Arnon Milchan, the producer of films such as 12 Years A Slave, Pretty Woman and Fight Club, admitted this week that for many years of his Hollywood career he doubled as a spy for Israel, involved with arms dealing as well as work related to the country’s nuclear program.
Milchan, the chairman of New Regency Films, spoke publicly about his intelligence work for the first time on Monday, in a special for the Israeli show Uvda.
“Do you know what it was like to be a 20-something guy whose country decided to let him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exciting,” Milchan told Uvda, later adding: “I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.”
Milchan was recruited by current Israeli President Shimon Peres in the 1960s, and worked for the Israeli intelligence agency Lekem until around the mid-’80s — well after he began a career in the Hollywood film industry.
According to David Caspi of the Hollywood Reporter, “Milchan was selected then as a liaison for the secretive Bureau of Scientific Relations, Lekem, which was founded to obtain technology and material for Israel’s nuclear program. Over the years, the 68-year-old Milchan handled clandestine deals involving Israeli military acquisitions, and promoted Israeli’s nuclear project.”
Though, until now, nothing had ever been confirmed, many Hollywood elites had an inkling about Milchan’s side projects. For instance, Robert De Niro. ”I had heard but I wasn’t sure. I did ask him once and he told me that he was an Israeli and of course he would do these things for his country,” De Niro says in the special.
A 2011 unauthorized biography of Milchan, called Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon- Arnon Milchan, fueled many of the rumors about Milchan’s work as a “key covert operative, who evolved into a genuine member of Hollywood’s royal elite,” as the book puts it.
Confidential also quotes other Hollywood executives who, similarly to De Niro, had their suspicions. ”Beyond the whispers and the movies, few people know of Arnon’s role in supplying Israel with its defense needs, and in creating its ultimate deterrence capabilities,” Viacom owner Sumner Redstone said of Milchan, according to the book. “I and most people don’t know the details, but I suspect just enough to consider him a great man.”
And Peter Chernin, chairman and CEO of Fox Entertainment, is quoted as once joking about Milchan: “Never, never tell jokes about a man with easy access to weapons of destruction.”
“In Hollywood, they don’t like working with an arms dealer, ideologically… with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing,” Milchan says in the special. “Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I’m not an arms dealer. If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country.”
Many questions remain, but perhaps the biggest one is how long it will take Hollywood — or Milchan himself — to option the rights to this story.
Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1936 film Sabotage from the novel The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad is a free VOD on demand.filmon:
You might also like: