arts & entertainment
Comin' To America
Neil Diamond's 31-city concert tour stops
Special to the Jewish News
or his first job as a songwriter,
in 1961, singer/songwriter Neil
Diamond earned $50 weekly. Now,
at 71, he could easily settle into retirement,
looking back on his almost 50-year solo
recording career (in which he's sold 125
million records and achieved 39 top-40 hit
songs), and just enjoy his four children and
But Diamond isn't ready to get out of
the limelight just yet. He is currently on a
31-city North American concert tour that
includes a July 3 stop at DTE Energy Music
Theatre in Clarkston.
Over the past two years, Diamond has
much to beam about: He got married (for
the third time) to his 41-year-old manager,
Katie McNeil; was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame; and was named a
Kennedy Center honoree.
We caught up with Diamond in a recent
phone interview from his Los Angeles home:
IN: You have been recognized for your
career achievements and found hap-
piness in your personal life. Are you
surprised that you are still in demand
career-wise at 71?
ND: I never thought when I started
writing that my career would last for five
decades, let alone that I would be honored
and still working in my 70s. I feel so fortu-
nate to make my dream a lifetime's work.
Having Katie with me, being honored over
the past two years, I am as excited about
singing and songwriting now as I ever was. I
feel that I have been rejuvenated. I'm looking
forward to another 20 years of singing and
I try to be honest and truthful in every-
thing I do, just the same as when I was
struggling in the 1960s. For me, it was never
the fame or the money that moved me — it
is the challenge of expressing myself in
IN: What are your fondest memories
of making the 1980 film The Jazz
ND: More than anything else, this
film is a tribute to my grandmother,
who taught me Yiddish at home and my
Jewish heritage. I worked very hard to
retell this story of the cantor who left
his expected place in life for a career in
I identify with the cantor because my
parents wanted me to be a doctor and
did not encourage me to have a career in
music. "America;' "Hello Again" and "Love
On The Rocks" were songs I wrote for the
film that became popular and highlight my
concerts to this day.
Blockbuster filmmaker switches
gears for new flick.
he truth is, when Bob and I
started writing together, we always
thought we were going to make
small films': said Alex Kurtzman, co-writer
and director of the new film People Like Us,
which opens nationwide on June 29. "Bob"
is Roberto Orci, his writing and producing
partner. But small is not exactly the way it
worked out — until now.
Best known for TV scripts like Xena:
Warrior Princess and developing the
Hawaii Five-0 reboot, Kurtzman and
Orci have written for the big screen on
Transformers, Mission Impossible and Star
Trek films, what the industry calls "tent
pole movies" that make or break studio
That's why People Like Us is such a pleas-
ant surprise. Where previous work was big,
bold and over the top, the new film is sub-
tler, frequently moved forward by tiny slices
of reality and small moments of truth.
Sam (Chris Pine) is a shady, fast-talking
salesman who learns his father has died;
he only reluctantly returns to California
tour, Katie and I will be going on a six-month
honeymoon to visit Israel, Italy and New
York. I want her to know all about me — my
past and present. All the places we are visit-
ing are part of my history, including Italy as
my mother has a few relatives there. E
IN: You've performed at fundraisers for
Jewish organizations over the years. Will
you be doing any more in the future?
ND: The organizations I've performed for
— both Jewish and non-Jewish — are all
involved in making the world a better place,
which is important from my tradition. I do
the fundraisers when I can so I hope to do
more in the future.
I am proud of my roots, and following this
A Family Affair
Special to the Jewish News
Neil Diamond plays DTE Energy Music
Theatre on July 3.
and his estranged family. In fulfilling
his father's last wishes, he discovers
a 30-year-old half-sister (Elizabeth
Banks) and a young nephew (Michael
Hall D'Addario) he knew nothing
It sounds like a Lifetime "Movie
of the Week': and even begins with
Director Alex Kurtzman confers with actor
a screen placard that says,"Inspired
Chris Pine on the set of People Like Us.
by True Events:' But People is so well
acted — Michelle Pfeiffer rounds out the
had he met his half-siblings when he was
top-flight cast — so well thought out, so
well constructed, it is one of the best pic-
In fact, though, "it was weirder than that.
tures of a summer overstuffed with — you I was sitting in the garden of my house one
should pardon the expression — tent pole
day and this image — it's the last image of
the film — struck me like an arrow. It was
The spark for the film comes from
a powerful image. Three hours later, I walk
Kiu-tzman's own life. His father has been
into a party, and a woman comes up to me
married before, and there was a half-broth- and says,`I'm your sister:"
er and a half-sister the filmmaker vaguely
They spent time together and got to
knew about. But it was never discussed.
know each other. Kurtzman won't talk
"Definitely it was a presence,' he said. "I
about the family dynamic that kept the two
didn't ask too many questions until I met
families apart as he was growing up or his
my sister. It's a little like having a phantom
father's reaction to the film. He will say, "My
limb. You know there's a part of you miss-
dad has been my greatest supporter always
ing, but you don't know where it is"
and always has been incredibly proud of
According to the film's production notes,
my work; he always gave me the faith to
Kurtzman was sitting around one day
believe I could make it as a writer."
wondering what life would have been like
Kurtzman, 38, grew up in Los Angeles.
Neil Diamond performs at 8 p.m.
Tuesday, July 3, at DTE Energy
Music Theatre in Clarkston. $127.50
and $85 pavilion; $29.50 lawn.
(800) 745-3000; www.palacenet.
He did not attend Hebrew school but had
a bar mitzvah "together with my father;
my dad's father died when my dad was 12 ,
so my dad didn't have a bar mitzvah. We
decided to have it together:'
Orci and Kurtzman met in high school
— "We just gravitated to the same likes"
— but writing for a smaller film was far
different from writing the comic book
"Typically with the bigger films we have
a release date before we have a script so its
always go-go-go. In this case, we weren't
writing about anyone but ourselves, spend-
ing a lot of time separating truth from fic-
tion. It was a very different experience and
taught us patience." (Joining the duo as a
writing partner for this project was Jody
While it took eight years to complete
the screenplay, the writers' patience was
quickly rewarded. "We gave [the script]
to DreamWorks on a Thursday, and they
called us on Saturday to say they were
going to make the movie."
Because of the personal nature of this
film, Kurtzman wanted to direct. Actually,
he's wanted to direct since childhood.
"I got into writing to be a director," he
said. "I thought I would write my way into
And he did. H
People Like Us opens in area theaters
on Friday, June 29.