To the website of Stephen Applebaum (@grubstreetsteve): freelance journalist, author and member of the Critics' Circle, London .

I started out as a humble staff writer on VNU Business Publications' What Micro? magazine. After four years of working on different titles in the publisher's stable, I decided to go freelance. I branched out into writing about film and politics, and today am able to tackle pretty much anything thrown at me.

I am an experienced interviewer and have shot the breeze with everyone from Beyonce to Al Gore, Michael Moore, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Terry Gilliam, Vidal Sassoon and Jesse Eisenberg.

My work has appeared in a wide variety of publications and different media internationally, including the Guardian, The Independent, Time Out, The Scotsman, The Times, the Sunday Times Culture, Vogue Australia, What's On in Dubai, The Jewish Chronicle, The Big Issue, The Herald, Rolling Stone, The Australian, the Sunday Times Perth, The West Australian, BBC Online, The Listener,, Total Film, Dazed & Confused, and Metro.

I have also been reprinted in several books, including Secrets of 24: The Unauthorized Guide to the Political and Moral Issues Behind TV's Most Riveting Drama, The UK Film Finance Handbook 2005/06, and The Film Finance Handbook - Global Edition. 

In 2008 I was nominated for an Australian OPSO award for a newspaper story about the film director Tamara Jenkins. 

In 2012, a newspaper story I wrote for The Scotsman about Robert Rodriguez supplied the concluding interview in the book, Robert Rodriguez: Interviews, edited by Zachary Ingle. 

I am the author of The Wicker Man: Conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer & Edward Woodward, which is available here:  

I attend the Berlin (February), Cannes (May), Venice (September),  and London (November) film festivals every year, and I am available for coverage of those events. 

If you would like to commission me, or reproduce any original features/interviews posted on this site, please email me in the first instance to discuss a project/rates, or contact me via Twitter: @grubstreetsteve. 

I am available for: 

Writing/Editing shifts
Feature writing
Celebrity interviews
Real life stories

Visit the sidebar on right for links to some of my published work, and blog archives.

Regards, Stephen Applebaum 

Review: Monster Family, City AM (02/03/18)

My review of Monster Family in City Am, 02/03/18

Guillermo del Toro on the deeper meaning in ‘The Shape of Water’

 Stephen Applebaum

The film tells of a unique love story between a mute cleaning lady played by Sally Hawkins and an Amazonian-fish man played by Doug Jones 
Guillermo del Toro is making the biggest splash of his life with The Shape of Water. A spin on Beauty and the Beast that could only have sprung from the imagination of the man who made Spanish Civil War fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, the film has been winning awards since taking the top prize at the Venice Film Festival last year.

Now it is the movie to beat at the Oscars in March, with 13 nominations. The bizarre love story between a mute cleaning lady (Sally Hawkins) and an Amazonian fish-man (Doug Jones) is one of Del Toro’s proudest achievements to date. He has put his next project on hold, to bang the drum for the film around the world.

“I made the big mistake of finishing Devil’s Backbone [a moving ghost story set in a Spanish orphanage] and going immediately into [vampire action-horror movie] Blade II,” he explains.

“I have the nagging notion that I should have promoted The Devil’s Backbone more, because it’s still one of my favourite movies and it’s still a movie that not many people know. And I don’t want it to happen again.”

Read the full feature here:

Interview: Steven Spielberg: The Post

I interviewed Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg about his new film, The Post. Read the interview here:

Steven Spielberg: the isolated Jewish boy who just wanted to be liked
Jewish Chronicle-18 Jan 2018

Next year he'll celebrate 50 years as a Hollywood hotshot, this year he has two films out. Steven Spielberg tells Stephen Applebaum how it all started as a way of defusing antisemitism.


Amos Gitai: West Of The Jordan River

 Amos Gitai's new documentary West of the Jordan River takes the Israeli filmmaker back to the occupied territories for the first time since his 1982 documentary, Field Diary. In it he talks to journalists, human rights activists, politicians, Jewish settlers and others about life today. I met Amos Gitai following the film's world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

You use the same music in this as you used in Rabin, The Last Day. Were the projects conceived at the same time? Did they come from the same impulse? Are they companion pieces?

"In some way, yes."

Why now?

"Because the situation is very bad. We have the most right wing government ever in Israel. I think it is doing a lot of harm to the country, but I also feel for it [Israel] a lot. There's a very narrow-minded and cynical point of view of what it should be, and so I think to myself, 'What can I do, I'm just a filmmaker?' So I'm doing a film."

You include a clip from an interview you did with Rabin in which he says he won't let the extremists derail the peace process.

"Finally they succeeded."

So the extremists are in power now?

"Yeah. Yeah."

There is talk of "neo-Rabinism" in the film as something that is required. Do you see anywhere in Israel right now where that could come from? Are there any signs of this anywhere within Israeli society?

“Netanyahu is quite a talented guy. He managed to mash all opposition forces. So at this point, unfortunately, the only opposition to the current power are these dead men. And, you know, I don't think we only have to believe in money. Or some people believe in machine guns. I think we also have to speak about memory, about ideas, and also memory and ideas that move the planet, especially being a Jew. If the Jews did not believe in ideas, they wouldn't have existed, because they were facing much more powerful empires [in the past]. So now we seem to be thinking that only the big jets and high-tech will protect them. But this is a mistake. We have to speak about ideas."

I saw a documentary about the Mossad agent Sylvia Raphael and in that a former general said Israel needed to always be preparing for the next war because if she loses one, that will be the end of her. Is that something that you recognise?

"It may be true but what does it mean to be ready? Obviously you need military power but also if you have the wrong policy, which brought the war that I was involved in, the Yom Kippur War, of complete hermetic, non-negotiable positions, it's not just the jets that will help. So with all respect to who said this, I think that it is also the lack of the political vision, the political courage to move forward, which I think is a necessity, that is the problem. I think what Rabin understood is that in order to stabilise the existence of Israel in the region, it has to find an in-road into the Arab world."

Do you think there is some lack of understanding of the Arab mentality? An Israeli woman in the group that brings together women who have lost people on both sides of the conflict - Israelis and Palestinians - talks about this. 

"I don't like the word mentality. I think that Rabin was different because he was not a racist. He was a soldier, so when there was a war he knew how to fight. But he didn't have a racist attitude to the other side, and this is necessary. If you have the complex of supremacy or a racist, or you think we are so smart and the other one not, you will never make peace. It's not only a question of concessions or territory. It's a question of attitude and what kind of Middle East you want."

Do you regard policies adopted by the present Israeli government as racist?

"I think there are a lot of racist policies, racist laws, and I think that they will weaken Israel. They will make it more hermetic. They don't want to teach Mahmoud Darwish [a Palestinian poet/author regarded as the Palestinian national poet] poetry in school, and I think that is a mistake because you're not obliged to adhere to everything he says, but you have to know what the other side thinks. This kind of Sovietic [sic] way of thinking about culture, about education, intervening in the nomination of the Supreme Court by politicians, will only weaken the institutions that Israel will need to survive in this region. It's not such a friendly region, so you need to have openness. You need to present a different model and not try to integrate negative aspects of other countries of this region."

Is the way that the Israel-Palestine conflict viewed too manichean?

"The narratives are all wrong because I think that the conflict is not between a group of angels and a group of bastards. I think both groups are angels and bastards at the same time. And I think the portrayal of some group as angelic will only prolong the conflict. I mean neither is angelic, so let's not kid ourselves. Like I say in the film, when Rabin gave the order to withdraw from the Palestinian cities was the worst [period of] Palestinian suicide attacks in Tel Aviv, and obviously that allowed the ultra right to delegitimise Rabin and eventually to kill him. So there are no angels. Let's leave this vision. Let's work for reconciliation and peace in a serious way, and not like the current government is doing - just spinning some media provocations. I think that this will create a lot of harm to Israel."

You've said young film-makers are having to sign something for the Minister of Culture. You seem to be an independent voice who no one's managed to tame. Have there been any attempts to put pressure on you?

"Well the Minister of Culture doesn't like everything that I am doing, which is her right. But I don't ask everybody to agree with me. I also don't agree with them, so it's fair enough. And I don't have the malady of some of the showbiz colleagues that want to be loved by everybody. And anyway, I don't love everybody myself. So I also think it's fair enough. No, you know, I am just an architect to start with, and I am into building bridges and against people who want to burn bridges all the time. I think it's a complicated area, in a very bad historical phase, and we have to keep trying to do it. And I think these very courageous groups of human rights organisations, Israelis and Palestinians, deserve all the homage and not all the curses that they get from the Israel right wing. I think they're great."

These groups are liberal in their thinking. What do you think of BDS?  

"I'm not for boycotts because I think we need a dialogue. And I think the government is applying its own boycott on all these human rights organisations, so they're not in the perfect position to speak about boycotts. They ask that groups like Breaking the Silence are not to speak in schools. They instructed all the schools to never allow them to speak to young people and for a Minister of Education never to accept it, and for a Minister of Culture to close two galleries, private galleries, which invited them to speak out. They restrict financing to all these groups and closed the capacity of this group called Rabbis for Human Rights to help the Bedouins. These are pure acts of boycott by the government. So they're not in a good position to speak about boycotts."

With regards to the Bedouins, is what we see in the film, with the school, a consequence of the Land Regulation Act?

"Yes. The Land Regulation Act is basically about trying to annex, in one way or another, more chunks of the West Bank."

There is a lot of mirroring that goes on throughout the film, which reflects your earlier contention that both sides are made up of angels and bastards. 

"That's why I'm not for boycotts because we have to keep the flow of ideas and dialogues against the ..."

You have I think it is three Haaretz journalists in the film.

"I think they are great. They're, in a sense, the only independent opposition now. In a way they are much more effective than all the parliamentary opposition."

I think what I liked is that you have a spectrum of views from them in the film which isn't reflected, quite often, in the way that people sometimes talk about the paper. Some people even say it is an enemy of Israel.

"Yeah. Yeah."

Was it intentional to show that there is a spectrum of opinion within the paper rather than being just a bloc?

"Sure. I think it's very impressive that they exist."

One of them suggests that Israel can either be a Jewish State or a democracy. Do you think these things are mutually exclusive, that Israel can be one but not the other?

"You know, I'm not making direct comments on the film because I'm not for the Michael Moore type of cinema. Even if I may agree with him politically, I don't like this kind of documentary which is too manipulative, even for the 'good causes'. For me it's a kind of mistrust of your viewers. So for me, when I see these kinds of documentaries, I start to mistrust their argument and for me it has the opposite effect. I don't like propaganda, even from the people I agree with. I like freethinkers. So my films are, in a way, calling for interpretation, not consumption."

One of the interesting things about the film, and one of its ironies, is that the way people in it talk about the settlers we're expecting them to be foaming extremists when we meet them at the end. But the two young women you speak to effectively embody the spirit of Rabin. One was stabbed and still wants to be able to live with Palestinians. Rabin talks about reaching out to the enemy and that is exactly what she wants to do.

"Exactly [agreeing that they embody the spirit of Rabin]. So that's why I think we have to collect contradictions. If we want, really, to bring change, we have to speak to everybody. And we have to solicit forces wherever we find them if we want to create this change and not pre judge, and speak openly and refuse racist tendencies which are in this current government. But also do the same judgement on ourselves."

The settlers are often regarded as a barrier to peace. Do you see them that way?

"Again, I'm not going to give you my political solution unless I'm elected with a vast majority of the Israeli people. Then I have a very clear programme."

Would you ever run for office?


You prefer the independence of being a filmmaker?


West of the Jordan River  will screen at the ICA on November 23rd, followed by a Q & A with Amos Gitai

For tickets go to