesting history and very special views about life. That would be mainly as opposed to me who was hardly 20 years old and didn't know much of anything. I guess you can say he was like my older brother but anyway, as we got closer I learned about Yigal the most important thing there is to know about an actor: his dream roll.
Having a string Iraqi roots with his family immigrated to Israel from Iraq, and the time being the days of before, during and after the first Gulf War, when Israel was hit by Iraqi Scad missiles, Yigal had this wild dream-roll fascination about playing former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in some "bigtime international production". Well guess what. I have this list of people I know who fulfilled their life dream and this morning I was informed (Thanks Tammy!) it needs to be updated as the following news was published June 26, 2007 on hollywoodreporter.com (G, I am late...):
"HBO Films and the BBC are co-producing a four-hour miniseries that recounts the 24-year reign of Saddam Hussein. The four-part miniseries, titled "Between Two Rivers," will offer a detailed look at the inner workings of Saddam's family and his relationship with his closest advisers and shed light on his 1979-2003 reign as president of Iraq. Yigal Naor ("Munich") is set to play Saddam, while Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo ("House of Sand and Fog") will play his wife, Sajida. Another wife, Samira, will be portrayed by Christine Stephen-Daly ("The Bill")."
Well? what do you say about that? isn't this cool?
Between Two Rivers (IMDB)
Yigal Noar on IMDB
Masked in New York