Jonah Hill: “I’d like to thank Israel for Natalie Portman”

The Israel Film Festival kicked off last night with a special gala opening event at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The evening’s honoree Jonah Hill was presented with the 2012 IFF Achievement in Film Award and was at a loss for words when coming on stage. “This is great, thank you very much, I’m honored and humbled”, said Hill and added jokingly a reference to his recent Oscar nomination, “forgive me for not preparing a speech, I was expecting Christopher Plumber to win”.

Following the screening of a reel from his on screen roles, a bashful Hill said “I just like making movies and I feel lucky that I get to make movies”, all the while apologizing for not being much of a speech person, “I’d like to thank Israel for creating a homebase for our people all over the world and most of all I’d like to thank Israel for Natalie Portman. We all love her and adore her”.

The 28yo actor, whose latest film “21 Jump Street” opens in theaters this weekend, was presented on stage by good friend and occasional co-star, Seth Rogen, who was in a particularly good mood, sarcastically saying that “I’ve known Jonah for a very long time… ever since we were kids we both dreamed of this honor”. He added that if organizers will decide to award him as well, that he’s available to pick up a statue.

Also honored at the gala, hosted by comedian Elon Gold (“Bones”, “The Mentalist”), were creators of Israel-bound series “Homeland” Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon, and David Nevins, president of Showtime, which airs the Golden Globe winningadaptation of Israel’s “Prisoners of War”. “David Nevins set his targets on this like an anti ballistic missile, saying ‘I want this on my network’… and it’s really been a dream for us”, said Gordon as the three received their honor, “Israel may not have oil, but it sure has talent as we’re seeing. There’s something very very special going on there… and we are so proud and honored to be part of freeing that talent to a broader audience”.

Seth Rogen teased organized about their selection of honorees and said “giving out an award to Jonah Hill and for a show about Islamic terrorists, you’re really bursting outside of the Israeli box this year, which is great, right? Shattering our stereotypes”. He later remembered his own visit to the holy land, telling the audience “Israel does seem to have a great respect for cinema, so much so that they’ve actually put an intermission in the middle of the movie, so you can go have a smoke and a beer. They actually do that. I was shocked”.

The event marks the beginning of the two weeks long festival, founded & organized by Meir Fenigstein for the 26th year, and featuring selected films from Israel. Guests at the gala included recent arrivals to the US, Israeli actors Oz Zehavi and Michael Moshonov, a glowing 2nd time mom Shirly Brener and Sarai Givaty. Visiting from Israel, among the attendees were actors Yaron Brobinsky & Chen Yanni and director Roi Werner, along with Limor Livnat, Israel’s Minister of Culture & Sport.