In 7 Days in Entebbe, José Padilha recreates a historical event that still reverberates today. On June 27, 1976, two German radicals (played by Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike) along with two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijack an Air France jet, flying it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where they hold it and its 248 passengers hostage. The world watches as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) and Defense Minister Shimon Peres (Eddie Marsan) debate what to do. As the hours tick down, the Israelis hatch a daring plan that, if successful, will change the course of history.
In constructing 7 Days in Entebbe, screenwriter Gregory Burke wove together a multifaceted tale that took seriously all the various agents, from the terrorists to the politicians. In the end, as Burke explains, “Everybody involved in the event wanted to be the good guy.” To help understand who’s who in this tangled web, we’ve highlighted the different players and their backgrounds.
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Wilfried Böse | Daniel Brühl
“I knew about Entebbe,” recalls Daniel Brühl, “but reading this particular script made me aware of so many additional details that are absolutely fascinating.” Brühl plays Wilfried Böse, the German terrorist who along with Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) engineered the hijacking. In 1973, a former University of Frankfurt student, Wilfried Böse, founded Revolutionary Cells along with Johannes Weinrich. Like other radicalized groups in Germany at the time—such as the Red Army Faction and 2 June Movement—Revolutionary Cells pledged both to destabilize the Germany government at home and support international movements, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). A year before Entebbe, members of Revolutionary Cells members joined the infamous international terrorist Carlos the Jackal to take members of OPEC hostage at their 1975 meeting in Vienna. Entebbe was Böse's first major operation.
Brigitte Kuhlmann | Rosamund Pike
Rosemund Pike describes her character Brigitte Kuhlmann as “a German left-wing intellectual who felt she had a moral urgency behind her cause.” Kuhlman, who was believed to have studied pedagogy at a University in Hannover and had a part-time job caring for handicapped patients, became radicalized in the early 70s, helping Böse start Revolutionary Cells. While little is known about her before Entebbe, she became an icon afterwards. In 1977, four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181, labeling their team Commando Martyr Halima, a nod to Kuhlmann’s codename.
Shimon Peres | Eddie Marsan
To play Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres, Eddie Marsan worked to make him “an authentic human being with paradoxical thoughts and the kind of complexity that we don’t allow archetypes to have.” Peres, who was nine when his family moved to Tel Aviv in 1931, was forced to face the world’s moral complexity early on. Nearly all of his extended family that remained in Europe was wiped out in the Holocaust. From an early age, Peres was called to public service. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, he rose through the ranks, eventually serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Transportation, and Prime Minister. But it was his actions as Defense Minister pushing for a commando raid against Entebbe that defined Peres as a leader, even though much of the fame would go to his rival, Yitzhak Rabin. Despite Peres and Rabin’s famously rocky relationship, the two are linked together by history. First by Entebbe, then in 1994 by winning the Nobel Peace Prize—along with Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Yasser Arafat—"for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East."
Yitzhak Rabin | Lior Ashkenazi
In taking on the monumental figure of Yitzak Rabin, Lior Ashkenazi wanted to give his performance the full weight of history, explaining, “I didn’t want to imitate or caricature him.” Born in Jerusalem in 1922, Rabin literally grew up alongside the state of Israel. Having fought for Israel’s liberation from the British after World War II, Rabin went on to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, among other state positions. In 1974, Rabin beat out Peres to be elected the Prime Minister of Israel, a position he held till 1977. He was reelected Prime Minister in 1992, during which time he (along with Peres) helped negotiate the Oslo Accords with PLO’s Yasser Arafat, an act that won all three the 1994 Nobel Peace Price. In 1995, Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv by a right-wing extremist opposed to peace with the PLO.
Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu | Angel Bonanni
Playing Yoni Netanyahu, Angel Bonanni acknowledges feeling “an immense sense of pressure portraying such an iconic figure.” Born and raised in the United States, Yoni grew up in a highly competitive family—his brother Iddo became a doctor and noted playwright and his brother Benjamin (“Bibi”) grew up to be the Prime Minister of Israel. Even as a high school student, he felt the pull of destiny, writing to a friend, “I ought to be ready at every moment of my life to confront myself and say—'This is what I've done.'" After a year at Harvard, Yoni moved to Israel where he eventually joined the army, quickly rising through the ranks to become the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal. Remembered in films and plays, Yoni’s great legacy may be his unexpected influence on today’s world stage. Israel current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledges, “My brother’s death changed my life and directed it to its present course.”
Idi Amin | Nonso Anozie
British actor Nonso Anozie plays Idi Amin, the bigger-than-life leader of Uganda. From his start as an assistant cook for the British Colonial Army in 1946, Amin followed his own path to power, becoming the commander of the Ugandan Army twenty years later. In a 1971 military coup, Amin took control of the government, naming himself President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Pushing a populist Uganda-first policy, he started an anti-foreigner campaign, first appropriating the private property of mostly Asians and Western Europeans and then expelling more than 50,000 Asians with British passports. In 1976, Amin played up his anti-West policy on an international stage by giving safe harbor to Air France hijackers at the Entebbe airport. Three years later Amin was ousted from power, fleeing to Saudi Arabia where he lived in exile until his death in 2003.