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Will the Basterds Take Israel?

Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious’ producer hopes so

Allison Hoffman
August 20, 2009

By now, we’ve heard plenty about how Quentin Tarantino is using his new film, Inglourious Basterds, to undo decades of Jewish victimization in Holocaust movies, by casting his renegade crew of Nazi scalp-hunters as angry American Jews. We’ve heard relatively less about the man who made it all possible: Tarantino’s longtime producer, Lawrence Bender, who told the Jewish Journal that he was thrilled not just to avenge Jews killed in the Holocaust, but to re-direct his lingering anger at the kids who taunted him as “Bender kike” in high school.

“As a fan, I thank you; as your producer, I thank you; as a member of the Jewish tribe, I thank you,” Bender recounted telling Tarantino after reading the first draft of the script. (He said something similar, though saltier, to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in the magazine’s September issue: “As your producing partner, I thank you, and as a member of the Jewish tribe, I thank you, motherfucker, because this movie is a fucking Jewish wet dream.”) The 51-year-old bachelor, who put together financing for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, also helped finance the relatively more wholesome Good Will Hunting, which led to an audience at Camp David with Bill Clinton, and, in turn, a second career as a Democratic fundraiser and Israel activist (he’s involved both with AIPAC and the left-leaning Israel Policy Forum). While German critics have lauded Basterds—they do, after all, sort of have to—Bender told the Journal he’s more interested to see how it plays in Israel: “I feel it’s like a little pin in the hay, like, ‘Hey guys, go to Israel.’ I think it’s such a great place, and Hollywood does need to focus on it more.”

Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.