Posted on Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Blake Harris
In 1977, an Israeli rock star and his musically talented wife decided to collaborate, for the first time, and write a musical for the stage: The Apple. But before the show was ever performed, a notoriously eccentric filmmaker persuaded them that their masterpiece should instead debut on the big screen with him as director.
A little over one year later, when The Apple premiered at the Montreal Film Festival, the Israeli couple was noticeably absent, and the eccentric director came within seconds of committing suicide. This is the sad, strange story of how that came to pass.
The Apple Oral History
How Did This Get Made is a companion to the podcast How Did This Get Made with Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael which focuses on movies. This regular feature is written by Blake J. Harris, who you might know as the writer of the book Console Wars, soon to be a motion picture produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. You can listen to the The Apple edition of the HDTGM podcast here.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future , a naïve, idealistic young couple enters the music industry. But just when their dreams seem about to come true, they encounter drugs, greed and the dark underside of rock n’ roll.
Tagline: It’s 1994! The Future Is Music and Music Is Their Future!
- Alain Jakubowicz Editor
- Coby Recht Writer/Composer
- Catherine Mary Stewart Actress (Bibi)
- Iris Yotvat Writer
Here’s what happened, as told by those who made it happen…
Part 1: Coby and Iris
Coby Recht: The Apple? Oh boy, that’s a long story. But let me try and put it together.
Iris Yotvat: As probably Coby told you, we intended it to be a stage show.
Coby Recht: I should begin by saying that I’m one of the forefathers of rock and roll in Israel. I got plenty of hits, you know, on radio. And then back in the ‘70s, I went to Holland—I recorded some three albums there—and then went to Paris and signed with CBS and I had a lot of success over there.
Iris Yotvat: Very, very successful.
Coby Recht: Especially with one single that sold two million. It was something else. And then I came back here, with Iris. We were married then. And before we got here we spent like six weeks, we had in mind to have this as a rock and roll musical for the stage.
Iris Yotvat: It was a good story. It was kind of, let’s say, a not very sophisticated story, but I loved the innocence of it. I think it was a little bit ahead of its time—at least in Israel, maybe not in America—in thinking about show business as a kind of a battle between good and evil.
Coby Recht: The story was based on this: Back in the ‘70s, the label that I signed with was Barclay. So I came to know Eddie Barclay; he really believed in me. But there was something there that I couldn’t trust. I don’t know why, but the guy looked to me like a villain. So Boogalow was based on Eddie Barclay. And I wanted the story to be gray, to be Orwellian. It was supposed to be 1984, but with music.
Iris Yotvat: So you have the “good guys”—the hippies, the flower kids—who are thinking about love and peace, and then there is the other side of the coin, the other side of the moon, that is show business and thinking about money and power. So it was a good conflict of the two: the conflict between good and evil.
Coby Recht: But it was so expensive that nobody could really raise it up for the stage. It was very expensive. And then finally someone called and told me Menahem Golan was in Israel for a short time.
Iris Yotvat: [With a deep sigh]: Menahem Golan.
Coby Recht: I called him on a Friday. I remember, because he was leaving Sunday, and he came over the next day. By that time, I had a demo of most of the songs, in Hebrew, and Menahem sat there for four hours, listening. And then after he said, “You have to let me direct it and produce it and you have to be in Los Angeles, right now.”
Iris Yotvat: That was marvelous. That was just fantastic to think that it was going to be a movie all of the sudden. It was just amazing.
Coby Recht: It was good, yes, but what convinced me was this: When Menahem came to my place on that day, he said, “We have to do it on Broadway first!” But then not long after we go to Los Angeles, something else Menahem was supposed to shoot didn’t work out…and guess what takes its place?
Part 2: Menahem
Iris Yotvat: I’d never met Menahem before, but Coby knew him from a very, very early age. From when Menahem was not yet a movie director at all.
Coby Recht: Oh, yeah. He used to have this children’s theater [in Israel]. When I was nine, I used to be his star. So I knew him from them, but I was not in touch with him. Even so, I knew exactly who Menahem was: He never paid the money that was owed. To me, to anyone. One day my father said to him, “What are you doing with the money that you owe him?” And Menahem said, “I’m saving it for him!” Boy, was he a…but on the other hand, there was something there that I liked a lot.
Iris Yotvat: I think the fact that he was generous, very generous. When we came to Los Angeles, he gave us his villa to live in. That was the first time in my life that I was in a villa with a swimming pool. And during that time, he went to go live with his cousin, his partner. I mean, a person gives his house for us to live there for a whole month? And to do whatever needed to be done in order to get the script done. I think that was really nice.
Coby Recht: Menahem is…there’s a book to fill with this character.
Iris Yotvat: What he used to do sometimes was put together a poster with the names of stars and a director before he even had a script. And he would go to Cannes with posters and all kinds of things like this and then people would invest in him and then he’d go and get the director and a script and stuff. So he was like that. And he was kind of, let’s say, not very delicate or gentle. He was not a gentleman; he was a businessman. And his way of talking was cruel; it was not very soft-spoken. For me, it was difficult to accept him like this. But I had always problems with people from show business.
Coby Recht: Anyway, he had me come to Los Angeles. Well, first me and Iris, but then only me. Rewriting the whole thing, making it totally different.
Iris Yotvat: Yeah, that was hard. I was frustrated mainly on the content issues where I saw that the whole story of the movie was becoming something that was kind of corny. And we had a small child at this time. I couldn’t bring him over, but luckily my mom was a young grandmother and she really helped a lot with babysitting actually.
Coby Recht: The first time that I understood I’m in deep shit was when Menahem said, “Where’s the action?” Whoa, that was too much.
Iris Yotvat: We couldn’t do anything anymore. I mean, it was in Menahem’s hands. And of course money talks, you know.
Coby Recht: “Where’s the action?” Come on. It’s a small movie. It’s rock and roll. And then he said to me, “Eh…Rockin’ Horse, Rock n’ Roll.” So what can you do?
Iris Yotvat: But there was one part of this that was wonderful. We worked with George Clinton to translate it and to make it into a script. And working with George was great, I loved it because we were both lyricists. And working with him, cowriting the English version was a very, very wonderful experience for me.
Coby Recht: And when I had about 50 percent of the demos done, Menahem said, “Next week we go to London; then we start filming soon.” Just like that, you know?
And so, just like that, the two of them went to London, where they continued working with George Clinton and started casting the film.