Arnon Milchan was born 12/6/44 in Palestine. He describes himself as a "10th-generation Palestinian. My family's been there for 500 years. My grandfather was a very close friend of President Weizman." (Los Angeles Magazine, 4/00)
Milchan's father "laid the sprinklers that irrigated Israel." Later, he grabbed many of Israel's military contracts. (Los Angeles Magazine, 4/00)
Arnon played soccer for Israel. He studied bio-chemistry. He was an undercover operative for the Israeli government and an international arms dealer.
Milchan can still serve a tennis ball at 90 miles-an-hour. He likes to gamble, and loves good wine and leggy blondes.
Arnon put his father's company on the international map. He mareketed a new nutrient that quadrupled citrus production, bringing his company big sales around the world. "This is a man who made his fortune by screwing with nature," says screenwriter Shawn Slovo, who served as Arnon's secretary in 1977. "He's the Israeli who made the desert bloom. Amazing when you think about it. He could have retired at the age of 22." (Los Angeles Magazine, 4/00)
Around age 22, Milchan met French model Brigitte Genmaire in the lobby of a Tel Aviv hotel. "She converted to Judaism when she was nine months' pregnant," says Milchan. "It was funny, because part of her vows was declaring to the rabbi that she was a virgin." They had three kids. "The problems began when she learned Hebrew and I really learned French. When we could finally communicate with each other, then there were problems." (Los Angeles Magazine, 4/00)
Around 1970, Arnon hung out at a Tel Aviv restaurant with ambitious young Israelis such as Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Teddy Kolleck, and Chaim Herzog. Arnon briefly considered a political career. He decided against it but the contacts he made were useful for selling weapons.
Ann Louise Bardach writes in the April 2000 issue of Los Angeles Magazine: "Throughout the 1970s, '80s, and even up until the Gulf War in 1991, Milchan was Israel's foremost weapons procurer, brokering deals for such prized superweapons as the Hawk missile and the famous Scud-foil of the Gulf War, the Patriot - "everything from nuclear triggers to rocket fuel to guidance systems," according to NBC News. At different times in his career, his Israeli company, Milchan Brothers, has represented arms manufacturers such as Raytheon, North American Rockwell, Beechraft, Bell Helicopter and Magnavox..."
Bardach writes that Milchan bristles at being called an arms dealer. "I'm their rep in Israel." He says he's never sold to countries other than Israel.
Milchan is worth about a billion dollars. He controls 30 companies in 17 countries, everything from chemicals and agribusiness to arms consulting and sports apparel. According to London's Sunday Times of 1985, Milchan is the heir to a large chemical manufacturing fortune. He prefers to describe himself as a self-made millionaire. (Losing the Light, pg. 1)
Milchan describes himself as "young, slim, good-looking, amiable and clever." He likes to wear tinted spectacles, double-ply cashmere and scuffed leathers and open-necked silk shirts exposing his hairy chest. (Losing the Light, pg. 1)
Accountant Steve Abbott, who began working with actor-director Terry Gilliam in 1979, describes Milchan as "a producer of the no-hands-on school. He knows the heads of Hollywood studios and major heads of finance in Europe and puts people together." (Losing the Light, pg. 2)
On The Adventures of Baron Munchausen movie, Abbott was furious to find Milchan charged the film for all kinds of his personal expenses. (Losing the Light, pg. 3)
"The main kick for Milchan is in the glamor aspect, getting to schmooze movie stars and power brokers, the 'starfucker' phenomenon," said Abbott. (Losing the Light, pg. 1)
Terry Gilliam had lunch one day with 20th Century Fox executive Scott Rudin, who said the studio had paid Milchan $150,000 to develop Munchausen. Fox wanted its money back.
Gilliam was shocked. This was the first he'd heard of Fox paying Milchan for the movie. Gilliam thought he was partners with Milchan on Munchausen. Why hadn't he been informed? Where did the money go? Gilliam remembered paying McKeown out of his own pocket because Milchan wouldn't.
Gillian had dinner that night with Arnon Milchan. As they were leaving the restaurant, Gilliam said to Milchan, "By the way, Scott Rudin wants the $150,000 back Fox paid you."
Andrew Yule writes in his book Losing the Light: "In an instant the smile was wiped off Milchan's face. The veins on his neck began to bulge. His face, says Gilliam, turned purple with rage. "You think you are so smart, Terry," Milchan finally blurted out. You think you know everything." Then he stormed past everyone and out into the night. Gilliam has not spoken to Milchan since."
Gilliam: "[Arnon] been demanding ridiculous things from Charles [McKeon, writer] and not paying him, and all the time he'd quietly pocketed Fox's money. Arnon can be great, but when it comes to money there's something - I don't know - bit sjust don't seem to connect." (Losing the Light, pg. 20)
Writer Charles McKeown on Milchan: "You just never know whether he was telling the truth or not. The kind of deals he was in, the level of finance and the way he operated, seemed to me like a world upside down. I felt we were dealing with a sort of dangerous, shady quality. He boasts enormous wealth and clearly wants to be seen as the most generous individual.
"When it came to getting ten thousand pounds out of him for some work he actually owed me, forget it. My agent spent months phoning him all over the world and getting no reply. He seemed to be quite pathological in his desire not to part with money." (Losing the Light, pg. 3-4)
To leave the Munchausen project, Milchan initially asked for nothing. A few months down the road, he demanded the Gilliam and company pay back Fox the $150,000 Arnon had been given, as well as pay Arnon $750,000.
"Arnon was a pirate, a buccaneer in Hollywood," says Gilliam. "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." A top Hollywood executive once warned Oliver Stone to stay clear of Milchan. "He told me that Arnon was a Middle Eastern rug dealer. Beware," recalls Stone, embittered from business dealings gone sour. "I should have listened to him. He was right."
"Arnon has to screw everyone - partners, friends - literally, figuratively, in every sense of the word," says Gilliam. "It's pathological. He can't stop himself. At some point, he needs to invent an enemy.
"Arnon could be king of the world - if he only stopped doing petty, stupid things." (Los Angeles Magazine, 4/00)
CBS reporter Steve Kroft in the 3/5/00 edition of the TV show 60 Minutes: "[Arnon Milchan's] Regency Productions logo is instantly recognizable to anyone who regularly goes to the movies. He`s bankrolled all or part of 60 films, and in the process changed the way business is done in Hollywood. Milchan`s Regency Productions puts down huge sums of money and pays the studios -- first Warner Brothers and now Fox -- a fee for distribution and marketing. Regency owns the movie and keeps a big chunk of the profits."
Journalist Anita Busch: "He`s extremely powerful because he brings money to the table. He`s unique in that way. He`s got a credit line that`s astronomical, like, you know, almost a billion dollars."
Kroft: "Milchan was born and raised outside Tel Aviv in a well-connected middle-class family that can trace its roots there back 10 generations. From his father, he inherited $61,000 and a failing fertilizer company, which he quickly turned into a $100 million chemical business. By his mid-20s, he was already featured on Israeli television as a promising young businessman who was beginning to branch out into all sorts of things, eventually becoming one of Israel`s largest arms dealers, although he hates the sound of the words."
Milchan bought Hawk and Patriot missiles for Israel. He acted as a middleman between American defense contractors like Rockwell and Raytheon and the Israeli ministry of defense.
Israeli decided in the early seventies that it needed to develop its own arms industry. Milchan offered his help to Shimon Peres, then Israel's minister of defense. Potential clients for Israel were countries embargoed by the US such as South Africa.
While the United States refused to sell weapons to the apartheid government, Israel did. The two countries eventually cooperated on the development of missiles and nuclear weapons. Milchan facilitated these transactions.
military arrangement between South Africa and Israel included not just arms sales but, some believe, cooperation on developing missiles and even nuclear weapons. And Arnon Milchan, by his own admissions, helped facilitate those transactions.
Milchan told 60 Minutes: "I was playing an important role in the system of collecting money from South Africa, or transferring money, or helping South Africa in their financial transactions."
According to 60 Minutes, some of the money Milchan moved around the world came from an illegal $100 million slush fund set up by the South African government used to buy off politicians and foreign media outlets critical of its policies.
U.S. court records show that one of Milchan's companies in Israel secretly bought restricted equipment for what looked like nuclear weapons. The seller was an American company called Milco. It was headquartered in a business mall in Huntington Beach, California, until its president, Richard Smythe fled the country after being indicted for illegally shipping 800 sophisticated electronic timing devices called chrythrons to Israel, in violation of U.S. export law. Chrythrons can be used to trigger nuclear explosions.
It wasn`t just chrythrons that Milco was selling to Arnon Milchan`s various enterprises. According to company records, Heli- Trading and Milchan Brothers also ordered chemicals for solid- fuel rockets, lasers, high-voltage condensers, and delay lines used to separate missile stages. One director of the company, a nuclear scientist named Robert Meinhard told 60 Minutes he finally resigned after Milchan asked him to obtain advanced nuclear reactor designs and a supply of uranium hexachloride, which is used in the enrichment of uranium to bomb-grade quality.
5/24/01 African News Service
In 1976 I had just written a book about the arms trade, The Arms Bazaar, which described some of the more sinister transactions between governments and arms dealers; I was especially interested in dealings with South Africa, which at the time was under an arms embargo.
I was approached by a well-known producer, Elliott Kastner, himself somewhat enigmatic, who wanted to make a movie out of it. He wanted me to write a screenplay, though the real backer of the film, he told me, would be an Israeli called Arnon Milchan, who was new to the movie business but who was "the biggest hunk of manpower I've ever met". Milchan, he said, moved at the speed of light, with no office or secretary: "His office is his mind." He enjoyed courting danger and flew around the world with a briefcase containing $75 000 in different currencies.
Soon afterwards I received several quick-fire phone calls from Milchan in Israel: he wanted to meet me urgently. He hired a private plane and appeared at my London home in tennis shoes and sports clothes, and carrying a black briefcase with a row of six combination locks. He seemed more like a movie star than a producer: glamorous, young and filmic. He told me that he came from an old Israeli family and had inherited a fertiliser company, which he had transformed into a very profitable chemical combine. But he really wanted to create. He could not be a writer or a painter, so he had decided to become a film producer. Above all, he wanted to make a film about the arms trade.
Peter Bart writes: "While most successful producers work the studios, Arnon Milchan, the Henry Kissinger of filmmakers, has built his power base on a globe-spanning alliance made up of the octopus-like Rupert Murdoch, Australian billionaire Kerry Packer, German media mogul Leo Kirch, and the giant Samsung Corporation of South Korea. Wielding global clout, Milchan has spawned such moves as Tin Cup and A Time to Kill by reminding Hollywood that if a studio doesn't do things his way, he can go ahead and shape his own destiny. The Israeli-born Milchan understands the nuances of Hollywood better than perhaps any other foreign producer, yet he also possesses a keen knowledge of what will play around the world. Given that the market outside the United States now accounts for well over fifty percent of all movie revenue, Milchan's command of the foreign market and his gift for complex intercontinental dealmaking have earned him a unique place in the Hollywood firmament."