Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Anything for Money, II

Hard to believe, but Gary Busey was once an Oscar nominee, for his memorable performance in The Buddy Holly Story. Billy Zane was featured in James Cameron's epic blockbuster, Titanic. At one point, both men had promising careers as film actors.

Unfortunately, Mr. Busey and Mr. Zane's stock at the box office has apparently tanked in recent years; That may explain their latest career move, starring in a new Turkish "film" (and I use that term loosely) entitled "Valley of the Wolves--Iraq." Zane plays a sadistic U.S. Marine named Sam (clever, huh?) who goes on a killing spree in occupied Iraq until he is finally tracked down and eliminated by heroic Turkish agents. Mr. Busey, meanwhile, plays a Jewish-American doctor who "harvests" organs from inmates in an Abu Ghraib-style prison and ships them to the United States, Britain and Israel.

Screenwriter Bahadir Ozdener claims his script is based on "real" events, but he couldn't offer any examples, except for a brief detention of Turkish special forces troops by Marines in 2003. Not that it really matters. Virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism have long been staples of the Islamic cinema, and Valley of the Wolves is doing boffo box office in Turkey, though it's unlikely to reach American multiplexes anytime soon. Apparently, Mr. Ozdener has never heard of the Sundance Film Festival or other western gatherings that celebrate the anti-American cinema; if he had arranged a screening at one of those festivals, he'd probably have an Academy Award nomination for "Best Foreign Language Film," and a three-picture deal with Miramax. Better luck next time.

Of course, it's one thing for Turkey's answer to Michael Moore to produce an anti-American lie; it's quite another for American actors to willingly participate in such a project. Mencken might observe that you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of Hollywood actors, but in their apparent quest for a paycheck, Busey and Zane have managed to attain a new level of professional ignominy. Which makes me wonder: where does an actor go after a star turn in something like Valley of the Wolves? Snuff films? Hard-core pornography? Almost anything would be a professional improvement over their roles in that Turkish film perversion.

On the other hand, since anti-Americanism plays so well in Hollywood, Busey and Zane may be lionized for appearing in such a "bold" and "provacative" film. Who knows? By selling out their country (and seemingly, their profession), the two actors may be able to resurrect their careers, and work their way into better film roles. Anb f that doesn't work out, there's always Valley of the Wolves II--Invasion of Iran. Maybe they'll even get a piece of the gross for the sequel.
Some people will do anything for money.

P.S.--Zane has actually defended his participation in the film, describing himself as a "pacifist" who believes that the horrors of war "should be exposed." He fails to mention that the best anti-war films work because they are based in truth, not the fantasies of some radical Turkish screenwriter. For my money, one of the best anti-war films ever made was Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the book by German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, and starring Lew Ayres. Interestingly, Ayres was a conscientious objector during World War II, but volunteered to serve in the Medical Corps in the South Pacific, treating wounded soldiers. Ayres was a man of principle and integrity, concepts completely foreign to latter-day Hollywood "pacifists" like Zane.

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