Harvey Keitel to star in film version of Meir Shalev’s ‘Esau’
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Harvey Keitel to star in film version of Meir Shalev’s ‘Esau’

The cast of the modernized biblical tale includes Lior Ashkenazi, Mark Ivanir and Gila Almagor

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Harvey Keitel, who will star in a film adaptation of the Meir Shalev novel, 'Esau,' here with his wife, Daphna Kastner, whom he secretly married in Israel during the Haifa International Film Festival (David Shankbone/CC BY 3.0)
Harvey Keitel, who will star in a film adaptation of the Meir Shalev novel, 'Esau,' here with his wife, Daphna Kastner, whom he secretly married in Israel during the Haifa International Film Festival (David Shankbone/CC BY 3.0)

Actors Harvey Keitel and Lior Ashkenazi will star together in Russian director Pavel Lungin’s first English-language film, based on Meir Shalev’s novel “Esau,” in a modern retelling of the biblical story.

Israeli actors Gila Almagor, Shira Haas, and Mark Ivanir are also cast in the film, which presents a contemporary take on the tale of the biblical brothers.

Haas and Ashkenazi acted in last year’s “Foxtrot” together and Ivanir is well-known as an Israeli character actor who recently appeared in the TV series “Homeland” and “Transparent.”

The book tells the story of a writer, Esau, returning to his family’s home in Israel after a long sojourn in the US, where he confronts his brother, Yaakov, who robbed him of his love and profession.

“My film is a story of great love, return and merciless time,” Lungin told Variety, which first revealed that he was working on the project about a year and a half ago. “It tells us that there are things in life when time is not a great healer at all, and there are sorts of mistakes that simply shouldn’t be made.”

Writer Meir Shalev, whose book, ‘Esau,’ is being adapted for the big screen, at a ceremony in 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

The Esau character will be played by Ashkenazi, Ivanir will star as Yaakov and it hasn’t been stated what role Keitel will play.

Lungin, known for “Taxi Blues” and “Luna Park,” is a well-known filmmaker from Russia. He also directed several episodes of Russian TV political thriller series “Rodina,” which is based on the same Israeli show that became “Homeland” in the US.

Shalev is a prolific Israeli writer, having written more than 30 books. “Esau” is the first to be adapted for the screen.

“All authors write about love and death, memory and longing, passion and loneliness,” Shalev told Variety. “‘Esau’ is the best I could tell about all that.”

Filming for “Esau” is set for early April in central Israel, and it is slated to reach theaters in 2019.

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