Move Over Gal Gadot, There's a New Israeli Sensation in Hollywood

At only 16, former Israeli Odeya Rush will star in an upcoming sci-fi flick alongside Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.

Shany Littman
Shany Littman
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Shany Littman
Shany Littman

There are three things that Odeya Rush is not willing to do: Roles in action films based only on physical stunts, seductive Lolita roles, and regular roles in a television series that will keep her booked for seven years.

Rush, only 16 years old, already knows very well how to navigate her confusing career in Hollywood, with assertiveness and seriousness that surprise even her parents. In Israel we are used to making a big deal over Bar Refaeli and Gal Gadot, but there is a very good chance that Rush will push them out of the spotlight as the most successful Israeli in Hollywood - and without having to go through enticing poses in bathing suits on the way.

Well, a former Israeli. Rush was born in Haifa, the first daughter after two sons. After her, two sets of twins were born, so she has no less than six brothers. When she was nine she joined her father, a security consultant, in Alabama where he took a job. Since then she and her family have been living in the United States.

Since her career requires her to have perfect English with the accent of an American girl, she worked hard at it and now Rush speaks English better than Hebrew - especially when it comes to interviews. Her answers are also pure Hollywood; professional and positive, as is appropriate for someone who thinks very carefully about the professional implications for every word she says.

Rush is now in South Africa, in Cape Town, where she has been for the last three months for the filming of the movie adaptation of the book “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. She plays the female lead Fiona in the film, which is directed by Phillip Noyce, with a star-studded cast that includes Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift. The movie is about a utopian society in which emotions are under control and pain and strife have been eliminated by making everyone the same. The people cannot see colors, they don’t vote and they don’t suffer, since they cannot feel anything - in an attempt to create a society without war or pain.

The hero is Jonas, a 12- year old boy who is given the role of becoming the “Receiver of Memory,” bearing the collective memory of the community. Fiona is his best friend, and embarks with him on a journey to the real world outside.

We held the interview over Skype, on Rush’s weekly day off from filming, most of which she spends in her hotel room.

When asked why should she start her career at such a young age, Rush says she actually started late. At age five she would perform for her four young brothers, two sets of twins aged one and two, to help her mother by keeping them entertained. After moving to the United States, Rush decided to try her luck professionally, and at age 13 she received her first job in the eternal television series Law and Order SVU. They went to New York and went to various agencies. She started in commercials and ads where she didn’t need to speak. She worked on her Israeli accent and hired a speech coach - and she returned to the agencies where they now said she spoke like an American. She quickly picked up jobs.

Her next step was a role in Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm show, and then a role in the Disney film The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

Rush insists the desire to act came only from her, and her parents are not pushing her. She says they are just helping her get to where she wants. I have a lot of motivation, she says, and she wants it very much.

She goes to a public school and says her family keeps it all from going to her head. Rush says she still washes dishes at home - and she does what all the kids her age do.

As to her lack of life experience, Rush says you can use your imagination. Similar things, similar pains, they don’t have to be identical. As to what would have happened if she remained in Israel, Rush says she probably would have gone to a theater school, continued on to television and Israeli films - since that is what she really wants to do all her life, act, and it doesn’t matter where.

But don’t get the wrong impression - Rush’s life does not look like that of a normal 16 year old. She may keep in touch with her high school friends back home, even during her long absences for making films; but for now she spends most of her time running around with Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes, who she calls faithful friends. But while one day she says she may want to direct, but for now she is never bored, every day brings something new and she thinks she can continue acting forever.

Odeya Rush.Credit: Shlomo Rush

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