Posted by Danielle Berrin
In a move that values box office over prestige, actress Bryce Dallas Howard has joined the Twilight cast. In a controversial move by Summit Entertainment, who pushed out actress Rachelle LeFevre for Howard’s bigger name, Howard will appear in “Eclipse,” the third film in the franchise which is set for release in 2010. A wise move for Summit, but a dubious one for Howard.
Howard, who is the daughter of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, is a classically trained theater actress, an NYU Tisch graduate, who, from the time I met her at Stagedoor Manor summer camp in the late 90s, seemed destined for acting greatness. I always thought her more Meryl Streep than Megan Fox, but as her recent choices suggest, she is trading in talent for fortune. Her early resume is comprised of rich, character roles, like the part of Grace in Lars Von Trier’s drama “Manderlay,” an intense portrait of race relations in the American South. she also appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “Lady in the Water” and took a starring role in Shakespeare, playing Rosalind in Kenneth Branagh’s “As You Like It.” Her tastes have changed lately, as her preference for heavy-handed blockbusters such as “Spider Man 3” and “Terminator Salvation” trumps her onetime penchant for high-art.
From the Guardian:
Spider-Man 3 star Bryce Dallas Howard is to sink her teeth into another money-spinning franchise: she is to play evil vampire Victoria in the third Twilight film, Eclipse, replacing Rachelle Lefevre.
The movie, based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel of the same name, is due in cinemas in June 2010.
Erik Feig of series producers Summit Entertainment said: “We are incredibly happy that Bryce has agreed to come into the franchise. Rachelle brought Victoria to great screen life and Bryce will bring a new dimension to the character. The franchise is lucky to have such a talented actress as Bryce coming in to fill the role.”
According to reports, Lefevre is leaving the series because of scheduling conflicts. But what a time to go: the role of Victoria gets significantly more screen time in Eclipse. In this instalment Victoria, who blames dreamboat vampire Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson) and his swooning human inamorata Bella Swann (Kirsten Stewart) for the death of her mate James, creates an army of new vampires to vanquish them.
12.5.13 at 10:57 am | Never underestimate the miraculous confluence of. . .
11.27.13 at 2:54 pm | Rabbis Adam Kligfeld and Ari Lucas answer probing. . .
11.24.13 at 12:15 pm | Meet the woman who turned Suzanne Collins' young. . .
11.21.13 at 11:48 am | What I found transcendent about Handler’s. . .
11.9.13 at 12:57 pm |
10.29.13 at 6:31 pm | Zusak talks about choosing “Death” as a. . .
10.2.13 at 12:44 pm | The modern "Queen of Sheba" as Israeli President. . . (841)
12.5.13 at 10:57 am | Never underestimate the miraculous confluence of. . . (396)
5.18.12 at 2:38 pm | Now in it's fifth season, Jewishness on "Mad Men". . . (327)
July 30, 2009 | 3:24 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Madonna will play journalist for the day when Yediot Ahronot publishes a story she wrote about her religious awakening. In the story, Madonna writes about meeting Jewish mystic Eitan Yardeni when she was pregnant with her daughter, Lourdes, 14 years ago. “I suddenly realized that I spent my entire life worrying only about myself and soon I’ll be responsible for the life of another person,” she writes. “I started seeing that being rich and famous is not the end of the road, but only the beginning.”
From the AP:
JERUSALEM (AP)—Israel’s biggest daily newspaper is boasting a new international correspondent - Madonna.
The Material Girl’s byline is on the front page of Wednesday’s issue of Yediot Ahronot with an excerpt from her upcoming article headlined: “How My Life Changed.” The paper translated her words into Hebrew. Madonna’s full article is to be published Friday.
Madonna isn’t Jewish but she has adopted the Hebrew name of Esther and studies Jewish mysticism. She made a private pilgrimage to Israel in 2004 and plans two shows in the country in September as part of her Sticky & Sweet tour.
July 30, 2009 | 2:39 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
After a recent screening of “Funny People” at The Writers Guild, The Journal asked Judd Apatow if he uses the same Jewish ensemble over and over again because—just maybe—those actors’ shared heritage makes for better onscreen chemistry. “Maybe,” Apatow replied. “It’s just a sensibility that’s almost an unspoken, unconscious thing. You can’t quite put your finger on why.”
Then he said something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about, “I’m not a religious person, but I couldn’t be more Jewish.”
The idea that someone can be—not simply ‘Jewish’ but really Jewish—without participating in Jewish religious life seems like a contradiction. How can someone “be” Jewish without actively doing Jewish things like keeping kosher, going to shul and observing Shabbat? Yet the sentiment is widely shared in Hollywood. Again and again, people in the industry tell me they strongly identify as Jewish but their religion is making movies.
So what exactly does it mean to be Jewish but not religious?
Mel Brooks has an answer. There was a comedy special on KCET Tuesday night that I happened upon accidentally. And lo and behold, it was about American comedians who’ve “lampooned politics and/or pop culture through the years.” And guess what? Most of them were Jewish. Mel Brooks, Jon Stewart, Sid Caesar, Billy Crystal, Roseanne Barr and on and on. Nowadays, I think Judd Apatow might fit into that crew.
“Ethnic groups are attracted to comedy. When the Jews were in the ghetto, they became the comedians because they were outsiders,” said comedian/director David Steinberg.
“It’s how everyone got out of the tenements by doing their special brand of humor, because if you talk about it out loud, it can take away the curse of it all,” added producer Bernie Brillstein.
Roseanne Barr, whose portrayal of an unglamorous suburban housewife won her awards and a 9-year series run, said: “If you make fun of your own in front of the dominant culture here, you can live next door to them.” In other words, if you self-deprecate you can assimilate.
But Mel Brooks never tried to belong. He has famously said, “My comedy comes from the feeling that as a Jew, even though you’re better and smarter, you’ll never belong.” Brooks, who was never religious, took Judaism seriously. So seriously in fact, that he regards his Jewishness as a primary motivating factor in his most important life choices. “One of my lifelong jobs has been to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler, because how do you get even? There’s only one way to get even: you have to bring him down with ridicule,” Brooks said. In other words, being critical gives you power.
“Yes, I am a Jew,” he pronounced to his interviewer. “What about it? What about it!” he shouted, as if it should mean nothing when it means everything.
Apatow’s brand of comedy is decidedly different from that of Brooks’s generation, but what they share is a Jewish sensibility. For them, being Jewish is a distinct way of reacting to the world around them. It’s about the attitudes, beliefs and personality traits that have developed out of a shared outsider status and a history of persecution. Apatow’s angsty male stoner culture could be seen as a reaction to overwhelming Jewish ambition, the need for success and wealth and power, which in itself, is a response to never having had any. Let’s not mention the role of the oppressive Jewish mother in all that.
What Apatow may have meant when he said, “I couldn’t be more Jewish” is that Judaism informs the way he negotiates the world. Or as Roseanne put it, “the dominant culture.” (Hollywood, by nature, is a response to the dominant culture so it’s very Jewish in that way too.) And while Apatow’s movies are beloved by the larger culture, they are mostly about people on the fringes. People who are quirky and weird and unordinary. People who crack jokes because they’re smarter, but they’ll never belong.
July 29, 2009 | 2:48 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Critics by and large have decided Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” pretty much stinks. Whether that’s a comment on the filmmaking itself or its gut-wrenching content is hard to determine before its August 21 release. But the idea of Brad Pitt starring in a Jewish revenge fantasy about a gory slaughter of Nazis directed by the king of gratuitous movie “pulp” has proven irresistible to media buzz. So bad as critics say the movie is, it’s provoking some interesting insights, like the following tidbit from the New York Post.
From Page Six:
QUENTIN Tarantino has a twisted sense of humor. First, he cast his pal Eli Roth, director of the “Hostel” torture-porn movies, as a bat-wielding soldier who clubs Nazis to death in his new World War II flick, “Inglourious Basterds.” Then, he got Roth to direct scenes of a fictional Nazi film supposedly directed by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that’s part of the plot. “Quentin got the Jewish director to do the Nazi propaganda film,” an amused Roth tells next month’s GQ. “[And] I thought I’d never do anything more disgusting than ‘Hostel II.’”
July 28, 2009 | 5:04 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
There is a growing relationship between Hollywood and Israel that is being nurtured in the entertainment industry’s highest circles. Darren Star, Amy Pascal, Nina Jacobson, Brad Silberling, Joan Hyler and David Lonner are just a handful of high profile individuals who have been to Israel to talk business. The L.A. community has established several programs in order to ensure an ongoing relationship between Israel’s rising creative industry and the world’s most famous one.
Here’s the latest scoop from a Hollywood visit to the holy land (see also JTA story after the feature):
by Meredith Price Levitt
The 11th annual Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Master Class at Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque began this week offering both negative and positive news for Israeli students and professionals. Founded by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and co-sponsored by HOT cable company, the event was established to forge connections and create partnerships between Hollywood and Israel’s film, television and new-media professionals.
This year, if there were any doubts about how the television networks have been weathering these difficult economic times, CBS President Nina Tassler and talent manager Danny Sussman cleared them up immediately. In their 25 and 21 years in the business, respectively, this was the worst year they have ever seen, both said. The combination of the Writers Guild strike, shrinking advertising revenues and dramatic increases in digital recording devices that eliminate commercials has the networks mired in serious financial trouble.
Despite having the number one new series (“The Mentalist”), the number one returning show (“CSI”) and the best network ratings, CBS, along with everyone else, is still struggling.
Dressed in a casual white pantsuit that set off her deep olive complexion, Tassler quietly took her allocated seat on the stage, while Sussman roamed about the amphitheater like a prowling lion bursting with excitement. Although their demeanors could not have been more different, and the pair traditionally stake ground on opposite sides of the fence—Tassler for the network and Sussman for actors - they know each other well and share a similar perspective. While Tassler calmly explained the recent changes with a warm frankness, Sussman peppered his outlook with lively asides.
“Our industry is not immune to the bubble bursting, and we’ve had to take a hard look at reality. The days when agents could negotiate multi-year, $45-million contracts for writers are over,” Tassler explained.
“GM is f—-ing gone, in case anybody wanted to know about it!” interjected Sussman from his perch on the stairs beside the audience. “The thing you people have to remember is that the networks may be cutting back, but we know they’re fair, and we know that we have to play ball with them.”
Aside from overseeing all of CBS’s entertainment programming (prime time, late night and daytime), Tassler is also the incoming chair of the L.A. Federation’s United Jewish Fund Entertainment Division. Over the course of her career, she has introduced some of the highest-rated and commercially successful dramas on network television, such as the “CSI” franchise, “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case” and “NCIS.” More recently, she was responsible for debuting “The Mentalist” and “The Big Bang Theory,” the latter a critically acclaimed comedy currently in its second season.
Sussman has been a talent representative for 21 years and has been deeply involved in the annual Master Class collaboration between Israel and his native Los Angeles for the last nine years. This year, he is placing extra emphasis on the opportunities for new talent that have not been seen in the industry for years. Sussman even prepared what he calls an Obama speech—a “Yes I Can” pep talk for the downtrodden and discouraged to get them fired up about their ability to succeed in this difficult business.
Indeed, amid the downturn, there is some good news for Israel’s growing entertainment industry. The economic situation has opened new doors for collaborations between Hollywood and other countries, something that American networks traditionally eschewed.
“As countries like Israel get better and better at what they do and there is more development, they are buying less from us too,” noted Tassler. But this increasing talent pool abroad has also led to American networks buying rights to more foreign shows, such as the wildly popular “In Treatment,” which got its start in Israel.
“Israelis are known for their creativity, and whereas American writers have to do mental gymnastics to come up with stories, Israelis can pull from their personal lives. They don’t have to look elsewhere for good drama. They live with it,” Tassler told The Jewish Journal in an interview after the seminar. The appeal of small, intimate stories transcends cultural borders, and the human elements that make up a good story are universal. The ability to look at relationships and characters and to be introspective resonates with American audiences, no matter where the content may have originated—be it Israel, Canada or elsewhere.
“Ever since ‘In Treatment,’ Israel has been on the radar, and I’m impressed by the level of professionalism here and the influx of a higher caliber of talent,” Tassler continued. “The level of awareness here and curiosity is extraordinary, and we would love to co-produce some shows in the near future.”
In Tassler and Sussman’s vision, co-production could mean using Israeli actors who speak English well and shooting the same show in Israel in multiple takes—one in Hebrew and one in English.
A staunch, self-proclaimed Zionist who has been to Israel 45 times, Sussman agreed that the wave of collaboration between the two countries is just beginning and holds enormous potential for both sides.
“Both countries share a multicultural democracy that is based on an immigrant population,” he said. “The importance of the theater in Israel means that they’re getting the highest level of training. The United States wants to make TV here, and within the next three of four years, we’re going to see that becoming a reality.”
Continuing through July 31, the master classes and special events in Tel Aviv also featured Darren Star (“Sex and the City”), Gail Berman (former president of Fox Television, Viacom Paramount Pictures, producer of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Bill Masters (sitcom writer, including for “Seinfeld”), Jerry Levine (television director), Sarah Treem (head writer of HBO’s “In Treatment”) and others.
Read more about Hollywood’s love affair with Israel:
Hollywood-Israel link flourishing
Master class: Israelis and Angelenos learn the secret of showbusiness
Does Hollywood give Jewish?
Hollywood gets hot for Israel - JTA
July 27, 2009 | 7:56 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
NBC Chairman Ben Silverman is vacating his post after two tough years at the helm of the network.
Better known for his hard partying lifestyle than his ability to improve ratings, Silverman’s resignation is welcome news in the entertainment world. During his two years as chief, NBC has ranked fourth-place in the ratings race and seen a slew of bombs like “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Knight Rider” plague its reputation. There’s been talk for months that someone at NBC was going to get the ax (last week the network announced that second quarter profits were down 41% this year), and with rumors of Silverman’s chronic absentia and incessant socializing an easy target, many expected a shakeup on top.
But Silverman is too compelling a personality to be banished for good. He will join Barry Diller in a forming a new media company that will focus on production and distribution.
In a 2007 profile, Esquire described him as “a former producer and agent whose close relationships with talent and unapologetic 24/7 lifestyle are as integral to his success as his knack for developing hit shows.” The only problem was that after he sold his independent production company, Reveille, which brought “The Office” to U.S. audiences and reportedly earned him a $60 million payday, he failed to deliver at the network. According to The Wrap, his vacancy will mean that “there will be a more professional and stable atmosphere [at NBC] which would help any kind of turnaround.” Nikki Finke declared that Silverman leaves behind “a record of abject failure.” And Silverman himself is telling the press that this fall’s television lineup will be his judge—though rumor has it he hired someone else to put together the programming.
According to a copy of an email Finke posted on her website, Silverman sent all his Hollywood colleagues the press release announcing his departure and wrote, “Its go time brother!!!!!!! Let’s rock it out!!!!!”
Silverman grew up in a reform Jewish home in Pittsfield, MA. According to American Jewish Life magazine, his mother Mary was a theater-turned-cable television producer for Lifetime, USA and Court TV. His father Stanley was a musician who composed avant-garde chamber music. Silverman attended Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed in front of some of his mother’s intimidating theater colleagues, like Joe Papp. “Unfortunately, my voice broke so it wasn’t my most shining performance. I wish I had a rehearsal day on that,” Silverman told the magazine.
Notoriously young for someone of his entertainment stature (and even more famous for acting his age) Silverman told American Jewish Life he was on the hunt for a nice Jewish girl. “Sarah Silverman is going out with Jimmy Kimmel so that’s out. Too bad, we wouldn’t even have to change the stationery,” he told AJL. “There’s an Allison Silverman who’s the showrunner of The Daily Show. I was thinking maybe I should call her for a date.”
Replacing Silverman is Jeff Gaspin, former head of Universal’s cable operations who will now serve as Chairman. Jewish Television Network (JTN) honored Gaspin with a 2008 Vision Award last November, where “Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel joked, “It’s a groundbreaking week; just yesterday we elected a black man president, and tonight we’re honoring a Jew in show business.”
Undoubtedly the best part of today’s news is that Ryan Seacrest, a Silverman pal, broke the story on Twitter.
July 24, 2009 | 8:55 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
What began as a catfight has become a turf war inside the world of Hollywood journalism. And it stars two of the industry’s most prominent online news sources, Sharon Waxman, editor of The Wrap and Nikki Finke, creator of Deadline Hollywood Daily, both of whom happen to be Jewish.
Today, Waxman’s column practically shouted, “Hey, Nikki: How’s That About Relativity and MGM?” Waxman was defending a Wrap story published last May about a Relativity Media takeover of MGM, which this morning Finke dismissed as “bull——.”
“Maybe Nikki’s off her game because she’s on vacation. But I wish for her sake she’d stop embarrassing herself by tsk-tsking others without having the facts to back it up,” Waxman wrote on her blog, Waxword. “Today she decided that TheWrap’s exclusive story in May… which she couldn’t match, and therefore ignored—was wrong.”
But Finke goes further than that. In her post, “Separating MGM Truth from Fiction,” Finke avoids calling The Wrap by name, referring to it only as “a blog” which she then berates by listing examples in which she found The Wrap’s reporting to be inaccurate. “That’s the same error-filled blog that kept telling readers there’d be no William Morris/Endeavor merger, or mistook old merger talks pre-Twilight for a new Summit/Lionsgate deal, or claimed an Avatar trailer would debut with Transformers 2, or thought Peter Chernin working for Bob Iger at Disney sounded plausible, or insisted DHD [Deadline Hollywood Daily] was selling to The Huffington Post.”
Waxman one-ups Finke by posting a copy of the Relativity proposal proving that the facts motivating her story were true (though it appears the implied takeover has since fallen through). “I’m sure Nikki will apologize for her error, and correct her post,” Waxman concludes. “But I’m not holding my breath.”
These dueling Hollywood journos have been going at each other for awhile now. Waxman has been covering Hollywood since 1995; first, as a correspondent for The Washington Post and then, The New York Times. Finke was a Moscow correspondent for The Associated Press and covered Washington for Newsweek before launching Deadline Hollywood Daily in 2006. Together, Waxman and Finke have a monopoly on industry insider information with well-placed, high-powered sources constantly feeding them juice.
Tensions escalated when Waxman debuted The Wrap in January 2009, and the women became each other’s primary competitors. Gawker was the first to pick up on the brewing battle in the summer of 2008 (their post, which features the above image was ironically yet another dispute over facts regarding an MGM sale). Gawker wrote, “With Waxman’s industry/culture site The Wrap soon to encroach on Finke’s daffy dominion, we need to know who to trust, and fast.” In November of that year, during the height of the actor’s strike, a series of “sharp jabs” between the two prompted Gawker to declare their squabbles an “ongoing feud.” Ever since, the feisty femmes have duked it out over who breaks news faster, which facts are more precise and who has better access into the hermetic orb that is Hollywood.
In late June, Finke raised her profile with the sale of DHD to mail.com for a reported multi-million payday. To no one’s surprise, Waxman got the exclusive and interviewed Finke—excuse me, ‘grilled’ her—on the details of the sale.
Waxman: What is your traffic?
Finke: I’m obsessed by the news. Not by my traffic. People keep telling me it’s extraordinary. I know that since the inception of the site there have been 65 million page views this week. Give or take. That’s what I can tell you. That’s what the source meter says on my site. I don’t know. It’s called Sitemeter.
SW: You told me the numbers I published back in March were wrong?
NK: I don’t know the number you seem to desperately want. I don’t have to tell you anything.
SW:What is your vision for taking it to the next level?
NF: I don’t know, but I sure want to find out. We have a strategy that we want to pursue.
SW: What does that involve?
NF: I’d rather not tell you.
SW: Let’s talk about the deal? Seven figures? Eight figures?
NF: I will not confirm or deny anything.
SW: So what was the deal?
NF: It’s the GNP of a small country.
SW: What the f—- does that mean?
NF: It’s cute.
SW: It’s meaningless.
NF: It’s cute.
SW: It’s cute to you.
NF: I’m also using the line, “I’m working for a 30 year old.” I don’t take this as seriously as you do. Hell, it’s just life. Not the second coming. I didn’t hire a publicist. It was a deal worth waiting for.
Finke and Waxman seem to derive a great deal of pleasure going for each other’s jugulars, like two girl bullies on the school playground. This is welcome entertainment in the world of Hollywood, where cutthroat power grabs are all in a day’s work and the psychology of personality—especially of those in power, is a driving force in its economy. If Waxman and Finke were studio heads or publishing magnates, they would become the people they’re writing about. In the meantime, their spirited competition is as compelling as the industry gossip that lands on their blogs.
It could almost be a movie, couldn’t it?
July 24, 2009 | 2:42 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
“One Night Stand” is like no musical you’ve ever seen. It’s like no musical anyone’s ever seen—literally. The seven young performers taking the stage at the Hudson Theatre each night put on a full one hour heart-tugging, belly-laughing, jaw-dropping Broadway musical—and it is 100 percent improvised on the spot.
It’s a performance you need to see to believe.
Jonah Platt, the troupe’s founder, asks the audience at the beginning of the evening to shout out a title, a title song and a location for the opening scene. I watched on opening night as audience members weighed in with titles ranging from “Bran Flakes” to “Power Rangers” to “Tres Miserables.”
He latched onto Power Rangers, then the song title “Love Forever,” then the location: a fountain.
Keyboardist and musical director Andrew Resnick struck up the improvised overture, and suddenly a new musical theatre piece was born, unfolding over (roughly) three acts, featuring love songs, action, a show-stopper, and some laugh-out-loud word twists and lyrics.
This was One Night Stand’s 60th musical—each one different. Platt, whom I spoke with briefly after the show, said the troupe is exposed to hundreds of musicals, dissecting the beats, and then just gets up there and…wings it. How does he know what title will work best?
“Well, let’s see, what were my choices tonight?” he said. “Power Rangers or Bran Flakes? That was kind of easy.”
Platt founded the troupe in January 2007. They’ve performed at The Groundlings Theatre and twice at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, where their 2008 run sold out, and the troupe was named “#1 Thing To Do” by the Edinburgh Evening News.
I’d put them pretty far up on my list, too. The one hour flies by, and I marveled at how they managed to turn the standard beats of the musical to serve their comedic purposes. The touching love song sung with a sly wink, the de riguer show stopper belted out with all the requisite verve and crowd-rousing appeal—The lesson is that on Broadway the music does more of the heavy emotional lifting than you might realize. I got wrapped up in one moment until it dawned on me: I’m listening to a song about an overweight Power Ranger. I’ve shelled out 150 bucks for balcony seats to long-rehearsed shows on Broadway that didn’t have anywhere near the freshness, fun and creativity of One Night Stand (I’m looking at you, “Movin’ Out”).
There’s a high-wire feel to the night, since the audience doesn’t know the next word, and neither do the performers. And yet they manage to pull it off, and at times turn in lyrics that would stand up on the printed page. It’s a family show, too, at least the night I saw it—no easy laughs from four-letter words or raunch (though in my favorite made up song of the night, a woman sings to her lover, “I four-letter word you.”)
Platt started his improv work while a student at Harvard-Westlake, where he founded the Harvard-Westlake Scene Monkeys. He went on to work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Office and Parks and Recreation. His father, Marc Platt, is the executive producer of One Night stand. The elder Platt, who produced a pretty successful Broadway show of his own called “Wicked,” was in his son’s corner on opening night—taking notes on a yellow legal pad and videoing the revelry from the back of the 30 seat theatre.
You’re on stage, dozens of people are watching, you don;’t know your lines, now GO!— to me that’s pretty much the definition of a nightmare. But the performers all seem to relish their nightly leap into the unknown. They are, along with Platt, Quinn Beswick, Kobi Libii, Josh Margolin, Samantha Martin, and Mollie Taxe—if you’re a HollywoodJew of the agent persuasion, get down to the Hudson for first dibs. I could see any or all of them again in a completely different musical—in fact, I’d only be able to see them in a completely different musical.
One Night Stand runs until Aug. 22 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. For information go to www.onenightstandmusical.com.
See a video clip here: