Me with director Spike Lee at the US premiere for Inside Man, March 20th, 2006

In April 2005, a call went out from 40 Acres and a Mule Production Company that Spike Lee, director, was looking for someone to portray an orthodox Jewish man in the film Inside Man, starring Denzel Washington. I called the CD, Kim Coleman, direct, and asked if I could come in to audition. She asked me to dress as a Hasidic Jewish man. At the audition, I told her that I was a graduate of Yeshiva University, and had attended Yeshiva Elementary and High School. I read for the role of Chaim, and she told me that whoever would get the role would have a scene with Denzel Washington.

Two days later, I was back again for a twenty-minute audition with director Spike Lee. At the first audition, I had added a phrase in Yiddish. When I finished the audition this time for Mr. Lee, he said “You did something last time you didn’t do today.” At that point, I realized he liked what I did, and I proceeded to use the word “meshugah” for the second reading. I was called in a third time, two days later, for a three-minute audition for Spike again.

Three weeks later, I went to my agent’s office, and she told me I’d gotten the role of Chaim, one of the main roles in the film. The last week in June, I was in Spike Lee’s office with producer Daniel Rosenberg, writer Russell Gewirtz, Clive Owen, and three other actors. My role, Chaim, was a Columbia University professor of Holocaust studies.

Call sheet including the days I shot my interrogation scenes.

The film had an eight and a half week shoot. I was on the film for eight weeks. One of the most exciting and positive experiences I’ve had as an actor. My scenes with Denzel Washington were both improvised because that’s the way he likes to work. I felt that Spike trusts his actors and lets them do their thing. For me, the most important thing was to keep the character real and not make him a stereotype as an orthodox Jewish man.

Still of me in Inside Man.

The film premiered on March 20th, 2006, Spike Lee’s birthday, at the Ziegfield Theater. First weekend box office: $29 million — #1. Reviews from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many others, were raves.

In 2006, my wife and I flew to Israel for the premiere. The film was received enthusiastically by Israeli audiences. It played all over Israel, and had a new life again a year later at the Cinematheque in Jerusalem.

Me with Chiwetel Ejiofor at the US premiere, March 20th 2006.

Me with Clive Owen at the US premiere, March 20th 2006.

Me with my family at the US premiere, March 20th 2006.