Saddam's Hollywood Twin Waits Out War

Dictator’s Hollywood Double Is Taking a Break, But War Novelty Items Abound

By Buck Wolf

April 8  Saddam Hussein isn't showing his face much lately, and neither is his California look-alike Jerry Haleva, who's earned big bucks as the tyrant's Hollywood double.

If you've ever seen Saddam Hussein depicted in a Hollywood film, that's Haleva — a dead ringer for the Iraqi dictator who didn't mind "milking it" for laughs and money.

In 1991's Hot Shots, he depicted Hussein relaxing in a lounge chair when a bomb went off in his lap. In the 1993 sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux, he even got one of the film's best lines: "Now I will kill you until you die from it!"

He's also appeared in the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski and most recently in HBO's Live from Baghdad

You can imagine, Saddam doppelgangers are much in demand, and not just in Iraq, where the dictator is said to employ a cadre of body doubles to confuse his adversaries.

But Haleva's putting his show business career on hold, at least until the war ends. "I don't want to be in the position of profiting on what's going on," he says.

He says he's not able to joke about such matters when so many lives are at risk.

"After the war, I plan to have fun," Haleva says. "Where else but America can a nice Jewish boy get paid for making fun of Saddam Hussein?"

‘I’m Not Stalin’

Several years ago, the Capitol Steps comedy troop brought Haleva onstage to sing "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iraq" to the tune of "Barbara Ann." But he says he doesn't like live performances, and he's keeping his day job as a lobbyist. Among his clients: Pepperdine University, glass manufacturer OI California Containers Inc., and the city of Stockton, Calif.

The resemblance between Haleva and Hussein started getting attention out in 1989, when Haleva was a staffer for a California lawmaker. A colleague passed around a picture of Saddam in military regalia with the caption, "Now we know what Haleva does on his weekends."

During the first Gulf War, Haleva says a friend in law enforcement convinced him to shave his mustache to tone down the likeness. But when the war ended, the offers began to pour in.

As a Jew and a pro-Israel activist, Haleva found that working as a clownish Saddam only made his Hollywood career more ironic. He supports President Bush and describes the Iraqi dictator as "pure evil."

Not everyone thinks Haleva looks like Saddam. Once in Washington, D.C., the lobbyist stopped at the Lincoln Memorial, and noticed that his cabbie was chuckling to another driver in Russian. The cabbie apologized: "I'm sorry, but my friend and I think you look like someone who's not very nice."