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Spotlight on Billionaire Arnon Milchan

"12 Years A Slave" - Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals

BY ROBERT WELKOS

BILLIONAIRE: ARNON MILCHAN

NET WORTH: $4.7 billion (Forbes); $4.2 billion (CelebrityNetWorth)

HOLLYWOOD CONNECTIONS: Producer began his Hollywood career in 1977 after being introduced to producer Elliot Kastner (“Harper”). Set up New Regency Productions in 1991. Has worked with directors like Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Oliver Stone, Roman Polanski and Sergio Leone. Company partnered with Warner Bros. and then 20th Century Fox. One of the producers of this year’s Oscar winning picture “12 Years a Slave.”

FILMS OF NOTE: “Pretty Woman,” “JFK,” “Fight Club,” “Heat,” “L.A. Confidential,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Noah.”

FILMS IN THE WORKS:
“Birdman.” Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Cast: Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis. IMDB logline: “A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.”

“The Revenant.” González Iñárritu to direct Leonard DiCaprio in this adventure/drama about 1820’s frontiersman who seeks vengeance against those who left him for dead after bear mauling.

“Assassin’s Creed.” IMDB logline: “A bartender is captured by a large corporation and is forced into a machine, named ‘The Animus,’ allowing him to relive the memories of his ancestors.”

NOTABLE HIT: “Pretty Woman.” The Garry Marshall-directed romantic comedy made Julia Roberts a box office star. Film budget: $14 million. North American box office: $178 million. And, Roberts received an Oscar nomination for best actress.

NOTABLE DUD: “Stay.” Forgettable Marc Forster-directed mystery/thriller starring Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts about attempts by a psychiatrist to prevent one of his patients from committing suicide. Film budget: $50 million. North American box office: $3.6 million.

BIO: Born in what was once British Mandate of Palestine in 1944. Attended London School of Economics. At 20, took over ill father’s struggling fertilizer business, turning it into one of Israel’s biggest chemical concerns. Recruited into top-secret Israeli intelligence agency Lekem. As a young man, hung out with future Israeli leaders Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Teddy Kolleck and Chaim Herzog. In 1985, Milchan’s name surfaced during a federal investigation into alleged clandestine efforts by Israel to obtain U.S. weapons technology but was never accused of wrongdoing. Subject of 2011 biography titled “Confidential: the Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan” by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman. Told Israeli TV program Uvda last year that he performed dozens of clandestine missions on behalf of Israel. Uvda also alleged Milchan was operating 30 companies in 17 countries on behalf of Israel.

MARITAL STATUS: Married to former South African tennis pro Amanda Coetzer. First marriage was to French model Brigitte Genmaire and occurred 10 days after they met. “The problems,” he told the L.A. Times, “began when I learned to speak French.”

LAVISH FACTS:
Milchan once shelled out $30,000 worth of poker chips when Israeli businessman Meir Teper approached him at a baccarat table and asked him to invest in his Ted Lapidus store at Caesars Palace.—L.A. Times.
“Milchan can still serve a tennis ball at 90 miles-an-hour. He likes to gamble, and loves good wine and leggy blondes.”—Luke Ford

QUOTABLES: “I really believe that I have the skills, the courage, the conviction and the know-how to make a difference in the peace process in the Middle East.”—Cigar Aficionado (2008)

“Everything is true except the fast cars.”—Q&A with Cigar Aficionado when asked to comment about a “60 Minutes” segment in which Steve Kroft says Milchan is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood and also happens to a trained scientist, a former soccer star and a high-stakes gambler who likes fast cars and a good time.

“To make all of your money from Jews in Hollywood, and then have a few drinks and say you hate Jews, is shocking. If you are so upset with the Jews, don’t work for them.”—Milchan quoted on Mel Gibson scandal by L.A. Times.

“I’m not an arms dealer. I don’t sell guns., I don’t sell rockets. If peole knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country.”—to interviewer on Israeli TV program Uvda as quoted by the BBC.

NUGGETS FROM 2000 LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE PROFILE:
“But given his combative nature, Milchan has had his share of skirmishes. ‘Arnon was a pirate, a buccaneer in Hollywood,’ says (director Terry) Gilliam (who made Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen with him). “He ran into Hollywood’s anti-semitism. They don’t like real Jews. They don’t like Israelis. Arnon has a Levantine soul. Everything is horse trading and carpet dealing.”

“Dinners, parties, nightclubs. He’s fun.”—Roman Polanski.
“His great skill was pretending that he’s very rich. He’d rent two cabanas—not one—at the Beverly Hills Hotel to out-impress the other big shots. It was his belief that Hollywood throws money at money. But he never spends his own money.”—Gilliam.

SCIENTOLOGY CONNECTION: Executive produced 2000 TV movie “Noriega: God’s Favorite” written by Lawrence Wright, author of best-selling book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief.” Produced 1985 Tom Cruise film “Legend.”

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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