Jews in the News: David Simon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Franco

Third Generation Director

“Home Again,” a romantic comedy, opens on Friday, Sept. 7. It marks the directorial and screenwriting debut of HALLIE MEYERS-SHYER, 30. Hallie is the daughter of NANCY MEYERS, 67, and Meyers’ ex-husband, CHARLES SHYER, 65. Charles, whose late father, MELVILLE, was a film director, teamed up with Nancy to write “Private Benjamin” (1979) and they wed in 1980. Until their divorce in 1999, they made a series of hit “rom-coms”, including “Irreconcilable Differences,” “Baby Boom,” “Father of the Bride,” and “The Parent Trap.” Charles directed the first three, with Nancy directing the last. Since they split, Charles hasn’t had a hit. But Nancy remained on a hot streak, directing “What Women Want,” “Something’s Got to Give,” “The Holiday,” and “It’s Complicated.” She wrote the last two films, also. “Complicated” and Nancy’s latest film, “The Intern” (2015), did good box office, but critics noticed a big fall off in quality.

Romantic comedies appeal most to the young and almost always feature young characters. It’s my sense that it’s a rare writer over 50 who can, or cares enough, to capture the zeitgeist of the current generation of young people. So, Nancy taking on producing “Home Again”, while Hallie writes and directs, is probably a good use of family resources. “Home” stars Reese Witherspoon as Alice, a single mother of two young daughters who splits up with her husband, Austen (Michael Sheen). On her 40th birthday, she parties hard and ends up inviting three young filmmakers to crash for awhile at her Los Angeles home (NAT WOLFF, 22, JON RUDNITSKY, 27, and Pico Alexander). She begins a romantic affair with the much-younger guy played by Alexander. More complications ensue when Austen wants to resume their marriage.

The Dawn of Porn

On Sunday, Sept. 10, the series “The Deuce” premieres on HBO. It was co-created by DAVID SIMON, 57 (“The Wire”, “Treme”). The setting is the tawdry scene in New York’s Times Square in the early 1970s. The series was inspired by a set of real-life twins who told Simon how the Mafia got into making porn films early-on and how they became the Mafia’s porn film front guys.

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, 39, co-stars as Eileen “Candy” Merrell, a prostitute who is smart enough to realize that the about-to-boom porn film industry is the way for her to get off the street and make some real money. JAMES FRANCO, 39, plays twin brothers Vincent and Frank Martino. The Martinos become the Mafia’s “front’ guys. Also appearing in a main cast part is MARGARITA LEVIEVA, 37. Maybe this talented actress has finally found a broke-through part. She plays Abby, an adventurous college student who strikes up a relationship with Vincent. DAVID KRUMHOLTZ (“Num3bers”) has a recurring part as Harvey Wasserman, an uber-sleazy porn producer. By the way, I have noticed that in recent roles Krumholtz, 37, has really put on weight.  You’ll see that his current corpulence fits the Wasserman role. But I hope it isn’t a permanent look. He’s almost unrecognizable as Wasserman.

Briefly Noted/ A Teaser

Comedian MARC MARON, 53, has a new Netflix stand-up special, “Too Real,” which premiered on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The advance publicity says: “Battle-scarred stand-up comedian Marc Maron unleashes a storm of ideas about meditation, mortality, documentary films and our weird modern world…including the secrets of cats.” 

A friend clued me in—talk about a stealth Jew: actor RICHARD ANDERSON died on Aug. 31, age 91. He appeared in hundreds of roles (mostly TV). But he’s best known as Oscar Goldman, the supervisor in the ‘70s series “The Six Million Dollar Man” (as well as the spinoff, “The Bionic Woman”). Anderson looked like a WASP, but his real first name was “Max”. His parents HARRY and OLGA ANDERSON (née Lurie) were the children of Russian Jewish immigrants. The actor's late ex-wife, KATHARINE, who was the mother of his children, was the daughter of legendary producer IRVING THALBERG and Oscar-winner NORMA SHEARER.

As everyone knows, “Games of Thrones” concluded its 7th season on Aug. 27th.  I was going to write a brief item about the 7th season scripts and episodes that were written or directed by Jewish folks. As I did this, I saw a list of the 7th season cast and one name rang a faint bell. Long story short: the mostly British cast of “Thrones”, I discovered, includes two British Jewish actors. Not major cast members, but any fan of the series will know their characters. They haven’t been identified, to date, as Jewish in any “Thrones” article in the Jewish media or “Thrones” article in the general media. Next week, I’ll cover the upcoming Emmys and the week after---the big “reveal”: tribe members in “Thrones”—at last!


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