Posted by Danielle Berrin
In a move that values artistry over politics, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will confer an honorary Oscar on iconic French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard on Nov. 13.
This week’s Jewish Journal cover story asks: Is Jean-Luc Godard an anti-Semite?
As writer Tom Tugend notes, Godard is considered by cinephiles and film critics alike to be “the ultimate cinematic genius”, and a spate of biographies about the revered film artist reveal a controversial and outspoken man, especially on issues related to Israel and the Holocaust.
Tugend’s investigation addresses Godard’s family history, his reputation among colleagues and scholars, and the three biographies that shed light on Godard’s relationship to the Jews. What emerges is a complex portrait that raises questions but delivers few answers.
The early seeds of Godard’s alleged anti-Semitism and acknowledged anti-Zionism may have been planted in the home of his affluent Swiss-French Protestant family.
In a 1978 lecture in Montreal, he spoke of his family’s own political history as World War II “collaborators” who rooted for a German victory, and of his grandfather as “ferociously not even anti-Zionist, but he was anti-Jew; whereas I am anti-Zionist, he was anti-Semitic.”
At the very least, it’s refreshing to learn that Godard distinguishes a difference; a theme I addressed earlier this week. What can be gleaned from this article is that Godard’s anti-Semitic offenses are much less clear. According to Tugend’s report, Godard once called producer Pierre Braunberger a “filthy Jew”; another example has him echoing the classic refrain of Jewish greed.
But Godard’s statements seem more an expression of casual anti-Semitism, which is practically a cultural rite in France, than hardcore Jew-hatred.
“There is a casual anti-Semitism in French culture that is quite different than that of the virulent anti-Semitism of the extreme French right, and that is very much connected to a kind of antagonism towards Jews in power,” Maureen Turim, professor of English at the University of Florida, explained.
Film critic Bill Krohn, the Hollywood correspondent for the iconic French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, may have picked up on this in his defense of Godard. He excused Godard for calling Braunberger a “sale Juif ” (filthy Jew), by dismissing the remark as banter between friends, insisting it was a reference to Jean Renoir’s indictment of French anti-Semitism “La grande illusion.”
Turim, who is at work on a book about Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Resistance in the French Cinema, thinks Krohn is missing the point.
“No amount of reference to ‘La grande illusion’ allows you to make that kind of comment,” Turim said by phone from Gainesville, Florida where she is teaching a graduate seminar on Godard. “It’s not a joke; it’s not a joke in ‘La grande illusion,’ which is one of the strongest statements in the history of French film that anti-Semitism exists in France, and that it’s a horrible thing, and you can’t just turn it into a joke.”
“Godard should just say ‘I’m sorry, I spoke terribly.’ But there’s a whole way that people find to excuse such unconscious anti Semitism that runs through [French] culture.”
Locating Godard’s anti-Semitism is challenging, since, as the article suggests, his work reflects more of what might considered anti-Zionist impulses.
As Tugend notes: “In his 1976 documentary, ‘Ici et ailleurs’ (“Here and Elsewhere”)… Godard inserted alternating blinking images of Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler, and suggested, in reference to the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, that ‘before every Olympic finale, an image of a Palestinian [refugee] camp should be broadcast.’”
His other offense? “He has always been obsessed by the Holocaust,” Tugend writes.
Having spent many college nights avoiding seedy bars and watching Godard films instead, I can say unequivocally that there are few more fascinating filmmakers alive. Godard’s works function as a meeting place for art and philosophy, politics and class struggle, for the reverence of images above narrative, and creation over commercialism. It’s hard to imagine him as narrow-minded as the ‘anti-Semitic’ label would suggest, but I suppose it’s always difficult learning that those you’ve irrepressibly admired might not like you very much (I remember how crushing it was, in elementary school, when I read a Vanity Fair piece about Roald Dahl’s anti-Semitism; James and the Giant Peach was never as juicy after that).
“I don’t think he’s a right wing, conscious anti-Semite,” Turim said of Godard. “I think he reflects certain things in French culture where you don’t examine anti-Semitism and its relationship to anti-Zionism carefully enough.”
As Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in a 2008 Village Voice review of Richard Brody’s 700-page tome, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, “[T]he complications introduced by showbiz gossip about mythical and controversial figures are endless: While these stories make for compulsive reading, they interfere with criticism and scholarship.”
But even if Godard is anti-Semitic, is it possible to separate the filmmaker from the films? Is he any less talented or worthy of the Academy’s honor? In Hollywood (and I mean ‘Hollywood’ in the broadest sense—Godard would likely cringe to be lumped in that category) there is a tendency to conflate the artist with the art, when the art alone has something to teach us.
“Godard is great filmmaker,” Turim said. “I look at a fair number of great writers who are anti Semitic and study them, but I don’t stop recognizing that they’re anti-Semitic, in fact it’s a major reason I look at [French writer Louis-Ferdinand] Céline or [Ezra] Pound.”
Turim said she hopes the controversy surrounding Godard does not inspire censorship of his work, but transforms the conversation about anti-Semitism. Instead of asking, ‘Is Godard anti-Semitic?’ Ask “people who say that they’re anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic how they can conceive of the future for the current Jewish population of Israel.”
“[Anti-Zionism] never answers that question; it never looks at the real political prospect of settling the situation for both people.” A critique that only identifies with Palestinians and doesn’t ask the same question on behalf of Jews is a flawed critique.
How might Godard respond to that?
6.12.13 at 4:30 pm | Of the many upbeat ways to describe the dance. . .
5.29.13 at 3:24 pm | The Dreamworks Animation CEO borrows a lesson. . .
5.29.13 at 12:30 pm | Ratner's contribution is especially significant,. . .
5.23.13 at 5:48 pm | Was there no way to portray Fitzgerald’s Jew as. . .
5.21.13 at 9:43 am | Tribal affiliation notwithstanding, Apatow, 45,. . .
5.20.13 at 12:02 pm |
5.18.12 at 2:38 pm | Now in it's fifth season, Jewishness on "Mad Men". . . (1531)
6.12.13 at 4:30 pm | Of the many upbeat ways to describe the dance. . . (376)
5.22.12 at 10:21 pm | It took Daniel Mendelsohn's discursive and. . . (270)
October 5, 2010 | 4:22 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Last night, Stuart Schoffman, a visiting fellow from The Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, held up a provocative political cartoon that ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2003. In it, a Jewish star doubles as a security fence entrapping Palestinian men, women and children inside a symbolic Jewish prison.
“Is this anti-Semitic?” Schoffman asked me after the lecture.
“Yes?” I guessed, but with much hesitation. Was this a trick question?
I told him the overt Jewish-star-as-prison-camp reference threw me off. Any sensible person would consider this anti-Semitic.
“Well,” he said, “it doesn’t have to be.”
Schoffman’s point was that Jewish eyes see a Jewish star and a dangerous equation. When really the cartoon is a political critique. Once the State of Israel decided to put the Jewish star (magen david) on its flag—a symbol of Jewish nationalism—they ran the risk that criticisms of the state could be misconstrued as criticisms of Jews.
“Since the Jewish star is also the symbol of the State of Israel, a cartoon that is a harsh criticism of Israeli policy could be construed as an attack on the Jews, even when it isn’t necessarily,” Schoffman wrote via email.
Schoffman is suggesting that the cartoon is misunderstood; it depicts not a Jewish prison, but an Israeli one. Which, I would argue, is part of the point: How can we separate the two? During his lecture the other night, Schoffman told a roomful of Jewish academics, leaders and rabbis that after 22 years of living in Israel, he can no longer separate out his identity; being Jewish and being Israeli is one and the same.
So what, then, is anti-Semitism?
It’s a loaded, catchall phrase that seems to cover everything from violent pogroms to tasteless jokes, and in its truest form is a very real threat to Jewish life. But today the term gets thrown around so frequently, especially in the media, that what anti-Semitism actually is – and what it’s definitely not – has become frighteningly mysterious. In the past four days alone, two major public relations coups (one involving former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez; the other, the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi) have followed allegedly offensive statements about Jews. And yet, the severity of the backlash would suggest these men had behaved violently, when in reality, they were more or less acting insensitively. As Jews, we’re so preconditioned to the idea that everyone wants to kill us, we pounce at the slightest insult.
“One aspect of Jewish (over)sensitivity is the question of whether anti-Israel equals anti-Semitic,” Schoffman wrote. “Which immediately raises the question of what one means by ‘anti-Israel.’ A great many Jewish and Israeli Zionists are opposed to many policies of the Israeli government regarding the Palestinians. This obviously does not make them anti-Israel.”
The impulse to label any criticism of Jews ‘anti-Semitic’ becomes even more obvious when confronting Hollywood stereotypes. A writer for The Daily Beast recently charged a Jewish character on “Glee” with being anti-Semitic. Why, because he’s obnoxious? Masturbates in public? Tried buying a girlfriend? If this is the 21st century criteria for anti-Semitism than no wonder we Jews think everything is anti-Semitic.
“We have become, as a people, extremely sensitive to [anti-Semitism],” Schoffman said. “We Jews have historical hypochondria; we throw around this terminology in a free and easy way.”
But just because something is tasteless and stupid doesn’t mean it’s anti-Semitic. For example, last week Rick Sanchez called Jon Stewart a ‘bigot’. That was crass, rude and unsophisticated—but anti-Semitic? Sanchez further asserted that Jews have a lot of power and influence in the media. If we’re honest, that’s probably true (I haven’t run the numbers)—but is it anti-Semitic to say so?
In a column for Slate.com, the prominent Jewish atheist Christopher Hitchens wonders, “Is it so offensive to note the effectiveness of the Jewish lobby?” Hitchens, too, seems puzzled as to why seemingly innocuous remarks have been met with such maddening outcries.
“So why the fuss?” he wrote. “I think it has to do with the tone of voice in which these facts are stated.”
I happen to agree. In a recent Hollywood Jew post, about CNN’s decision to fire Sanchez, I wrote: “If Sanchez had made an objective comment like, ‘Even though small in number, the Jews are disproportionately powerful in the media industry’ than that might have come off as rational. But the comments he made were mean-spirited, coming from a place of anger and resentment that stems from his own perceived failings.”
Sanchez was legitimately upset with Stewart, because more than once he had been on the receiving end of Stewart’s signature skewering. Which is, as anyone who watches Stewart can attest, not the most uplifting experience for the ego.
Even Stewart said as much on “The Daily Show” last night: “Mr. Sanchez was apparently angry at me and our program for some of the fun we poked at, quite frankly, his extremely poke-able show.”
Hitchens also sensed Sanchez’s vulnerability: “In the manner in which Sanchez spoke, there was something like a buried resentment. He didn’t descend into saying that there was Jewish control of the media, but he did imply that liberalism was linked to a single ethnicity. Still, there is nothing criminal about this.”
Although many expected Stewart to retaliate, he fairly concluded, “If CNN got rid of Rick Sanchez because they didn’t like his show, fine! (We weren’t that crazy about it either.) But if they fired him for making some intemperate statements and some banal Jew-bating, I gotta tell ya, I’m not even sure Sanchez believes what he was saying, because I know, when Rick Sanchez has time to think things through…” And then Stewart showed a clip of Sanchez calling a white supremacist – wait for it – a bigot.
The point is, there’s a difference between being anti-Semitic and being offensive or insulting. For what it’s worth, Rick Sanchez seems to be as confused as to what constitutes a ‘bigot’ as Jews are about what constitutes anti-Semitism. And another irony, which Stewart pointed out, is that after he made a single joke about Sanchez at a televised benefit over the weekend, the media immediately responded with grossly sensationalized headlines.
Is this the age of overreaction?
As further proof, I offer a summary of what some have termed an unspeakably offensive joke told by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last weekend and caught on video:
In the clip the prime minister recounts how a Jew charged another Jew about $4,000 a day for hiding him during World War II. The punchline of the joke states, “The Jew says, the question now is whether we should tell him Hitler is dead and the war is over.”
The only thing more laughable than cheap offenses being spun into anti-Semitism is the fact that after Berlusconi delivered an indelicate joke, it was a Vatican newspaper that condemned him.
For a great many Jews, that joke will never be funny. But that doesn’t mean it is hateful, dangerous or destructive. Jews, of all people, know how tenuous survival can be; all the more reason to choose our battles wisely.
[This post has been UPDATED]
October 4, 2010 | 5:14 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The second season of Glee, Fox’s high-school-musical-for-grown-ups, has chosen to spotlight its fourth Jewish character. His name is Jacob Ben-Israel (Josh Sussman) though he is affectionately called “Jew-Fro” in reference to his cotton-candy wad of – you guessed it – Jew-Fro. Like the show’s other Jewish characters, Ben-Israel is also unlikable – only more so.
He is, by my account, a blithering fool. But I was somewhat disturbed to read this post from The Daily Beast’s Jace Lacob, who takes him far more seriously:
The handling of the character—here presented as a sweaty, stammering, and compulsively masturbating Jew—borders on the anti-Semitic. Is it a case of Kosher panic? Or another symbol of that eternal Glee crutch: the use of stereotype as shorthand for character development? Either way, the butt sweat stains, over-the-top hairstyle (“It’s like a Jewish cloud,” cooed Brittany), self-pleasuring during the pep rally performance, and his attempt to actually buy Rachel from Finn are in shockingly poor taste, considering the series’ self-professed messages about acceptance and equality.
So, I agree, the Pee-Wee Herman antics? Not so hot. But “anti-Semitic”? That seems like a strong reaction to a character that is, at best, a caricature. “Jew-Fro” is not like any Jewish guy I know, which makes it hard to see him as any meaningful representation of Jewish whatsoever (even his fro, all messy and combed-through, is more Afro than Jew-Fro which usually come in the form of tighter curls and can be quite beautiful). Ben-Israel is offensive because he’s callow and obnoxious – not because he’s Jewish.
It also makes little sense to me why Lacob’s analysis of the show, entitled “Why I Loathe Glee” (his italics, not mine) concludes that the show is silly and plotless (albeit true) but still insists it live up to its earlier incarnation as a smart show about “acceptance and equality”. (I’m not sure if Lacob is Jewish, but since the only mutual friend we share on Facebook is my rabbi’s spouse, I’m going to venture a good guess that his JewFro is personally offended by Glee’s JewFro.)
Even as Lacob rightly points out that “plot, characterization, and logic” have gone “out the window” on Glee – its audience holds: 13.3 million viewers for the Britney Spears episode last week. Because despite being plotless, Glee is not boring; it is trendy and zeitgeisty, taking the backdrop of high school and adding MTV.
“Scenes involving dialogue or plot development are shoehorned between massive musical set pieces, which draw from the vast and varied world of popular music,” Lacob writes of the show. “Instead of illustrating the unspoken and inner desires or fears of the characters, the songs here seem like coldly calculated viral videos, designed to rapidly spread across the Internet.”
Glee’s inventiveness as tabloid-style television for a generation that wants splashy entertainment fast is the antidote to more sophisticated shows like “Mad Men” (which similarly, does not depend as much on plot as it does on deep, rich characterizations, and the significance of events and historic parallels that require careful observance, patience and reflection). Glee is more like sex without love; a hot, quick fix that doesn’t amount to much and doesn’t need to.
Which is why it makes even less sense that critics are decrying the show for being plotless and popular—as if what’s popular is always a pre-requisite for taste. I say, let’s come back to this in a couple years—I’m willing to bet the Glee legacy will be exactly where it ought to be.
October 4, 2010 | 12:01 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Minor caveat: This video comes with an unavoidable allusion to the Holocaust on the subject of anti-Semitism, which is terribly trite I know, but in Hollywood Jew’s defense, at least it is done with humor.
Video from Newsy.com (a very cool news site just brought to my attention that aggregates media content and amalgamates it into original videos):
October 1, 2010 | 4:06 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Well that didn’t take long.
Earlier today I suggested Rick Sanchez would regret his angry comments about Jews, and I was right: TVNewser is reporting that CNN issued a statement saying: “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”
This comes after Sanchez appeared on Pete Dominick’s satellite radio show yesterday calling Jon Stewart a “bigot” and suggesting that Jews don’t deserve oppressed minority status because they dominate the media.
If Sanchez had made an objective comment like, “Even though small in number, the Jews are disproportionately powerful in the media industry” than that might have come off as rational. But the comments he made were mean-spirited, coming from a place of anger and resentment that stems from his own perceived failings. You can’t be a “news” anchor after succumbing so completely to your own subjectivity—and that’s why he was fired.
Check out my earlier post with a transcript of Sanchez’s remarks here.
October 1, 2010 | 1:25 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
When CNN commentator Rick Sanchez appeared on Pete Dominick’s satellite radio show yesterday, he said a few things I predict he’ll regret.
First, he called Jon Stewart a “bigot”. Then, when Dominick suggested that Stewart is Jewish and therefore understands being a minority, Sanchez scoffed, insisting that people “a lot like Stewart” (Jews) run CNN and other networks. Touchdown for Team Jews Dominate The Media.
According to the Huffington Post, “the conversation began with Sanchez decrying ‘elite, Northeast establishment liberals’ who ‘deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.’
Sanchez said: “I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot.”
Dominick, who is a radio host on Sirius, a CNN commentator and a former warm-up comic on “The Daily Show” pressed Sanchez on his assertion.
Mediaite has a great recap of the conversation:
Dominick: How is he a bigot?
Sanchez: I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.
Dominick: What group is he bigoted towards?
Sanchez: Everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?
A few minutes later, Sanchez takes back the word “bigot,” changing it to “prejudicial” and “uninformed.” Later in the interview, Dominick brings up the fact that Stewart is Jewish, so is a minority himself. Sanchez laughs this off:
I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.
Sanchez is right about one thing: the majority of American Jews are not oppressed. But, despite their achievements in this country, Jews are still a minority—a very tiny percentage of the American population and the world. And even though today a large number of Jews find themselves in positions of power and influence, that hasn’t come without centuries of oppression, struggle, near-extermination and ultimately, hard work. Let’s not forget the Holocaust didn’t happen 2,000 years ago; it occurred in the mid-20th century. But instead of celebrating a triumph of survival followed by moral purpose, Sanchez’s tone implies it is somehow wrong that Jews are powerful, as if to say, ‘let’s not feel bad that the Jews burned in ovens—they run CNN!’ As if power could ever banish the scars, remove the tattoos, or heal the deep collective wounds of the past. Seriously, Sanchez needs to sit through a Passover seder.
As we’ve seen in recent months, any insinuation of Jewish media domination explodes across public discourse like Fourth of July fireworks. Even though the notion of domination is quite silly since in today’s media world there are more diverse and competing voices than ever before. But let’s just say a disproportionate number of Jews hold positions of power in media: What’s so terrible? Is it making Jews more Jewish? Is it encouraging mass conversion to Judaism? Is it bringing Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace?
No: It’s bringing you “Mad Men” and “Modern Family”, “The Daily Show” and “The Social Network”. And it’s also given Rick Sanchez a soapbox on one of the most watched news networks in the world. Shame on those Jews.
October 1, 2010 | 12:54 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
At one point in “The Social Network,” Facebook founder-to-be Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) insists, “I’m not going back to ‘Caribbean Night’ at AEPi (the Jewish fraternity).” Here’s Eisenberg’s take on that line –as well as his own Jewish background – as told to Journal Arts & Entertainment Naomi Pfefferman Magid.
Naomi Pfefferman Magid: When your character says he’s not going back to “Caribbean Night” at AEPi, it seems he is saying, he doesn’t want to be relegated to just his own specific subset at Harvard, but wants access to the Harvard elite.
Jesse Eisenberg: I would hesitate to read that subtext into that line. Certainly he’s not denying being a Jewish person; but I think he’s more interested in creating a level playing field and I don’t think he liked that club because it was boring, not because it had any religious affiliation. It’s certainly not a denunciation of his background.
NPM: What did you do for the high holidays?
JE: On Yom Kippur I fasted but I was in Los Angeles; unfortunately I wasn’t with my family.
NPM: You’ve mentioned that your girlfriend’s family is more observant than your own –her stepmother is from Uzbekistan so she has more of a tie to the traditions. Do you visit her relatives on the holidays?
JE: We occasionally go there or we go to a temple in New York called CBST (Congregation Beit Simchat Torah), which is a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender temple.
NPM: Why there?
JE: It’s really the most amazing thing: I mean they hold the holidays at the Javitz Center because 20,000 people come. It’s really an incredible place, and it’s run by this incredible woman now named Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Her sermons are just so remarkable, regardless of how religious you are or in the case of that temple, what your sexual orientation is. She has the most inspiring speeches.
NPM: In “The Social Network,” you play a very complicated person who does things that could be described as unethical or at the very least, morally ambiguous. What old-school Jewish values could have saved your character from himself?
JE: That’s a nice question. I wish I knew more about old-school Jewish values. I was raised in a family where we became increasingly secular. My dad is a sociologist who teaches a class in ethics, and ethics are often framed in a religious setting. But for my family and me we kind of framed ethical questions in a secular way, so it’s hard for me to point to what would be attributed to Jewish culture.
NPM: How do you justify your character’s behavior, in your own mind?
JE: Ethics are so relative. I mean my character prioritizes the maintenance and expansion of his creation, Facebook, above all else, so his moral compass prioritizes Facebook….We might have an uncomfortable reaction to Mark’s relationship with Eduardo Saverin (his Facebook co-founder and former best friend) but if you look at it from my character’s perspective, Facebook is so much more important than a college relationship. Then you view Mark’s actions as not only morally on the level but necessary for the company.
NPM: You have a long-term Jewish girlfriend. In the movie, one of Zuckerberg’s friends remarks that he prefers Asian-American women because “they’re hot, they’re smart, they’re not Jewish.” Is there the myth of the non-Jewish goddess even at Harvard?
JE: I’m not in that scene – I come in right after [the other character] says that. I don’t think my character would say that. I don’t think he looks at it that way. I wouldn’t have known how to parse that [dramatically], because I didn’t feel that was natural for my character nor did the writer because he didn’t put me in the scene, so I was kind of happy it wasn’t my line.
FROM MY PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS WITH JESSE EISENBERG
NPM (from an interview earlier this year about “Holy Rollers,” in which Eisenberg plays a troubled Chasidic Jew): You dropped out of Hebrew school at 11 and declined to have a bar mitzvah because you didn’t feel connected to the kind of suburban Judaism where the party was more important than the ritual. You finally did have a bar mitzvah at Chabad headquarters in Crown Heights while researching your part in “Holy Rollers.” What was that like?
JE: I didn’t realize what a bar mitzvah is, because where I grew up it was about getting checks and having this big party. I didn’t realize that a bar mitzvah is actually a potentially quick and simple process – the actual bar mitzvah, not the hoopla surrounding it. So yes, actually having a bar mitzvah was maybe a 15-minute procedure; it was wrapping tefillin, reading the prayers.
NPM: Did you feel more like a man afterwards?
JE: (laughs) Not immediately but maybe an hour or two later.
NPM (from a 2009 interview about “Adventureland,” in which Eisenberg plays a sweet but self-aggrandizing writer): How did it come about that you visited your Jewish family’s ancestral home in Poland several years ago?
JE: In New York City I see my [Polish-born] aunt every week, which I’ve done for six years. She’s 97 now.
NPM: What a nice Jewish boy.
JE: It sounds like it, doesn’t it? (laughs). My aunt was born in Poland actually and we talk about it all the time. I’m fascinated with genealogy so I said to her, if I do this movie, “The Hunting Party (2007),” in Bosnia, I promise you I will go to your house where you were born in Poland, which is in this tiny village. Because she’s 97 I thought she would appreciate a picture of this house she hadn’t’ seen since she was 8. She came here in 1912.
NPM: As a result of World War I?
JE: Yes, her father was sent here to avoid the draft; and a few years later the family came. So I thought she would be over the moon, but it seemed like she didn’t really care when I showed her the pictures; she said, ‘Oh, it looks the same.’ The house was in this tiny town, and it took like three days to get to and I got into a car accident and had to pay the Polish [authorities] in cash.
NPM: It sounds like a road trip out of Jonathan Safran Foer’s [Jewish-boy-searches-for-his-roots] novel, “Everything Is Illuminated.”
JE: Right. I didn’t see the movie, but I read the book.
NPM: You’ve played so many characters who happen to be Jewish. Do you ever worry about being typecast?
JE: No. Every actor in the world is kind of trapped by their own bodies and mannerisms and you could look at that as a positive thing—that that’s what you bring to a character—or as a limiting thing, as though that’s all you can bring to a role. But it’s still better to look at it as a positive thing.
NPM: In “Zombieland,” you play a rather nervous slayer of the undead. What was the most unusual zombie your character encountered?
JE: It was a Chasidic Jewish zombie. I think you can see him briefly in the movie.
More on “The Social Network” at Hollywood Jew:
The Social Network’s Other Jewish Star: Andrew Garfield
Mark Zuckerberg can’t handle his own spotlight
Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook to get girls (just not Jewish girls)