Yehuda Levy wants to be Robbie Williams and Ran Danker plays on guitar. Yehuda runs around with Ninet, Danker's ultra-famous ex, and Danker is looking for a rebound. It's time to meet the two most talked-about male stars in Israel and to figure out the answer to the million shekel question: Who will retain his top-celeb status and who will end up dreaming about the glory days.
Yehuda Levy features in 70 percent of the tele-novellas that have ever been broadcasted in Israel. In addition, you can see him in the drama "Venus Sign", in Eitan Fox's movie "Yosi and Jagger" (about two homosexual soldiers in the IDF) in the Sapheri brothers' movie "Schwartz Dynasty", in numerous holiday festivals, in fashion adds for Fox stores, and, last but not least, as an ad model for "Bamba" snack food.
Ran Danker's resume is quite a bit more modest and is basically summed up by three seasons in the hit musical TV series "Our Song" and his features in the show's CD soundtrack. Children recently saw him in "The Sound of Music" and the Festigal (Hanukkah song festival). He also models for Diadora.
Yehuda is a nouveau-"frech" – a macho dandy. By the time you finish reading this sentence, he will have finished thinning out his five o'clock shadow, smoothing his eyebrows, pedicuring his feet and preparing two organic shampoo shakes. He is the extreme version of a metrosexual man, or, in his own words: "what, just because I have something between my legs, I don't need to spend time on my appearance?" Levy's coterie work is hard at work nurturing his image as a sex symbol.
On the other hand, Danker is the sweet, sensitive guy, sitting in the corner with his guitar and shedding a tear for love lost. The image melds perfectly with his performance in the successful reality drama "Raninet" (the media nickname for his former, highly publicized, life-imitates-art, romance with "A Star is Born" winner Ninet Tayeb, who starred opposite him in "Our Song").
Yehuda scoop: the actor dreams of a musical career, most likely as a pop star a-la Robbie Williams, and received an offer from an American Jewish investor who heard his musical stylings in the Hanukkah TV production, "A song is born". Now all he needs to be provided with are songs, charisma, and an explanation that it's really not necessary to say "neshama" (a term of endearment, like sweetie) every other word.
Yehuda Levy (Photo: Raffi Daloya)
Danker has already announced that he's working on a disc. Contrary to Levy, he has already proven the existence of basic musical talent in "Our Song" and also writes his own songs, always considered a bonus in showbiz. This still doesn't make him the natural heir of his heroes, Chris Martin and Jim Morrison, but who knows…
While Yehuda Levy is no Chaim Topol, he definitely has an extensive career, containing a much-lauded performance in "Yosi and Jagger", plus a 90-second cameo in Spielberg's "Munich." The fact that he was blessed with dramatic talent, i.e. a tele-novella star with more than one facial expression, ensures his involvement in projects that will propel him to legitimate actor status.
And how about Ran? Granted readers of the popular "Pnai Plus" TV digest awarded him actor of the year, but if it were up to them, he would have won the PEN prize. After two and a quarter seasons of "Our Song", it's hard to say that we're impressed with the boy's acting skills. This is not to say that we couldn't be pleasantly surprised in the future, but for now, he's more of a youth in bloom than an Orlando Bloom.
Levy will say it to your face: USD 360,000-400,000 for two seasons on cable, USD 150,000-180,000 a year for a Fox ad campaign, which brings us to about USD 550,000 a year, not counting festival guest appearances. It's safe to say: not bad (in comparison, Ninet has a USD 250,000 a year contract). He bought himself a jeep and the money that he doesn't spend at the gym goes towards rent for his apartment in the pricy Shenkin area.
Danker is more consistent: USD 60,000-80,000 for a season of "Our Song", USD 60,000-80,000 a season for a Diadora ad campaign, meaning about USD 140,000 a year, not counting festival guest appearances. If Ran's celebrity status stays the same next year, it's safe to assume a large increase in his salary, just like this year. In contrast to Yehuda, Danker has been investing more in real estate and recently bought and apartment in Tel Aviv.
Career: Peaks and Low Points
In regards to Yehuda, there are conflicting opinions: on one hand, his debut in "Munich" was extremely short, but, still, Spielberg. On the other hand, it might just have been film footage taken from Ninet's visit to the Wailing Wall. As to Ran, the big flash in his career up to now was his character, Lightning Man, in the 2005 superhero-themed Festigal Hanukkah festival, in which he delighted audiences aged seven to seventy with the help of especially tight shorts.
Ran Danker (Photo: Or Shaked)
A definite low point for Yehuda was the on-stage musical, Tarzan, in which he wore a long wig and a python curled around his neck. And, still, like every 'total actor', he explains in unbelievable seriousness: "I'm learning all the somersaults, all the nuts and bolts, I discovered an amazing world." Almost as bad as this was his claim "Ninet and I are not a couple. I sleep alone," two weeks before Ninet's public announcement of their couple status. Ran achieved definite lameness sometime near the end of the first episode of season three of "Our Song" where, as a soldier, he asks a family of settlers from Gaza to evacuate their home.
Ninet quality time
Yehuda: a few months (depending on who you ask) plus a mini-vacation in Rome. They're looking for an apartment together. Ran: a year and a half, not including joint living arrangements.
A search for Yehuda's name calls up 153,000 hits on Google and 1,226 references in magazine articles since the beginning of the year. He won second place among celebs, with seven percent of the votes, in a survey among teens conducted by "Yedioth Aharonoth" newspaper. Danker had 96,300 Google hits and 739 magazine references since the beginning of the year. He took first place, with nine percent, among celebs in the survey. According to "Pnai Plus" TV digest, which checks popularity based on Internet search words, Danker's popularity is demonstrating an upward trend, while Levy's is demonstrating a downward trend.
Levy refused to pose for "Yedioth Aharonoth" magazine without Kappa clothes. Danker requested to be photographed individually for "Our Song" posters, because Ninet always appeared in the center of group photos.
Before the fame
Yehuda was in Tel Aviv's youth choir. Ran was a delivery boy for Domino's pizza in Netanya.
The talk in the biz
Levy is regarded as a very calculated celebrity, from both a career and romance perspective. His contract as the local talent for the 'Hot' cable network is considered a very smart move, which allows him to appear in more appreciated shows, while affording him the comfort of starring in tele-novellas for the whole family. His new couple-status with Ninet has also been helpful by catapulting him to the front pages, although opponents of this theory claim that Ninet constitutes a problematic element, which has reduced his sex appeal. This shrewdness notwithstanding, Levy's acting skills are much less contested than Danker's (primarily because of "Yosi and Jagger"). Ran is regarded as a good guy, but not talented enough as an actor. Most of the girls agree, Danker is more legitimately attractive than Levy, but, just like that DVD that you bought at the duty-free, might have a shelf-life of only three years. After two years of tele-novellas, Danker should have tried to prove himself in a legitimate drama, in the movies or at least as a musician. Instead, he prefers to strengthen his celebrity status as star of the third and fourth seasons of "Our Song". A debatable choice.
Plans for the future
Yehuda will play the son of a mafia arbitrator in Hot's new 13-part television series, "the Arbitrator", starting this December, with Moshe Ivgy and Neta Garty. We foresee tough competition for Soprano. It is still unclear if he will choose to participate in a second season of television soccer drama, "the Championship". His contract with Hot ends in May of 2007. Ran declared that, while he desires to try his hand at theater, he is also considering studying acting abroad, and that, regardless, for the upcoming year he is committed to his contract for "Our Song". The show is being filmed for two consecutive seasons, which doesn't leave a lot of free time for Shakespeare. In the mean time, Ran is collecting, as aforesaid, material for his first disc, and along the way, there will probably be some festival appearances, too.
Raz Shahnik contributed to the writing of this article