Israel's Shimon Peres reflects on Hollywood's global influence
Israeli President Shimon Peres told a movie and television industry audience at the DreamWorks Animation studio lot in Glendale on Friday that Hollywood often wields more influence across the globe than world leaders do.
"The children believe the actors more than politicians," Peres said to a crowd that included Billy Crystal, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, CBS chief Les Moonves and Sony Pictures Chief Executive Michael Lynton, among other Hollywood executives.
After Katzenberg introduced the Israeli leader as "a real hero," Peres spoke for less than 10 minutes, urging "close cooperation between Hollywood and Israel" and reminding the audience that "among the founders of Hollywood there were many Jewish people."
Peres' visit to Los Angeles caps a weeklong U.S. tour for the Israeli president that included a private meeting with President Obama and an address at the Israel Political Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in Washington, a conversation with Charlie Rose before an audience in New York City and a stop at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Peres' trip comes at a time when Obama's policies toward Israel and Iran are in the spotlight and are a source of concern to many Hollywood Democrats.
Katzenberg is arguably Hollywood's biggest Obama backer and has donated more than $2 million to the president's "super PAC."
A few hundred DreamWorks Animation employees also clustered on the grass and around a cement fountain in the hot afternoon sun to take in the Israeli leader's remarks.
Prior to his speech, Peres toured DreamWorks with Katzenberg, and afterward the Israeli president attended a luncheon on the lot with a small group of VIPs.
Heavy security — including bomb-sniffing dogs, metal detectors and Secret Service agents — blanketed the studio lot for the event, which was arranged jointly with the Israeli consulate.
Thursday night, Peres spoke more specifically about politics, advocating patience for U.S. sanctions on Iran at an event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel attended by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He is expected to meet with Jewish and Latino leaders in Los Angeles over the weekend.
As president, the 88-year-old leader's role is by definition ceremonial. But Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his role in Mideast peace talks, has been an emissary for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abroad.
Peres pointed out one key difference between the work of his Hollywood audience and his own. With movies, Peres said, he expects a happy ending. In politics, "what's happening after the happy ending is so demanding and confusing."
— Rebecca Keegan
Photo: Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks at Dreamworks Animation SKG in Glendale. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.