In the immortal words of Lt. Aldo Raine: "We're gonna be doing one thing, and one thing only…killin' Nazis." This iconic snippet of Tarantino's finest dialogue firmly sits behind the central premise of Hunters , a new series about avenging the injustices of the Holocaust and the industrialized murder torture of six million European Jews.
The first TV creation from actor/writer/producer David Weil, Hunters (produced by Jordan Peele, Season 1 hits Amazon Prime this Friday) follows a ragtag group of clandestine Nazi hunters in late 1970s New York. To put it another way, it's as if Weil gained psychic abilities, took a look around inside my head, saw what was bouncing around in there (not easy because it's pretty empty most of the time), and made a show about it.
Just like David, I'm also the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, the member of a younger generation who grew up hearing story-after-story of the atrocities the Third Reich perpetrated against my paternal grandfather and his family, which was pretty much wiped out. These dark tales from the annals of World War II were almost too horrific to believe and yet, they happened all the same.
Listening to these stories from my own father, I always wondered why the Jews of Europe didn't just fight back against their Nazi captors. How could my own people just walk into the gas chambers like cows to the slaughter? Better thinkers than I have pondered those questions, but those queries are why movies like Munich , Defiance , and Inglorious Basterds , are so popular and iconic: they show Jews rising up and fighting back.
There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a fellow Member of the Tribe who doesn't take sh** from anybody or anything. Hunters is—at least for me—the perfect apex of that wish fulfillment, a wonderful manifestation of those two words we say every Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day): "Never again."
Al Pacino (in his first-ever television role) leads the show's ensemble cast as Meyer Offerman, a Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the titular group of trackers, assassins, and all-around "Chabad-asses." Logan Lerman ( Percy Jackson ) plays the team's latest recruit, Jonah Heidelbaum, a young Jewish man who is shocked to discover that his late survivor grandmother (Jeannie Berlin) was a secret Nazi hunter.
Excitement over the first Star Wars movie (don't forget, it's got space Nazis!), fear of the Son of Sam killer, and his job at the local comics shop fade away into trivialities as Jonah learns the ropes, bonds with his fellow teammates, and kills goose-stepping scum. Soon enough, the Hunters uncover a chilling conspiracy: The Hitler-ites living comfortably in the United States (some of them in high positions of power) are planning to create a Fourth Reich in America. Hot on the heels of both parties, is the lone—yet determined—FBI agent, Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton).
Historically speaking, 1977 is the perfect setting, as it was during this time that U.S. citizens were finally beginning to wake up to the fact that their own country (a self-proclaimed bastion of democracy and human ideals) had provided asylum and cushy jobs to heinous individuals after the war. Many National Socialists, it transpired, had not faced the blind stroke of justice; they had either weaseled through the cracks or were actively recruited for the growing fight against the Soviet Union.
Thanks to the work of Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman and the fledgeling Office of Special Investigations, several "former" Nazis were weeded out, stripped of their citizenship, deported, and tried for crimes committed during the Holocaust. However, the OSI and other famed Nazi hunters of the era did not resort to the vigilante justice on display in Weil's show. In fact, David is very much interested in the cost of unbridled revenge, of taking one bloody eye for another.
And, of course, the '70s also saw the publication of two literary masterpieces about tracking Nazis, killing Nazis, and thwarting the grand plans of Nazis: William Goldman's Marathon Man (1974) and Ira Levin's The Boys From Brazil (1976).
Hunters plays with all these things like a kid in a Hebraic sandbox, and I can't remember the last time a new TV show excited me to this degree. As such, I just had to get David Weil (who's a real mensch, by the way) on the phone and hear him talk about how his Nazi-hunting project came to be. Speaking with him was almost like speaking with myself; our chat simply affirmed everything I have believed and held dear as a young Jewish person growing up in the United States.
I've always taken my country's freedoms (religious or otherwise) for granted, but watching the cautionary tale that is Hunters , I'm made aware of one chilling fact: If it could happen there, it can happen anywhere…Nu?! Let's get to the interview already!
Josh Weiss: In the behind-the-scenes featurette Amazon released, you talk about how your grandmother's Holocaust survival stories inspired the show. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
DW: Growing up, she would tell me and my brothers stories about her experience. For example, I remember eating dinner at our kitchen table and I was probably some bratty kid at the time and I didn't finish my meal. I remember her explaining to me the importance of finishing the meal and how when she was younger, there were many years (living in the ghetto and the camps) where she had no food at all—where she was starved near to death.
Her stories became these little anecdotes over time, these little tiles that soon created this larger mosaic of her experience. If I would get in a fight with my brother, she would tell me about how much she loved her brothers. I have three older brothers [and] she had three older brothers who all perished during the war. [She would talk about] how you have to keep your brothers close.
It was things like that, life lessons, through which she would tell me her story. But at the time, at such a young age, they did feel like the kind of stories of comic books and superheroes—these great battles between good and evil. As I got older, those stories began to desaturate. The poppy, sort of graphic novel elements that I imagined in my head, would desaturate and I saw the real, stark truth of what she went through—the degree and depth of the horrors that she experienced.
After that, I began to struggle with this idea of birthright and legacy and responsibility. Being the descendant of a survivor, I felt like it was my responsibility to continue her story. She passed away a number of years ago and I feel like it's the onus of the descendants of survivors to tell their truths and to keep their light and their stories alive.
The answer became Hunters . It was a love letter to my grandmother, it was also this desire to don this vigilante cape, to be this superhero, so-to-speak, and get justice for her that she never received in some wish fulfillment, catharsis kind of way. Growing up and being Jewish, I rarely saw Jewish superheroes. I always like to say I had two superheroes growing up: Judah Macabee and Jeff Goldblum. There's no one else in the Jewish world that I looked up to. So, creating this character in Jonah and in Meyer and in Murray [Saul Rubinek] and Mindy [Carol Kane]; these Jewish superheroes who were not nebbishy, who are not simply intellectual, who are not ineffectual. [Jews] who actually had might and strength and power.
That was so important to me and so too is it with our other characters: Joe Mizushima [Louis Ozawa Changchien], a Japanese-American character and Roxy Jones [Tiffany Boone], a black activist at the time. Really depicting superheroes who have agency, characters who, in life, often don't have agency, now reclaim that power and have agency in their own way.
The final piece of it for me was the knowledge that I learned late in life about how the U.S. government brought over many high-ranking Nazi officials and put them in positions of power in our government. What injustice that is. To me, that was a conspiracy that needed to be brought to light and so, Hunters encapsulates all those different sources of inspiration.
JW: The promo materials say that the series inspired by true events. You just mentioned Operation Paperclip and, of course, there were real-world Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal , Tuvia Friedman , and the Klarsfelds . Are these the things that make Hunters a semi-true story?
DW: The 'inspired by true events' is really speaking to the Operation Paperclip of it all. But in creating these characters, to me, the prime of our people are the Nazi hunters. Simon Wiesenthal; and the Klarsfelds, who you mentioned; and [Peter] Malkin and his Mossad team who scooped [Adolf] Eichmann in South America, those are heroes. It's interesting, Simon Wiesenthal is a character in the series, he'll be in Episode 8, played by Judd Hirsch.
But I think that our Hunters seek justice in a very different way than they did. The sort of central question of the show is: 'What is justice? What is vengeance? What is revenge? Would I seek it? Do I believe in an eye-for-an-eye, or I do believe in going the legal route?' Many of the Nazi hunters that you named did go [that way], through the courts, through the legal system—perhaps a more moral way. There's a great scene between Meyer Offerman and Simon Wiesenthal in Episode 8 that really debates: 'Which is the right path? What is the moral path? What is the Jewish path toward getting justice?'
JW: Did any other bits of Nazi-hunting pop culture inspire you? Watching the first three episodes, I got notes of Marathon Man , The Odessa File , and Inglorious Basterds . Were those on your mind while writing the show?
DW: You know, they did. Marathon Man and Boys From Brazil and Get Out were huge sources of inspiration. Marathon Man was unique, in that it really helped capture a 1970s New York, and that was something we certainly tried to replicate in our show.
But I also think Hunters is so unique.
There's the really heightened poppy element in the '70s; there's the very graphic, but reverential [and] more sobering visceral reality of the past; and then there are the break-the-form moments … that play with so many different feelings and modes in the show. Inspiration was pulled from all different places, but at the end of the day, I do think Hunters lives in its own weird, unique, eclectic, and eccentric category.
JW: Going off that, would you describe the show as 'alt-history?'
DW: I would say everything [that takes place in] the past was done with reverence and application of truth or representation of truth. But in the '70s portion of the show, I like to call it 'hidden history.' From day one, when I first wrote the pilot and created this 80-page bible—which laid out the series as a whole—I called it 'hidden history.' Because there are so many alt-history shows out there, I wanted to differentiate our show and I feel like that's one of the exciting things to me.
For example, the 1977 New York blackout. Was it really a lightning strike that hit a power plant or was it a Nazi bomb? I try to play within the confines of true history, but just suggest showing it from a different angle to say, 'Hey, maybe it actually happened like this.' In that way, it keeps a reality about the show, instead of keeping you at an arms length of like, 'Oh, this is not our world.'
JW: You've got Al Pacino in his first-ever TV role and he's so good as Meyer. He really sounds like an old Jewish man from Europe. Can you talk a little bit about how you got him to take the part of Meyer and how the character was developed?
DW: I think that they really do go hand-in-hand. His agent had read the script and said, 'You know, I think there's something about this character that Al may really respond to.' So we sent it to Al and he read it and really responded to it. I met with him and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the [pilot] director, and we talked about it. I think, at first, Al wanted to see that we were a collaborative people, that we were open and willing to bend and willing to collaborate and improvise and yes, and… each other.
And then we had three additional meetings. He wanted to read, at least for the first season, all the other material. Obviously, as of now, there's no Season 2, so we had to get him all the material that we could. For us at the time, it was those 10 scripts, so we got him all of that and then we just sat and talked about this character. It was such an amazing entrée into how he works and how his mind works because he would sit there and I would say, 'Meyer Offerman was born on this day and here's this memory and anecdote about his early life.' Al would say, 'Yes, yes, yes…and then maybe he did this.'
Al just kind of took these things and ran with them and began to, brick-by-brick, create this character and flesh out his bone and tissue and marrow and memories and predilections. It was just amazing, witnessing a genius like Al Pacino put this character together, build him from the ground up in these meetings. And, of course, this process continued throughout all of production and also in post. Al is incredibly active in post-production and he had just such a great take on the material and storytelling. It was really such a gift to be able to work with him.
JW: Is his accent based on anyone in particular?
DW: I don't know that part of the process, what he did. But it was incredibly authentic. Our dialect coach, who we had on set (he's a master of Yiddish and Hebrew), was so blown away by Al's accent. It was just so authentic and designed to the very place where Meyer Offerman grew up in Poland. It was just so Jewish and so sound.
JW: You've got the main action set in the '70s, but you've also got flashbacks to the ghettos and the concentration camps. How did you want the visuals and cinematography to define these settings?
DW: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is really responsible for a lot of that. He's a brilliant filmmaker. I think in the '70s, we were excited to play with the heightened colors and the poppy tone and then in the past, to really try and be as sobering and suggestive instead of gratuitous … Like yes, it is very graphic and it is very bold and powerful, but we never wanted it to be gratuitous.
It was very important to me that the design of any violence in the past was always to further story, that there was always a purpose to it. [We're] always trying to suggest violence in the past, to have it feel more real and to hit all the truth of that and then we can embellish in the '70s. We can be more gratuitous in the '70s because we don't have as much responsibility with those scenes and those moments.
JW: In terms of the Hunters themselves, you've got such a diverse ensemble here from an actor (Josh Radnor's Lonny Flash), to a nun (Kate Mulvany's Sister Harriet). How did you go about defining each member of the group?
DW: For me, the Holocaust affects us all, because it's about white supremacy … White supremacy is very present and I think it affects us all, so I wanted to showcase different characters who are all affected by that same kind of bigotry, white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.
I tried to approach each character in that way to show just how we are all a part of a family, how we are all facing these things together, Jewish or not. And to show the connection between the Jewish experience, the black experience, the Asian experience, the gay experience in America.
As a Jewish kid, I was always so curious why Jewish actors would change their names. That birthed this notion of Lonny Flash; I wanted a sexy, cool, awesome, Jewish movie star. Or Roxy Jones, black activist, and showing the parallel between Jews not being able to get justice for themselves in the '30s and '40s, to today, and a black woman not being able to get justice for her people in the '70s in America. Just trying to create all those different connective points that show that intersectionality of persecution and also of reclamation of power.
JW: I'm also the grandson of a survivor and grew up Jewish, so all of the show's religious and cultural elements are super familiar to me. I even call my grandmother "Safta" like Jonah does. Did you ever find yourself wanting to curtail some of the more idiosyncratic elements of Judaism so wider audiences wouldn't be confused?
DW: No. In fact, I wanted to show as much Jewishness as possible. I really wanted to illuminate the experience of what it feels like to be Jewish and as much as there's a lot of suffering, there's also a lot of joy and celebration. Though there are those scenes of Jews being persecuted in the first couple of episodes, it was important to me that there's a Jewish wedding in Episode 6 and there's a whole horah sequence.
It's like a 4-5 minute sequence and some people were like, 'Maybe we should cut it down' and I was like, 'No, that is what makes the show so specific, so special, so honest and authentic.' I fought really hard and Jordan [Peele] encouraged it so much and [Amazon Studios president] Jen Salke encouraged it so much. They were such champions of wanting to capture Jewishness, [both] the horror and the humor of what it is to be Jewish.
JW: Since you brought up Jordan Peele, what was it like working with him on Hunters ? What did he bring to the table as an executive producer?
DW: He brought everything, man. He was the greatest champion. I wrote Hunters and I gave it to Jordan to take a look at to see if this is something that he might wanna be involved in. He is just such a champion for underrepresented stories. I think a story about a young Jewish kid facing anti-Semitism and learning that his grandmother, who is a Holocaust survivor, is a Nazi hunter—not to mention with the diverse band of Hunters who are all superheroes in their own right—kind of just seemed to align with his mission as a storyteller.
One of the greatest gifts that Jordan has is really understanding what you're after, what your vision is, and helping hone it. He did that for me with such patience and such mischief and such fortitude, where he wanted me to make the boldest version of this show. That was such an exciting thing. For Jordan Peele to say that, it just gives you such confidence when he's like, 'No, lean into that, don't lean away, don't shy away. Push yourself toward that moment or toward that beat.'
That was really special and I do have to say Jen Salke is cut from the same cloth. Jen and Jordan have such chutzpah, they really wanted to realize the vision of Hunters as I initially wrote it, and that was such a blessing.
JW: You mentioned earlier that seeing Jews avenge the Holocaust is cathartic, and I couldn't agree more. It's so enjoyable to see tough Jews in pop culture. Anything to add about that sentiment?
DW: What feels unique about it to me and I kind of said it [already], but I feel like Jews are so infrequently portrayed as badasses in film and on TV. And these are some badass Jews [in Hunters ]. These are some 'jew-per heroes,' and I think that really excites me and feels very different to me.
JW: Any kind of fun, behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the making of Season 1 that stick out in your mind?
DW: I think Al doing the horah in Episode 6 with a 100-200 other extras and Logan and Jeannie Berlin and Carol Kane and Saul. That was such an amazing night; that was a real celebration and it was just so special to see such a beautiful piece of our Jewish customs being brought to life by these actors. I loved that a lot.
JW: Like you said, there's no Season 2 yet, but if you get renewed, where would you like to see the story go?
DW: If you could put in a good word with Amazon, please do. I love that you love it, so maybe that will give them some juice to wanna bring it back. I have so many stories to tell about these Hunters and about the world and the past. I've got like five, six seasons in me.
I'm apprehensive to say where it goes, only because in case we don't go in that direction—if there is even a second season—I don't want anyone saying, 'Oh, but he said it would go here and I like that better.' What I will say, is I think that there's so many stories of the Holocaust and of defiance of Jews and so many others that I do wanna tell. I'd be excited to get even deeper into some of those stories.
JW: David, thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. Until you say differently, I'm just say the show was made for me.
DW: It was! I promise. It was made for all my brothers: Josh Radnor, you. But I appreciate that, man. I really really do and I'm so curious when you finish the series, what you think. I would love to hear your thoughts and I'm excited for you to continue.
JW: Seriously, I can't say enough nice things about this show. Kol HaKavod , as they say.
DW: Thank you, Josh. Oh my god, you made my night.
This interview was edited for clarity, and spoilers
Read the Forbes review of the series here
- Connected Gloves and “Bullet Time”: NBC Thinks Technology Can Make Boxing Cool
- Susan Wojcicki Has Transformed YouTube—But She Isn’t Done Yet
- Unraveling The Enigma Of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, 20 Years Later
|Cell Armor Snap Case for Nokia Lumia 925 - Retail Packaging - A Hunter Series with Big Branch (check at Amazon)||5.0|
|Marie Antoinette: A Film by David Grubin (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Lifetime Movies-Triple Feature (A Change of Heart, The Truth About Jane, Her Desperate Choice) (check at Amazon)||4.3|
|The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Tricks and Treats (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Klunkerz - A Film about the Development and Birth of Mountain Bikes (check at Amazon)||4.8|
|Not My Life: A Film About Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery (check at Amazon)||3.0|
|Q & A (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Vampire Diaries The Complete Fourth Season with Cast Q&A Bonus Disc (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Temple Grandin - A View From The Inside - Everything About Autism You Always Wanted To Know (check at Amazon)||4.8|
|DYING GREEN: a film about green burial and land conservation (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest Q&A Series: Jerry & Jack Brisco DVD (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Ile Aiye (The House of Life) - A Film by David Byrne (check at Amazon)||3.4|
|Q&A (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Farmer's Wife: A Film by David Sutherland (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Legends Q & A Baltimore 2-12-11 Wrestling DVD (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Q & A with Alan Cairns (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Homeland: Season 1 LIMITED EDITION Includes BONUS DVD Q&A With Creators and Cast (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Revenge: Season 1 LIMITED EDITION Includes BONUS DISC Featuring Over 30 Minutes of Q&A With the Cast and Creative Team (check at Amazon)||5.0|
|The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season (Limited Edition with Exclusive Q&A Bonus Disc) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|S.A.Y. Pets Wooden Dog House, Ideal for Small and Medium Breeds Up to 26-Pound (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|On the Jews and Their Lies His Classic Warning about the Jews and Their Hatred of Jesus (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Charlie Bear: What a Headstrong Rescue Dog Taught Me About Life, Love, and Second Chances (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Heaven's Not a Crying Place: Teaching Your Child About Funerals, Death, and the Life Beyond (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Bound Upon A Wheel Of Fire: Why So Many German Jews Made The Tragic Decision To Remain In Nazi Germany (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Catholic Q & A: All You Want to Know About Catholicism - Real Questions by Real People (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|100 Q&A About Prostate Cancer (100 Questions & Answers) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Our Firemen: A History of the New York Fire Departments, Volunteer and Paid, from 1609 to 1887 (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Positive, A Story Of Hope: The truth about needing, discovering, and sharing hope (This is life) (Volume 1) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Teens Under the Influence: The Truth About Kids, Alcohol, and Other Drugs- How to Recognize the Problem and What to Do About It (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Truth About Day Trading Stocks: A Cautionary Tale About Hard Challenges and What It Takes To Succeed (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Grouse Hunter's Guide: 2nd Edition, Solid Facts, Insights, and Observations on How to Hunt Ruffled Grouse (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|How Fast Can A Falcon Dive?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Birds of Prey (Animals Q & A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Dragonflies: Q&A Guide: Fascinating Facts About Their Life in the Wild (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of ''Unadoptables'' Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Do Tarantulas Have Teeth: Questions and Answers About Poisonous Creatures (Scholastic Q & A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Brilliant Memory Training: Stop worrying about your memory and start using it - to the full! (Brilliant (Prentice Hall)) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|This Little Light: A Poetic Book of Christian Inspiration about Love, Encouragement and the Trials of Life (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Pearls of a Sultana: What I've Learned About Business, Politics, and the Human Spirit (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Lessons from Jacob: A Disabled Son Teaches His Mother about Courage, Hope and the Joy of Living Each Day to the Fullest (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Talking about Japan updated Q & A = Eigo de hanasu "Nihon" Q & A (Japanese Edition) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|To Hell on a Fast Horse LP: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Do Fish Sleep?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Fishes (Animals Q & A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|367 Things I'm Going To Know About The Next Man I Marry (The Relationship Q&A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Short History of the Inquisition: What it Was and What it Did: To Which is App (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Do Bats Drink Blood?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Bats (Animals Q & A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Why Do Bees Buzz?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Bees (Animals Q & A) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|100 Q&A About Panic Disorder (100 Questions & Answers) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|100 Q&A About Lung Cancer (100 Questions & Answers) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
Q&A: ‘Hunters’ Creator David Weil Schmoozes About Tough Jews And Wooing Al Pacino To Television have 4813 words, post on www.forbes.com at February 17, 2020. This is cached page on USA Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.