Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh: Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz Letter on Israel 'Makes My Blood Boil' (Exclusive)
"Anyone calling it Israeli 'genocide' vs. protecting themselves are either the most ignorant people about the situation and shouldn't be commenting, or are truly anti-Semitic."
Relativity Media CEO Ryan Kavanaugh has become the first major Hollywood executive to weigh in on last week's controversial letter, signed by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, that denounced what it called Israeli "genocide."
"It makes my blood boil," Kavanaugh told The Hollywood Reporter. "As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, anyone calling it Israeli 'genocide' vs. protecting themselves are either the most ignorant people about the situation and shouldn't be commenting, or are truly anti-Semitic."
In response to the escalating conflict in Gaza, Cruz and Bardem were among a group of Spanish film luminaries to pen an open letter that urged the European Union to "condemn the bombing by land, sea and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip." Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar also was among the signees, but Cruz and Bardem — both Oscar winners in their own right — work regularly in major studio films. Both later clarified their positions, though neither took back their original words.
In an Aug. 2 letter, actor Jon Voight chastised Cruz and Bardem, calling their opinions "ignorant." But with the exception of Kavanaugh, Hollywood's power brokers have remained quiet.
"I'm extremely disappointed in Hollywood for its silence in the face of this letter," he said. "They don't get it. The silence we are witnessing particularly from our industry when Israel faces the most danger of being wiped out that it has faced in our lifetime is akin to the silence when concentration camps started during World War II."
Kavanaugh, whose paternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors, added that he is not surprised that this letter originated in Spain, where he says anti-Semitism is at a place of red alert. "All those Jews who think another Holocaust couldn't happen should go visit Spain and many parts of Europe."
Privately, many studio heads have echoed Kavanaugh's words, saying Cruz and Bardem are "uninformed" and "irresponsible." "People are furious about this," said one insider.
Kavanaugh, whose Relativity has co-financed and produced such films as Fast & Furious 6, 21 Jump Street and The Social Network, has spent a great deal of time in Israel and Gaza, and works to arrange trips for business leaders, politicians and fellow industryites to tour the region and meet with soldiers on both sides to get a full picture of the landscape.
While he wouldn't address whether he would work with either Bardem or Cruz again, Kavanaugh did take a shot at President Obama, long a sacred cow among Hollywood's elite.
"What's a real shame is our leader who is supposed to be the president of the armed forces isn't leading and stepping in to help our biggest ally (Israel) but instead is effectively suggesting a solution that ensures the eradication of Israel," he said. "As a Jew, I'm shocked that other Jews in America and our industry aren't being more proactive."
Cruz and Bardem aren't the only celebrities to take a stance critical of Israel's response in the Gaza conflict. Jonathan Demme and Mark Ruffalo also have voiced their objections to Israeli's military efforts, but none have used language as provocative as the Bardem/Cruz letter.
"It certainly reminds me of the amount of ignorance we have in our business," he continued. "We are so ready to jump with our opinions without having facts. The fact is the Palestinians fighting in Gaza have made it very clear that they want to kill all of the Jews. Any suggestion that we should allow them to move in as neighbors within a spitting distance of Israel is ignorant and can only be taken as anti-Semitic. That solution would allow the destruction of Israel."