10 things you might not know about the man who introduced the world to Jean-Claude Van Damme
Menahem Golan's life has been far from ordinary.
When Menahem Golan died on Aug. 8 at the age of 85, the world of cinema lost one of its hardest-working and most prodigious filmmakers. The Israeli director, writer and producer was not only responsible for introducing the world to the kickboxing superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme, he also brought hundreds of films to theaters around the world. With that in mind, we compiled 10 things you might not already know about Golan and his lengthy film career.
1. He had more than 200 producing credits during his career.
Golan's IMDB page is long and filled with 210 producing credits, 46 directing credits and 43 writing credits (not to mention a few additional acting and miscellaneous crew member credits). He earned his first producing credit for the 1964 film "Shemona B'Ekevot Ahat," and his final credit appears on the film left in production upon his death (where Golan was also writer and director), titled "Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East." Some of the films he produced during his career include "Death Wish II," "Breakin'" and its infamous sequel "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo," "The Delta Force," "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" and "Masters of the Universe."
2. He worked with some of Hollywood's greatest action stars of all time, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris.
Hollywood could make a new "Expendables" film just by using actors that Golan worked with. Not only did he introduce the world to the kicking and punching legend Jean Claude Van Damme with the 1988 classic fight film "Bloodsport," but Golan also worked with many of the great action stars, including Chuck Norris ("The Delta Force"), Sylvester Stallone ("Over the Top"), Charles Bronson (the "Death Wish" series), Christopher Reeve ("Superman IV: The Quest for Peace") and Dolph Lundgren ("Masters of the Universe").
3. Golan was nominated for awards several times, including three Razzies.
Golan received several award nominations, the most prestigious likely being the 1978 nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for "Operation Thunderbolt." In 1994, he received the Ophir Prize of the Israeli Film Academy for his Lifetime Achievement in cinema and, in 1999, Golan was given the Israel Prize (often regarded as Israel's highest honor) for his work in film. The award nominations were not all positive, though. He was also nominated three times during his career for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture (1984 for "Cannonball Run," 1987 for "Tough Guys Don't Dance," and 1988 for "Cobra"). Often called the Razzies, the award ceremony is a tongue-in-cheek look at the year's "worst" films, though many do fine at the box office.
4. Two documentaries about Cannon Films were released, to rave reviews, this year.
Many of the films that Golan produced in the 1980s and early 1990s fell under the Cannon Group production company that he took control of in 1979, with his cousin Yoram Globus. Fans of the Cannon Films banner made the production company so popular that Australian director Mark Hartley decided to make a documentary about Golan, Globus and their company. It was called "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films." The documentary, named after Cannon's cult classic hit "Electric Boogaloo," recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to some great reviews (and a story in the New York Times), and has continued to bring in new fans at film festivals around the world.
In addition to Hartley's film, Hilla Medalia also made a documentary about the duo called "The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films," which premiered earlier this year.
I feel very privileged to spend all this time with Menahem in the last 3 1/2 years of his life. Being in Cannes with the film, and Menahem and Yoram, I feel in many ways was a closed circle. - Hilla Medalia, director of "The Go-Go Boys"
"It is very inspiring to see what [Golan and Globus] did and how they worked," Medalia told From the Grapevine. "They worked very, very hard and were always being very creative in their thinking of how to fund the films, and how to sell them."
"The other amazing thing," she continued, "is that Menahem was always very, very positive. In the film there is a scene where we argue because I asked him to talk about his failures. And he basically said that if he had a failure, he deleted it. I feel very privileged to spend all this time with Menahem in the last 3 1/2 years of his life. Being in Cannes with the film, and Menahem and Yoram, I feel in many ways was a closed circle."
5. In addition to his production roles, Golan also directed more than 40 movies.
Menahem Golan's first directing credit comes from his 1963 film "El Dorado," which he set in his native Israel. He broke into the American zeitgeist as a director with 1981's "Enter the Ninja" before directing "The Delta Force," "Over the Top," "Mack the Knife," and 2002's "Crime and Punishment" starring Crispin Glover.
6. He got his start (like many in Hollywood) alongside Roger Corman.
Ask anyone who the most important figures in Hollywood over the last century are and they'll probably rattle off a bunch of the same names you hear every day. Few, however, would probably mention Roger Corman, but the fact is that he was a force behind many stars and great directors. Corman helped to launch the career of actor Jack Nicholson, and he also gave legendary directors Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Ron Howard, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme and Francis Ford Coppola a shot at filmmaking when they were just starting out. Add to that list Menahem Golan, who worked alongside Corman as a production assistant on 1963's "The Young Racers."
7. He once struck a deal with French directing great Jean-Luc Godard at the Cannes Film Festival that was signed on a bar napkin.
According to the New York Times, Golan once made a deal with renowned French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, at the Cannes Film Festival, to direct a film version of "King Lear." Godard did eventually direct the film, released in 1987, but the most interesting part of the transaction is the fact that Golan reportedly had the director sign on for the deal on a napkin at a hotel bar. Anything to get the deal done!
8. The first movie Golan directed was set in his native Israel and starred Topol ("The Fiddler on the Roof").
Menahem Golan's directorial debut was a crime film named "El Dorado." Based on a Yigal Mosenzon play, the film was set in Israel and co-written by Golan, Amatsia Hiuni and Leo Filler. The most noteworthy fact about the film, however, is that it stars Chaim Topol (who is often referred to as simply Topol) in the lead role. The Israeli actor became a household name by playing Tevye in the 1971 film "Fiddler on the Roof" and went on to win two Golden Globe awards and be nominated for both an Academy Award and a Tony Award during his career. While you won't find "El Dorado" on DVD here in the states, it has been released overseas, so hungry cinephiles can track it down if they try hard enough.
9. He worked in nearly every cinematic genre during his career.
With the amazing output of Cannon Films on his resume, it's not that hard to believe that Golan has either produced, directed or written in nearly every genre of film throughout his illustrious career. He was involved in productions of dramas, horror films, action films, supernatural films (sometimes all in the same film! see: "Ninja III: The Domination"), comedies, romantic films, documentaries and even Shakespearian adaptations. If anything, Golan was far from picky when it came to the types of films he chose to make.
10. Golan's career (even posthumously) is not yet over.
While Golan may be gone, that doesn't mean his cinematic career is over. And for someone who worked as feverishly as Menahem Golan, this should hardly come as a surprise. In addition to the two documentaries about Golan making their way around the world, one of which he actually appears in ("The Go-Go Boys..."), according to IMDB, the film that Golan was attached to produce, write and direct called "Allan Quatermain and the Jewel of the East" was still in production at the time of his death. While we have to assume that it was in early pre-production, we wouldn't be shocked at all if the film ends up getting made one day and the name Menahem Golan once more appears in the credits.
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