Life & Culture

A touch 
of Twin Peaks in Israel

Losing Alice star Ayelet Zurer sees no need for an American remake


There’s no question that Israeli-made television has inspired some of the best American shows of the past 15 years. BeTipul became on-the-therapist-couch drama In Treatment, with Gabriel Byrne. Prisoners of War was turned into the long-running Homeland, with Claire Danes. And teen angst mini-series Euphoria was remade by HBO in the US under the same title. So it’d be no surprise if Losing Alice goes the same way.

Created by Sigal Avin, this psychological thriller casts Israeli star Ayelet Zurer in the title role — a female film director who meets, in a seemingly chance encounter, a young screenwriter, Sophie (Lihi Kornowski) who becomes obsessed with her. An eight-episode mini-series, streaming on Apple TV+, this erotic film noir dangles tantalising mysteries in front of viewers, as if David Lynch had learned Hebrew. Just don’t tell Zurer, 51, that it’s ripe for an American remake.

“I don’t see any reason for it to be re-made once it’s on Apple TV,” she argues, forcefully. “That is why I’m really happy about our show becoming part of Apple TV — it solidifies the fact that you don’t need to re-make movies or re-make shows if they’re good, because you can challenge yourself and watch them in another language. I mean, the world of streaming really changed something, universally, in that way. I think that’s great.”

Zurer should be better known to international audiences than she is, especially with roles in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons and Zack Snyder’s Superman movie Man of Steel. Certainly, she’s an icon in Israel. When her co-star Kornowski arrived on set for the first time, she asked Zurer for a selfie. “I was like, ‘No, that’s not the relationship between us,’” says Zurer, referring to their characters’ sizzling dynamic. “I said, ‘You’re a creature that I’m afraid of but attracted to.’”

Zurer calls her relationship with Kornowski “very complex”, something the 28-year-old agrees with. “It felt tense,” she says. “I mean, I know it’s weird when I say it, but I felt like [it was] sexually tense between us! It was very powerful.” As friendly as they are when we speak over Zoom, laughing and teasing each other, it’s clear playing these tangled characters left its mark. “We had an amazing chemistry,” says Zurer, “but we weren’t friendly… once we started shooting.”

Despite the age difference, they are surprisingly simpatico. When I ask if film noir is a genre they like, they both chorus their love for David Lynch. “Twin Peaks was playing in my mind a lot of the time,” says Zurer, referring to Lynch’s iconic television show that re-appeared in 2017. Not so long ago, she took a road trip in the US. “And I drove by a little town called ‘Twin Peaks’ and I took a picture of it and sent it to Sigal and said, ‘That’s a sign for me.’”

In Losing Alice, there’s a third party that’s also crucial: Alice’s husband David, played by Gal Toren. A famous actor, he’s intrigued by Sophie too, especially when he reads the intense-sounding script she desperately wants produced. Once upon a time, it was Alice that was the successful one, but after they married and she became pregnant, his career took precedence. When the show begins, she hasn’t directed anything for years.

“Suddenly, she finds herself at home trying to write with three kids and he’s going around the world,” says Zurer. “And she’s not very fulfilled at this point, even though she’s a mother and has everything. I think that really challenges our perspective about women and motherhood as well, because you’re not allowed to be wanting to be fulfilled yourself, if you have three kids, and you’re happy and your husband is working.”

Both actresses are full of praise for Losing Alice’s creative force, the American-Israeli Avin, who has been writing, producing and directing for two decades on shows like Irreversible and The Champion. Before they started shooting, Zurer remembers getting texts from Avin about “how she felt, what she sees” in the male-dominated entertainment industry. “In a way, her experience would become my experience later on, as me playing someone like her in a way.”

It was Avin’s writing that really drew both women to their roles. “It depicts something about being a woman that I haven’t seen before,” says Zurer. “I felt like it really shows female relationships in a deeper way than I’ve ever seen before. The complexity of it, the relationship to one another, the relationship to age, and the relationships between two women who are really hungry to create and to succeed, both equally.”

While there is plenty of erotic content to steam up the screen, the very fact that Avin was in charge made the actors feel at ease. 
“It was really important to Sigal that every action of sex — or something sexual — was choreographed,” says Kornowski. “And it was like dance, like dancing, because everything needed to be so on point that nobody would feel insecure on set. That was really important; that gave me a real freedom in that character.”

With talents like Avin, it’s little wonder that the Israeli television industry is flourishing, whether the shows are being re-made or broadcast in their original form. Zurer suggests that the homegrown Israeli shows do the basics — good storytelling — remarkably well. “When you don’t have big budgets to lean on, sometimes you gotta be just smart in the way you tell a story. You have to go back to the original way that stories were made, which are more about relationships and less about grandiose effects.”

Although Losing Alice is a limited series — there is an end to the story in sight, and no second season in the offing — it’s clear these two would love to work with Avin again. “She was so great, she helped me every time that I asked her,” beams Kornowski. Is there anything in the offing? “I don’t know,” Zurer shrugs. “Sigal might have something in her mind. She might be cooking something up. You’ll have to wait and see.”


Losing Alice is on Apple TV + from today


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive