The most influential person in Tinseltown is Jewish. Or so says The Hollywood Reporter. Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, tops an inaugural list of 100 prominent players that the show biz publication released this week.
Iger captured the title for his savvy leadership at the helm of the world’s largest media company, according to THR.
And if Hollywood’s many other most powerful Jews were ever a secret, they certainly aren’t now. This “nachas parade” of creative and financial influencers is an insider’s look highlighting everyone from execs and producers, to directors, creatives, stars and their reps.
Packed with familiar surnames, it might be considered at least a partial Jewish “Who’s Who.” It also includes brief interviews and highlights specific achievements as “big wins” and “big bets,” because, as every macher knows, that’s what it takes to make it in Hollywood.
There are scores of widely recognized Jews on the list, including legendary filmmaker, director and producer Steven Spielberg, No. 16, which it describes as the industry’s most influential director. The inaugural listing of the “THR100” ranks prominent industry players both behind and in front of the camera based primarily on one criterion, namely, clout.
THR 100 coverage also includes a spate of companion pieces about other players, with a wealth of Jews among them, too. Perhaps the most overtly Jewish interview within the extensive THR 100 media coverage accompanying the new listing is that of New Regency Picture’s elusive owner.
Israeli-born billionaire and “mega-producer” Arnon Milchan, 71, whose investments include Puma sportswear, landed No. 49 on the list. In a rare interview, Milchan discusses his success with the film, “The Revenant,” as well as the downsides of the industry. The picture grossed $533 million in global box office but the mounting production costs constituted a large gamble totaling $140 million.
“If somebody asked me ‘What’s a good way to make money?’ I would say, ‘Stay away from the movie business, period,’” Milchan told the Reporter.
Milchan also discussed his busy travel schedule and his many children, saying his children live in Israel part of the year. “I love it,” he told THR. “I follow the sun. Israelis and Jews like myself don’t like to be cold.”
He also denied working as a spy and an arms dealer, as suggested by the book, “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan.”
“I definitely helped Israel and I still will,” he said. “Listen, I’m an 11th generation [Israel] — 400 years, mother, father, all the way to King David.”
‘I definitely helped Israel and I still will’
In his interview, Milchan also discussed former Israeli President Shimon Peres, 92. Milchan recounted their conversation for THR, saying that when he recently shared his own gloomy prospects for the peace process Peres told him, “Don’t look down. If you never looked up to the sky, you’d have no chance to see the stars. Look at your shoes, you only see your shoes.”
As part of the power list package, LHR’s President and Chief Creative Officer Janice Min disclosed how they compiled rankings, which admittedly reflects a lack of diversity.
“First, some clarification on how power was defined,” Min said. “Like beauty, it often is in the eye of the beholder. That’s a given. I know this list will be dissected, criticized and scrutinized. Since the beginning of the year, editors and writers spent many, many hours engaging in dozens of off-the-record conversations with the town’s top players — and battling in our own conference rooms — trying to measure something intangible: clout.”
A stark lack of women and ethnicity characterizes the list
Other considerations include the ability to get or give a green light to a project. Access to vast financial resources was also weighed, as was another critical element, fame.
A stark lack of women and ethnicity characterizes the list. Among 124 people who constitute several shared groupings, only 19 women and 10 people of color appear. These include six African-Americans, two Asians, two Latinos.
As Min explained, “Yes, we know that a lot of this list is white guys. We won’t need social media, thanks anyway, to drop an anvil on our heads to realize this.”
“I’d like to think we cover the issues of gender and diversity that plague Hollywood with a critical eye and will continue to. And I hope and expect that one day in the near future this list has a wholly improved and reflective composition,” wrote Min.
Appearing as a countdown in descending order from 100 to 1, Jewish names are widely apparent. Some of the list’s personalities are not yet household names–though they may be now. No. 98, for instance, is Jason Blum, the founder/CEO, Blumhouse Productions who left the horror genre for a “Benji” remake, which constitutes his “big bet” according to THR. Blum’s microbudget pics, “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious” and “The Purge” and franchise films have grossed more than $1.6 billion on combined budgets of less than $80 million. “The Visit” made $99 million on a $5 million budget and “Insidious: Chapter 3” took in $113 million worldwide on $10 million.
Brian Grazer, No. 95, who benefited from an early stamp of approval from entertainment mogul David Geffen, founder of Dreamworks SKG, Asylum Records, Geffen Records and DGC Records, whose parents met in British-mandated Palestine and later moved to New York. Geffen appears in a piece on consiglieres — behind the scenes advisors and influencers who have helped others make their careers.
Writer/producer Aaron Sorkin ranks No. 91, and Viacom President Doug Herzog comes in at No. 89.
Sharing the ranking of No. 78, are Jeff Skoll and David Linde, founder/chairman and CEO of Participant Media. Skoll ousted former eBay CEO Jim Berk, and aligned with “Hollywood’s most important director,” Steven Spielberg, by making a $200 million equity investment in his new Amblin Partners; and tapped veteran Linde, 56, as CEO, THR reports.
Most listings include tidbits of biographical information yielded from interviews that also reveal a wider web of professional connections. Director producer Judd Apatow, for instance, holds the No. 52 spot. He told THR his agent, David Kramer, is one of his top advisers. Continue down the rankings as the list counts down and Kramer also appears at No. 36. He shares that ranking he shares with two colleagues Jeremy Zimmer and Jay Sures, CEO and managing directors of United Talent Agency. The company represents A-listers such as Channing Tatum and creators such as Chuck Lorre.
As readers scroll through the listing, a bevy of Jewish monikers appears throughout. At No. 35 is Sue Kroll, Toby Emmerich and Greg Silverman, all presidents in various capacities for Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. At 33, is Robert Greenblatt and Jennifer Salke, chairman and president of NBC. No. 32, is Tom Rothman, Chairman of Sony Pictures, who considers Spielberg his most important adviser and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the most powerful person he ever met, while his law professor at Columbia.
Rothman’s influence is far-reaching. Karen Rosenfelt, for instance, who left Paramount in 2005, was aiming for a production deal at Fox 2000. A call from former actress and Jewish studio exec Sherry Lansing, who is no longer in show biz, to former Fox co-chief Rothman, and Rosenfelt landed the gig.
Under a broader understanding of who is a Jew, actor Robert Downey, Jr. comes in at No. 97. He and actor/screenwriter and producer Amy Shumer, No. 88, both have some paternal Jewish ancestry.
Do you rely on The Times of Israel for accurate and insightful news on Israel and the Jewish world? If so, please join The Times of Israel Community. For as little as $6/month, you will:
We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.
That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.
So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.
For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel