The following is an excerpt from a new book by Nicole Laporte from Variety titled “The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks.” I am mentioned in a section about the making of “Munich” by Steven Spielberg.
When the December 12 issue of Time magazine hit newsstands, its cover featured the very solemn-looking face of Steven Spielberg, alongside the headline “Spielberg’s Secret Masterpiece.” Inside was an exclusive story by Richard Schickel about Spielberg’s new movie, which began: The first and most important thing to say about “Munich” … is that it is a very good movie-good in a particularly Spielbergian way. By which one means that it has all the virtues we’ve come to expect when he is working at his highest levels. Such a media coup should have had publicists at Universal, which was releasing “Munich”, doing cartwheels. But the cover would prove to be a disastrous debacle that would damage Spielberg’s reputation with the media and hurt “Munich.” From the very moment Spielberg had become involved with “Munich”-a film about the secret Mossad hit squad that had been ordered to assassinate Palestinian terrorists after the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics-Spielberg had proceeded with even more secrecy than was customary for the director, due to the project’s political implications. Agents at CAA, which first presented him with George Jonas’s 1984 book, “Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team”, a major source of inspiration for the movie, were ordered to keep mum about the project and Spielberg’s involvement with it. The film’s script-whose code name was “Kings Cross”-written by Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth, was closely guarded, shown only to a core group of Spielberg’s consultants on the film: a mini state department, including his rabbi, Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross, Bill Clinton, Clinton’s press secretary Mike McCurry, and crisis consultant Allan Mayer. When Spielberg sent a copy of Vengeance to Clinton, his biggest concern was whether or not the book was factually accurate-he didn’t want to put the Spielberg imprimatur on a story of this weight and magnitude if it wasn’t true. After reading the script, Clinton said that while nothing had come across his desk during his eight years as president that confirmed the story, nor had he seen anything that denied it. This uncertainty made Spielberg hesitate (he’d already been through historical-veracity questioning on “Schindler’s List”)….
Taking its cue from “Vengeance”, Roth’s script was procedural, lacking in the way of human emotion and drama, none of which were present in the book. This, too, made Spielberg uneasy. Everything changed, however, when it was discovered that Avner, Jonas’s main source and the alleged head of the hit squad, was not, as had been believed, dead, but living in New York City, running a corporate securities company. His real name was Juval Aviv. Furthermore, Spielberg’s brain trust discovered FBI files proving that he and his team were not fictitious. When Aviv was contacted, and agreed to come out to L.A. to meet with Spielberg, the director was beside himself. During a meeting at Amblin, as Aviv chatted away about his story, including details, emotions, anecdotes, Spielberg played the role of the inquisitive schoolboy, at one point asking: How did you feel after killing somebody? Aviv replied that he had a habit of staring into the window of a kitchen supply store in Paris. Those simple symbols of domesticity, which reminded him of his family, were, he said, all that he had, and were what kept him going. (This anecdote would make it into “Munich.”)
Twenty minutes into the conversation, Spielberg knew he finally had his movie.