Posted by Danielle Berrin
Believe it: Sandra Bullock’s new adopted son had a bris—and not one of those makeshift ones they perform in hospitals—a real one, clipped by a mohel.
“Is everyone in Hollywood Jewish, just by osmosis?” a friend observed.
Perhaps; but there’s no word on why Bullock chose to have baby Louis admitted into the Jewish covenant—or if he has any biological Jewish heritage. All we can safely assume is that Bullock’s soon-to-be-ex-husband, Jesse James, who was photographed saluting “sieg heil” while wearing a Nazi cap, had little to do with it.
Back in March, weeks after Bullock won her first Oscar for “The Blind Side,” James was exposed as a Nazi-saluting, bimbo-loving, cheating, philanderer. It was an especially humiliating moment for Bullock—not just because her husband made Tiger Woods appear to have good taste—but because James’ infidelity came with shocking and charged imagery (click here to see mistress #1 playing cute Nazi). The scandal instantly derailed the preceding crowning moment of her career.
But the announcement of the adoption—which Bullock (and her handlers) smartly kept under wraps for four months, comes as a public relations blessing:
What better way to shift attention from your Nazi-loving, cheating husband than to have your kid circumcised?
According to People, the Jewish ceremony was performed at Bullock’s home last January (with James reportedly present).
Bullock is finalizing paperwork for a single parent adoption.
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April 24, 2010 | 9:08 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
First Israel exported oranges, then diamonds, followed by high-tech electronics, and now – television series?
After the warm reception of HBO’s “In Treatment,” the U.S. spinoff of Israel’s “BeTipul,” comes word that the Fox network is adapting “Hahatufim” for the American market, reports Variety.
The title translates as “The Kidnapped” and revolves around three Israeli soldiers – two alive, one dead – who are returned home in a massive prisoner swap after 17 years in captivity.
Much of the action deals with how the two survivors cope with reintegrating into families and a society which have greatly changed during the men’s absence.
In the U.S. adaptation, tentatively titled “The Patriots,” the plot revolves around two American soldiers taken prisoners shortly after 9/11 and released 10 years later.
As a twist, one of the returned men is under suspicion of having been brainwashed by his captors and may now be a terrorist threat himself.
Helming and co-writing “The Patriots” is Howard Gordon, just off his long stint as executive producer of “24.”
Gordon said that he finds his new project “liberating,” after being confined to the real-time format of “24” for the last eight years.
In addition, Fox is also said to be adapting the Israeli TV comedy series “Traffic Lights.”
April 22, 2010 | 3:26 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Cameron Douglas, son of Michael and grandson of Kirk, was in the news this week when a New York judge sentenced him to five years in prison for dealing methamphetamine from a trendy Manhattan hotel.
The 31-year old scion of the Hollywood dynasty has been in scrapes with the law since adolescence, and acted with his father and grandfather in one forgettable movie, but I would like to remember him in a different context.
During one of many interviews with Kirk Douglas over the last two decades, the actor told one anecdote that has stuck in my mind because it seemed to epitomize the penchant of American Jews to forge their own Jewish identities.
Both Kirk and Michael married non-Jewish women, so when Cameron was eight years old he came to his father with a weighty question.
“Pappy (Grandpa) is Jewish, right, Daddy?” Cameron asked.
“That’s right, Cameron,” Michael replied.
“But what are you, Daddy?”
“I guess people would say I’m half-Jewish.”
“Oh, and what am I?”
“Well, I suppose you’re a quarter Jewish.”
Cameron thought for a moment and then looked up at his father, saying, “Daddy, I wanna be half-Jewish.”
April 20, 2010 | 5:13 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Last week stand-up comedian Chris Rock was making the rounds to promote his new film, “Death at a Funeral,” the Americanized, potty-humor infused remake of the 2007 British film directed by Frank Oz.
During his appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Rock got to talking about a subject he knows well: blacks and Jews—from Brooklyn, New York. Rock, who grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and was subject to the first wave of public school integration in the 1970s whereby Black students were bussed into all white schools, consequently had a miserable educational experience. But what’s surprising in this mix is not the unabashed racism Rock recalls, but that he mentions only one group who had it worse: the Jews. I found his comments on the parallel abuses of blacks and Jews in New York illuminating, mainly because no one expects that in the melting pot immigrant mecca of the world, these two minorities enjoyed the least status. Even Maher could barely disguise his shock at hearing how the great and powerful Jews he knows in 21st century terms were beat up and berated.
My transcript of Bill Maher’s April 2010 interview with Chris Rock, which aired on HBO on April 9:
(Maher says how happy he is to see Rock succeed because he had such a horrible high school experience)
Chris Rock: I went to school with the kids from ‘Jersey Shore,’ like that kind of white person. In real life I hung out with this guy David Moskowitz. The Jews would get beat up too.
Rock: Yeah, yeah. The school I went to—junior high, high school and grade school—were pretty Italian and Irish, and so they beat up the blacks and they beat up the Jews. So I would kinda be friends with the Jewish guys….I used to work at the NY Daily News and it was like ‘On The Waterfront’ where they pick you and there’s no rhyme or reason to why they pickin’ anybody. Well it was Italians first, then the Irish, then the blacks then the Jews and that’s in ‘89, ‘88, ‘87, ‘89.
Maher: The blacks were ahead of the Jews?
Rock: The blacks were ahead of the Jews, even then. So it’s always been me and some Jewish guy…
I interviewed Rock for The Guardian last week (and I’ll post the story as soon as I finish writing it) in which we talked about Jewish humor, African-American humor and what exactly those labels mean—if they mean anything at all.
April 15, 2010 | 10:31 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Tom and Alec Gores are the billionaire financiers battling the Weinstein brothers for a shot at acquiring Miramax Films, the independent studio founded by the Weinsteins and later sold to Disney. The bidding war for the esteemed Miramax name and its Oscar-winning library pits Christian brothers born in Nazareth, Israel against Jewish brothers born in New York.
Despite it being a shadow of what it once was, the Miramax name is extremely valuable as is its film library. Over the past few months, various bidders have to come to the table offering in the hundreds of millions for the company (Disney is asking for $700 million), but the Weinsteins have deeply personal reasons to reclaim it for themselves (for starters, Miramax is named for their parents).
But the Goreses have the cash. Born in Nazareth, they immigrated to Flint, Michigan and later built up investment companies, buying everything from software to steel, TheWrap.com reports. While the Weinsteins are struggling to keep their other film outfit, The Weinstein Company afloat, the Goreses are sitting on a financial empire that is valued in the billions: Tom and Alec are ranked 147 and 220 on Forbes’ richest Americans list, respectively.
Though the Weinsteins built Miramax into one of the most successful independent film outfits ever, the company has struggled under Disney’s tutelage and has all but disappeared over the last six months. Disney has been trying to unload the studio after a series of disappointing releases intensified the effects of a bad economy. In late 2009, Disney slashed most of Miramax’s staff, reduced its release schedule and shuttered its New York headquarters as well as its office in Los Angeles.
Though relative strangers to the Hollywood scene, the Goreses know a thing or two about business. But if you thought the Weinsteins had a contentious relationship, the Goreses make them look like peaceniks. According to TheWrap.com’s profile, Alec Gores once hired private investigator Anthony Pellicano to find out if his brother Tom was sleeping with his wife.
What the Weinsteins bring to the bidding table—besides their reputable history—are expertise and passion for movies.
What wins out in the end—money or talent—will determine the future of a company that was once considered royalty in Hollywood.
Read more about the Gores brothers at TheWrap.com.
April 13, 2010 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Nikki Finke got some juicy scoop on Israeli producer Avi Lerner and his partner Danny Dimbort, whose company Millennium Films is being accused of false attribution by the Producers Guild of America.
According to a letter written by PGA executive director Vance Van Petten, Dimbort’s granddaughter is set to receive a producing credit on the film “Solitary Man” which is slated for release in May. The film features a number of stars, including Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary Louise-Parker and Jesse Eisenberg.
According to the PGA letter, another of the film’s producers reported that Dimbort’s granddaughter—who is described as “teenaged”—didn’t do diddly squat for the film and doesn’t deserve a credit. Van Petten has no qualms insinuating that the situation sounds like a shameless case of nepotism: “According to this producer, Ms. [Dana] Golumb not only is credited as ‘Produced by’ despite performing no discernible producing functions on the film, but also is Mr. Dimbort’s teenaged granddaughter.”
So much for influence and power. Even in Hollywood, higher-ups can’t get away with everything.
April 13, 2010 | 2:36 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The sex lawsuit filed against actor Steven Seagal looks worse than the sex scandals of late involving Tiger Woods and Jesse James. That’s because the plaintiff, 23-year-old Kayden Nguyen, a former Seagal assistant, claims he assaulted her on multiple occasions. The motive for sex and power is the same old male egotism we saw with Woods and James, but the methods of obtaining sex can be radically different for different men, and it’s crucial to know the difference.
To avoid digressing into tabloid sensationalism, I’m just going to say that Seagal deserves the benefit of the doubt—until he doesn’t. But my true motive for posting this story is more out of female solidarity because after reading Nicholas Kristof’s enlightening and important book “Half the Sky” about sex crimes inflicted upon millions of women and girls worldwide, I consider it a dereliction of duty not to give voice to these matters when they are so often veiled and silenced around the world.
And if you’re going, “Steven Seagal, the guy from ‘Under Siege’ is Jewish?” Then read this excerpt from a column by JJ editor Rob Eshman:
...really, Steven Seagal is a Jew.
I mean, he’s a Jew from Lansing, Michigan, the son of Samuel Steven Seagal (1928-1991), a high school math teacher. His father’s parents were Russian Jews, Nathan Siegelman - later changed to Seagal - (1892-1973) and Dora Goldstein (1894-1989). Seagal’s mother is of Irish ancestry (Jewish? Catholic?) but according to Reform Jewish law, the man is a Jew.
April 12, 2010 | 6:54 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Two weeks ago, just hours before the first seder, Jon Stewart hosted Ben Stiller on The Daily Show to talk about his new movie, “Greenberg.” Instead, the two entertainers went the way of ancestral bonding, trading facetious quips about the Passover holiday.
Stewart began by protecting his Jewish comrade and assuring the audience that, despite the segment airing during the first seder, Stiller was not breaking Jewish law because the show is taped before sundown.
What ensued was a casual but revealing conversation in which Stiller and Stewart inquired about each other’s Passover practices: Stiller observes Pesach with his family, Stewart said he planned to eat a bacon sandwich (his usual wisecrack on significant Jewish holidays—he said as much last year on the day of Yom Kippur).
Despite the fact that by Orthodox standards, both men would likely be labeled secular, Stiller’s honesty and earnestness regarding his Jewish background (he grew up on the Upper West side of Manhattan where his school “provided” Matzah) was a marked contrast to Stewart’s condescending cluelessness. In fact, there was something naive and even sad about Stewart’s attitude toward the holiday—namely, that it didn’t matter much. And it showed when he explained that he did not grow up in a Jewish area, and that as a young boy, he was surrounded by “Italians and Polish and Irish—and they would wonder why I was eating crackers.”
From the outside, Stiller and Stewart might look like the same kind of Jew, but on a closer look, it becomes clear that Stewart was an outsider in a mixed ethnic community, whereas Stiller, who grew up in a close-knit Jewish community is the one celebrating seder and sending his daughter to Hebrew school.
Read my rough transcript of the (pretty hilarious) March 29 interview on “The Daily Show”:
Jon Stewart: Before we go on, we should clarify, this show is taped before sundown; this man is breaking no Passover law by appearing tonight.
Ben Stiller: That’s right, I am attending a seder after the show. (Turns to Stewart) Are you?
(Stewart looks like a dear caught in headlights. Stiller nods encouragingly)
JS: Uh, yes.
BS: There’s always room at our table…
JS: Do you do the big..
BS: My parents are doing it which is great.
JS: They do the big thing? How many people are gonna be there?
BS: It’s not gonna be big. There’ll be like 6 or 7 people. My daughter just got all excited about Passover. She learned the Ten Plagues, which was fun, so she’s going around and acting you know, blood, lice, cattle flies…
JS: That doesn’t make her nervous? Does she now fear the plagues?
BS: No, no she enjoys them. Especially death of the firstborn ‘cause her… her brother. It’s intense when she starts rattling off.. she’s into it.
JS: How old is she?
BS: She’s gonna be 8.
JS: Did you have to do the Passover… You grew up in New York or Los Angeles? When you were in like second grade, did you go with the matzah to school?
BS: I didn’t bring my own matzah to school. Our school provided matzah for us—it being on the upper west side of Manhattan. It was always exciting; we had to hide the afikomen (turns towards audience) and you had to find this afikomen… This is not the big Jewish audience I got from earlier. You see there’s a piece of matzah that’s hidden and you find it as the kid and then you get a little surprise.
JS: You get like a dollar. See, I did not grow up in necessarily a Jewish area so Passover was more of a…
BS: An idea?
JS: There were Italians and Polish and Irish and they would wonder why I was eating crackers.
BS: Right. And you told them it was..
JS: I had stomach cancer. (laughs) What am I gonna say? My people were slaves in the land of Egypt? And then boom. I do remember it being nice, everybody got together at the thing..
BS: Yeah it’s nice
JS: Would you get in trouble if you did not attend?
BS: Would I tonight? My mother would not be happy. And my mother is a convert. She was raised Irish catholic and then she converted so she knows more about Judaism than our entire family combined.
JS: The converts always care more.
BS: Yes. They’re much stricter.
JS: They studied it.. the rest of us…
BS: She made the choice.
JS: We did the Bar Mitzvah, got the money..
BS: Exactly. And we’d done our duty and moved on in life.
JS: I do have a tradition; a Passover tradition. I’m gonna share it with my audience tonight. I’m gonna share it with you. I get a bacon and egg croissanwich.
BS: It’s hard on the unleavened croissant. It gets messy and crumbly.
JS: Just 8 days man.. there’s so many holidays!