CATCHING UP WITH ONE WORTH CATCHING
BlackKkKlansman (see story in this issue) opened two weeks ago in theaters and its great reviews guarantee it will still be playing as you read this. It’s being heralded as the best Spike Lee movie in many years. It’s based on a 2014 memoir, Black Klansman, by Ron Stallworth, the first African American hired (1979) as a detective by the Colorado Springs police department. Stallworth, as depicted in the book and the film, is assigned to the department’s intelligence division and, in that capacity, he starts to investigate the local Klan chapter. Obviously, he can’t go undercover to infiltrate the Klan, so he recruits (in the film) a Jewish police officer, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver), to pretend to be a white racist and get info on the Klan. Stallworth (played by Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington) really did enlist a white detective to infiltrate the Klan. However, in real life, Zimmerman was not Jewish.
The credited screenwriters are Lee, African American comedian Kevin Willmott, and two white Jewish guys: David Rabinowitz and Charlie Wachtel, both 31. The “Jewish guys” gave their first in-depth interview about the “Jewishness” of the film Aug. 9 to Filmmaker magazine (online). First, the duo optioned the rights to Stallworth’s book. Then they began writing a screenplay. Rabinowitz told the magazine that a pivotal moment in their writing was when they decided to make the white cop Jewish. Wachtel said: “I think it was just a practical decision. If you’re going to be living with this character who is going to infiltrate the Klan, you may as well up the stakes by giving him some sort of personal attachment.” Rabinowitz then added: “It’s already high stakes that he’s going undercover. Making him Jewish just makes it that much more. On top of that, we’re both Jewish, so it just makes sense writing something a little bit more from our perspective; it was our way into the story.”
Wachtel and Rabinowitz reworked the script for a couple of years and sold it to Lee. Wachtel and Rabinowitz told Filmmaker that Lee and Willmott actually enhanced their script’s Jewish content and anti-Semitism (as well as racism) remained a big part of the film. (In other words, good work all around.)
ON THE HORIZON
Variety reports that Gal “Wonder Woman” Gadot, 33, is likely to star in a Showtime limited series about actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000). Variety says that Gadot was intrigued by an interesting take on Lamarr’s life presented to her by Sarah Treem. Treem, 38, is a critically acclaimed playwright who also has a lot of TV cred: She co-created and often wrote the HBO series In Treatment; she helped launch House of Cards on Netflix; and she created and often writes the Showtime hit An Affair.
Netflix is still showing Bombshell (see my June 14 column), an excellent documentary about Lamarr. If you watch Bombshell, you’ll see that Lamarr’s life was so multi-faceted and just plain weird that even an ordinary viewer of this documentary can appreciate that it would take an extraordinary writer, like Treem, to dramatize it accurately. I am especially interested in how Treem will address Lamarr’s relationship to her Jewishness. (By the way, the Wonder Woman sequel is slated to open November 2019).