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“Zone of Interest” director's Oscars speech denounced by hundreds of Jewish stars and creators

“Zone of Interest” director's Oscars speech denounced by hundreds of Jewish stars and creators

Actors Debra Messing, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianna Margulies, and Brett Gelman are some of the Hollywood professionals who signed an open letter in response to Jonathan Glazer's controversial speech.

More than 450 Jewish stars and other Hollywood professionals are denouncing Zone of Interest writer-director Jonathan Glazer’s speech from the 2024 Oscars, in an open letter published by Variety on Monday.

In his controversial remarks on stage accepting the award for Best International Feature, Glazer connected his Holocaust film with the crisis in Gaza, saying, "Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October — whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?”

The open letter, titled "Statement From Jewish Hollywood Professionals," began circulating on March 13, just days after the Oscars. It responds in part: "We refute our Jewishness being hijacked for the purpose of drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination."

<p>Rodin Eckenroth/Getty</p> 'Zone of Interest' director Jonathan Glazer

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

'Zone of Interest' director Jonathan Glazer

It continues, "Every civilian death in Gaza is tragic. Israel is not targeting civilians. It is targeting Hamas. The moment Hamas releases the hostages and surrenders is the moment this heartbreaking war ends. This has been true since the Hamas attacks of October 7th. The use of words like 'occupation' to describe an indigenous Jewish people defending a homeland that dates back thousands of years, and has been recognized as a state by the United Nations, distorts history."

The letter also states that Glazer's speech "gives credence to the modern blood libel that fuels a growing anti-Jewish hatred around the world, in the United States, and in Hollywood. The current climate of growing antisemitism only underscores the need for the Jewish State of Israel, a place which will always take us in, as no state did during the Holocaust depicted in Mr. Glazer’s film.”

Actors Debra Messing, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianna Margulies and Brett Gelman, director Eli Roth, writer Amy Sherman-Palladino, and producer Amy Pascal are some of the Hollywood stars who signed, as did many other creatives, executives, and Hollywood professionals. The letter aside, public response to Glazer's remarks has been divisive — in addition to the criticism, it has received some support from those calling for a cease-fire.

Glazer had no comment when contacted by EW. Reps for Messing, Leigh, Margulies, Roth, Sherman-Palladino, and Pascal did not immediately reply to EW's requests for comment.

The Zone of Interest filmmaker's acceptance speech has also received praise from other stars and creatives, including Mark Ruffalo, Melissa Barrera, and directors Boots Riley, Jesse Peretz, and Asif Kapadia, many of whom previously signed an open letter to President Joe Biden calling for immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Gaza and Israel.

Nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two, The Zone of Interest follows the home life of Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, and stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Hüller. Glazer was joined by producers James Wilson and Len Blavatnik on the Oscars stage to accept the honor, though the latter later revealed Glazer did not consult him about the remarks beforehand. "He didn’t clear the speech,” a spokesperson for Blavatnik told The Hollywood Reporter“But he’s incredibly proud of the film and the accolades it has received and he doesn’t want to distract from the important themes of the movie."

Another of Zone of Interest's executive producers, Danny Cohen, previously said he "fundamentally" disagreed with the director's remarks. "It’s really important to recognize it’s upset a lot of people and a lot of people feel upset and angry about it. And I understand that anger frankly," Cohen said on the an episode of the Unholy podcast.

Watch Glazer's acceptance speech at the Oscars above.

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