Interviews

INTERVIEW: MENAHEM GOLAN

By • Aug 20th, 2008 • Pages: 1 2 3 4

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Menahem Golan, sometime in the 80's

Right off the bat I must admit that I am biased. I admire this man. Menahem Golan is approaching his 80th year and showing no sign of stopping. His latest film came out in Israel’s theaters in July, he is trying to get a large international production off the ground, has just directed a stage show, and has various other projects floating around. The man is a purist; his dedication and love for film is undeniable and scarce in today’s generation of filmmakers. Jerry Lewis coined the term, “The Total Filmmaker”; Golan fits the bill.

Golan is a pillar of the Israeli film industry; take him out of the equation and its history will collapse. From the 1960’s to the 1980’s, he and his cousin, Yoram Globus, were involved in the creation of every genre and trend in the industry as well as responsible for most of the Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations garnered by Israeli films.

In 1979, Golan and Globus bought The Cannon Group and for the next 10 years they produced a slew of action films, dance musicals, teen comedies, etc. By1986 they were producing more films per year then all the Hollywood studios put together. Golan often said he would feel like a criminal making one $30 million dollar film rather than 30 films for $1 million each. The quality of their product was far from consistent but often extremely popular. But they overextended themselves by taking over theater chain after theater chain in Europe, and eventually Thorn EMI in England. At the end of 1986 their financial problems were piling up and by the end of the decade they were going bankrupt.

Cannon’s importance and relevance to the American film industry has been downplayed. Their ultimate demise allowed for them to be forgotten. Their Hollywood misadventures are legendary, and it is easy to be critical since many people claim to have been hurt by Cannon. Producing films is no reason to mistreat anyone, but in reality that is the case with an endless line of film producers in a town that was built on backstabbing. While criticism is legitimate, their achievements should be looked upon as well. Shelly Winters, who worked with Golan many times, once compared the cousins to the old Hollywood moguls: “They’re like the old-style bastards. We hated them, but they loved films. They created great stars and great films.”

Cannon reached groundbreaking agreements with the Hollywood unions that made it possible for the independents to grow. They were amongst the first to utilize the home-video market and they created stars and genres that have an impact on Hollywood to this day (clearly the successful STEP-UP series is the evolution of BREAKIN’).

In the decade that preceded Miramax, before independent cinema was “hip”, before it became a genre rather then a reality, Golan pushed Cannon to take chances on many directors who had a hard time getting the major studios to produce their movies. A partial list includes John Cassavetes, Robert Altman, Andrei Konchalovski, Franco Zeffirelli, Jean Luc Godard, Lina Wertmüller, Norman Mailer and Fons Rademakers – whose Cannon-produced THE ASSAULT (1986) won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Roger Ebert said in 1987: “No other production organization in the world today has taken more chances with serious, marginal films than Cannon.”

In his diary from the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, “Two Weeks in the Midday Sun”, Ebert writes that for him, Golan was the hero of the festival. On May 7th, 1986, Variety printed this joke from Cannes:

“When Steven Spielberg got to the pearly gates, he asked St. Peter if Menahem Golan was inside. Assured Golan had not yet been called, Spielberg went in. On the heavenly throne, however, he spots an individual before a bank of phones barking commands, “Sign Dustin Hoffman, get me Coppola, buy Thorn EMI, sign Joan Collins for ‘Regine’!” Spielberg walks out in a huff, “I thought you said Menahem Golan wasn’t here” he blurts, “That’s not Menahem” replies St. Peter. That’s God. He just thinks that he’s Menahem”.

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7 Responses »

  1. Excellent interview with Menahem Golan,for he truly is a film industry great who’s often overlooked and underrated and I’m glad to see your interview giving Mr. Golan the major proper respect that he does deserve,as well as widely recognizing him for being an innovative and entertaining filmmaker with quite a legacy in both his directing career and his Cannon Films library.

  2. […] שי, במאי בדרך כלל, ראיין ארוכות את מנחם גולן לאתר Films in Review שהוא שותף להקמתו/עיצובו. רוב הסיפורים (למשל על רוג’ר […]

  3. Words can’t describe how awesome this interview is!

    Congratulations from Brazil.

  4. Great interview! Thanks for posting it.

  5. for 15 years I mailed cassettes to hollywood to get a film where I could write the music for and one day I got a fax from menahem telling me he wanted me to write the score for his next movie “the finest hour. I was very happy I asked 10000$ he gave me 25, so I did my first score with menahem, it was a unforgeteblel experiance!I can not thank him enough

  6. Manahem Golan has an incredible drive and passion for cinema. Having just read this interview I am struck even more with his cinematic verve. Both successes and failures are acclaimed in this interview with him. He developed the fine art of guerilla film making and turned out some amazing pieces as he became larger and more successful. I was fortunate to be in several of his films, including, “Over the Top,” “Schizoid,” and one that did not sell in Cannes that was shot in Minsk, Belarus, entitled “The Road to Glory.” I remember sitting next to him at a birthday dinner in Minsk, where he made the statement, “You don’t have to have a box office winner to make money.” Truer words! I would love to do another project with Manahem, any time! He was always very good to me and gave me chances where others did not. I have great appreciation for him. May he make many more films!

  7. I was lucky to have the privilege to meet this great and most famous director very closely when he came to India to shoot a film- Open Heart in Bombay. I was a unit Doctor for about one month . He also offered me a small role to play in the movie. It was the most exciting movement of my life to act in a film with this great director . i wish to meet him again and if permits wish to work with him again in his films.

    Dear M Golan, i wish and pray God for your long health life. God Bless You.

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