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Bennett on Jewish Roots and Trek Transformation

By Michelle
November 12, 2006 - 4:24 AM

Writer-producer Harve Bennett spoke extensively about his Jewish roots, the experience of filming A Woman Called Golda and his relationship with the people at Paramount who worked on Star Trek with him, saying his background left him in a very good position to work on the franchise.

Bennett, whose name at birth was Chaim Fischman, explained that his parents were Ukranian and Russian and repeated his oft-told story about screening Star Trek IV in Moscow during the last years of the Soviet Union, where he said that the jokes played the same to a Russian audience. Speaking to the Israeli fan site Starbase 972, Bennett said that four chapters of his memoirs would cover the time he spent in Israel filming a biopic of Prime Minister Golda Meir starring Ingrid Bergman - a film that he felt played differently in Tel-Aviv than in Jerusalem.

"In Tel-Aviv we had an audience largely of theatrical people, movie people...they laughed a little bit harder," he recalled. Than we they showed it for the Knesset and the mayor of Jerusalem wept through most of the film, saying that it was good for Israel. "I had marvelous memories there...I had a wonderful time."

Bennett said that Star Trek III: The Search For Spock was the easiest script he ever wrote, since the storyline became obvious during the filming of predecessor The Wrath of Khan. "As a matter of fact, I wrote the last scene, first. Thatís how clear it was where we were going," he said. "When you are writing a script you have to know where youíre going, and the problem in writing a script is finding that out." He went from producing The Mod Squad for television to The Six Million Dollar Man to the Star Trek films, but he said he would not like to see his television series remade as movies the way so many have been.

Describing the long process of casting Bergman as Meir, Bennett explained that she knew she was dying of lymphatic cancer but she never told them. She repeatedly hedged on accepting the part, insisting that they screen test her, and kept blowing a simple line that was meant to close the film because she knew it would be the last of her career. The film was fraught with political difficulties such as the war in Beirut and the assassination of Anwar Sadat, which required recasting when the original actor backed out of the role.

Bennett attributed his success in part to the generation in which he grew up and his experiences as a veteran. "Because I'm a child of the greatest generation, because I lived through World War II as a boy, and because my family had wonderful ethics and though I was not raised orthodox, I was raised tribally to do the right thing...a lot of reasons for my success is that I usually told people the truth," he said. He was honest about Star Trek when he was asked to come work on the franchise, saying that he thought it was boring, but over time he came to appreciate the great episodes and to understand what fans appreciated in the show.

For more, including how Bennett convinced Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer that the fans were valuable and not liabilities, see the interview here.

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