Stephen Dorff talks playing an Israeli pilot in ‘Zaytoun’

Stephen Dorff stars in the Israeli drama "Zaytoun." Credit: Getty Images
Stephen Dorff stars in the Israeli drama “Zaytoun.”
Credit: Getty Images

A longtime slacker icon known for “S.F.W.,” “Cecil B. Demented” and Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere,” Stephen Dorff shifts gears for Eran Riklis’ Israeli drama “Zaytoun.” He plays a pilot who escorts a young Palestinian boy (Abdallah El Akal) through the Middle East. “Zaytoun” opens in New York City on Friday, Sept. 20.

What prompted you to make “Zaytoun” and play Yoni?
I was moved by the script. I don’t know why they wanted me to play an Israeli, but I like to make films outside Hollywood. At first I was hesitant. I feel it’s a little strange to play someone like an Israeli.

Did your father being Jewish influence you to take the role?
My dad is Jewish; my mother is Catholic, but I didn’t grow up religious. I’m sure my dad and grandparents are happy I made this Israeli film.

How did you identify with and research the character of Yoni?
I knew how to play a pilot. And a pilot in the US Air Force is similar. I learned Hebrew and the accent, worked with the government and air force there. I was allowed access to El Al captains who were captured and tortured around the time of the story. I learned the history leading up to 1982 [when the film is set]. 

You spend a good part of the film handcuffed and wounded. How difficult was that to do?
That’s not really difficult. Handcuffs just make you more physically restricted. It’s makeup and props. What is hard is the chemistry, getting the story across and make it real and not melodramatic.

Can you talk about your chemistry with Abdallah El Akal?
We’re two enemies who hate each other and connect in a human way and develop a friendship. It could have been a 9/11 terrorist and a NYC policemen. We found the perfect kid, who was very real and had a rawness. He was from the West Bank but was Arabic. His dad has two wives and he has ten siblings. There was great energy he brought to the picture.

Most actors are warned not to co-star with children but you did here and in “Somewhere.”
It’s a tricky thing. I think I’ve been lucky. Elle [Fanning, from “Somewhere”] is an ingenue, a gem, a brilliant natural actress with incredible instincts. Abdallah is much more of a real kid, with a complicated home life. He loves America has an iPod and listens to hip hop. He was a mensch.

What was it like to make a film like this on location?
A few times when I went to the air force bases on the Lebanon border, there was action coming in from Gaza. If the sirens sounded the [pilots] would be up in the air in five minutes and the meeting is over. They would warn be about that, but ultimately, that didn’t happen.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Local

BSL, El to run all night on summer…

Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning starting in…

National

Reddit boosts news capabilities in social media turf…

By Jennifer SabaNEW YORK (Reuters) - Reddit, a website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot that tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As,…

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

Arts

Peek behind the scenes at the Academy of…

Generations of visitors have marveled at the dioramas in the Academy of Natural Sciences, watching apprehensively at the puma perpetually poised to attack the unsuspecting…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.