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Arnon Milchan has led a secret double life. The kind of life one would read about in a John Le Carré spy novel or in a movie made by Hollywood colleagues Steven Spielberg or Oliver Stone. This is the story of a secret agent, of nuclear proliferation, billion-dollar high-tech defense transactions, ideology, patriotism, love, heartbreak, and the awe inspiring Hollywood career of a mysterious mogul. In a true story that puts James Bond to shame, Confidential details with nail-biting suspense how producer Arnon ...
Arnon Milchan has led a secret double life. The kind of life one would read about in a John Le Carré spy novel or in a movie made by Hollywood colleagues Steven Spielberg or Oliver Stone. This is the story of a secret agent, of nuclear proliferation, billion-dollar high-tech defense transactions, ideology, patriotism, love, heartbreak, and the awe inspiring Hollywood career of a mysterious mogul. In a true story that puts James Bond to shame, Confidential details with nail-biting suspense how producer Arnon Milchan evolved from his youth into one of the most important covert agents that Israeli intelligence has ever fielded. From Iran to South Africa, from Poland to Taiwan and the US, Confidential casts a global net to expose the legendary producer of blockbusters like Pretty Woman, LA Confidential, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman methodically unveil Arnon Milchan's role as a key player in many of Israel s most important intelligence operations. Confidential is packed with stunning new revelations and opens a window into the world of a key covert operative, who evolved into a genuine member of Hollywood's royal elite.
Posted July 29, 2011
Michael Cieply, LOS ANGELES - "Never, never tell jokes about a man with easy access to weapons of mass destruction," Peter Chernin, a former News Corporation official, once light-heartedly warned of Arnon Milchan, who has long tantalized Hollywood with his dual identity as a producer of popular movies and a businessman tied to the arms industry.
Mr. Chernin may have been even more right than he knew.
"Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan," written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, and set for publication on July 30 by Gefen Books, now holds that Mr. Milchan - whose credits include "Love and Other Drugs" and "Knight and Day" - at least through the mid-1980s was a full-fledged operative for Israel's top-secret intelligence agency, Lakam. (The acronym is from the Hebrew for the blandly named Science Liaison Bureau.)
In that capacity, according to the book, Mr. Milchan supervised government-backed accounts and front companies that financed "the special needs of the entirety of Israel's intelligence operations outside the country."
The "special needs" serviced by Mr. Milchan, who is now 66 years old, included buying components to build and maintain Israel's nuclear arsenal. But with the indictment in 1985 of Richard Kelly Smyth, an aerospace executive who had made illegal shipments of nuclear triggers through Milchan companies, Mr. Milchan unexpectedly found his arms-dealing in the news even as he was wrangling with Universal Pictures over the near collapse of a movie, "Brazil," directed by Terry Gilliam.
Mr. Smyth became a fugitive. He was finally arrested in 2001, convicted and imprisoned. He was released on probation in 2005.
Mr. Milchan was not accused of wrongdoing, but the case drew scrutiny to his activities in the arms business even as he stepped up his film career under deals first at Warner Brothers, then at 20th Century Fox, whose parent company bought a stake in his Regency Enterprises. In the glow of friendships with the likes of Brad Pitt and Robert De Niro, speculation about his intrigues seemed to fade - until a pair of unlikely biographers decided to figure out why Israel had been filtering a large part of its military budget through Hollywood hands.
Mr. Doron spoke recently over coffee at a patio cafe here, expressing puzzlement at Israel's reliance on a middleman to broker deals that seemingly could have been made without the services of his Milchan Brothers umbrella company and affiliates.
He was flanked by Mr. Gelman, who sipped watermelon juice, and joined in explaining how the two - who are brothers-in-law - conceived of writing about Mr. Milchan, who had been vaguely identified in Israel's press as the "Chuck Norris of the Lakam." Mr. Gelman, who was born in the United States, had lived in Israel and served as a paratrooper during the 1982 war in Lebanon. Mr. Doron had been a writer and editor specializing in Israeli military issues.
Never having written together, they began culling public records and published accounts. Eventually, they met Mr. Smyth, who was by then living in Lompoc, Calif., and, with his story in hand, cobbled together a draft of their book before approaching Mr. Milchan.
"Should I be concerned?" Mr. Milchan asked during a first conversation by phone in 2009, Mr. Gelman said. A major worry, Mr. Gelman told him, was the impression that...
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Posted August 4, 2011
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