Jews in the News: Harrison Ford, Maya Rudolph and George Segal

The Force and Sisters: Opening Dec. 18

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is easily the most anticipated release of the year. Script details have been closely guarded, but we know that the action takes place thirty years after the events in the “Return of the Jedi” and that there’s an ongoing conflict between the good guys (formerly “the Rebels”, now called the Resistance) and the bad guys (Formerly, the Empire, now the First Order). Veteran returning “rebels” include HARRISON FORD, 73, as Han Solo and CARRIE FISHER, 59, as General Leia Organa (formerly Princess Leia). Fisher, hands-down, has been the most entertaining of the cast members making media promotion appearances. She was a combination of a borscht belt comedian and Monty Python character in a Dec. 5 interview on “GMA” that has gone “mega-viral” and really should be viewed. You can do so if you click here (after you read this column, of course).

Carrie Fisher on Good Morning America

Fisher’s daughter and only child, Billie Lourd, 23, has a role in the film—it’s unclear how big it is—but we do know she doesn’t play the young Princess Leia in a flashback. Fisher, the daughter of the late EDDIE FISHER and actress Debbie Reynolds, came to identify as Jewish over the years and she has said she exposed Lourd to Judaism. I don’t know how Lourd identifies. Lourd’s father, agent Bryan Lourd, isn’t Jewish. Her parents’ marriage ended when Bryan came out as gay. After the marriage ended, he told Fisher he was gay before the marriage--but he blamed Fisher’s drug use for his resumption of gay relations. Fisher writes in her memoir, “Wishful Drinking”: “He told me…I had turned him gay . . . by taking codeine again. And I said, ‘You know, I never read that warning on the label.’ I thought it said ‘heavy machinery,’ not homosexuality – turns out I could have been driving those tractors all along!’ ”

“Force” was co-written by LAWRENCE KASDAN, 69. He also co-wrote two much-loved sequels to the original “Star War” film (“The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi”).  J.J. ABRAMS, 49, the director and co-screenwriter of “”Force”, has a lot riding on how this film is received.  He got a quick start in Hollywood when he was hired, at age 15 (1981), to use the skills he picked up making his own home movie sci-fi films, to repair a trove of recently discovered, but decaying home movies that STEVEN SPIELBERG made as a teen. (A Spielberg employee happened to see, at a festival for teen filmmakers, a film that Abrams made. She was impressed enough to recommend him to Spielberg. Talk about mazel!)

Spielberg, 68, became something of a mentor and Abrams is now most famous for doing a good job re-booting “The Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” film series. However, he not viewed as a first rank writing or directing talent by most critics.  He may vault into that rarefied air if “Force” really blows away fans and critics. If the overall reception is just okay, I expect Abrams will always be viewed as just a competent reviver of iconic film series and a “workman-like” director. 

Abrams, I should add, may get a “wow” just from the look of the film. Abrams grew-up before the “digital age” and he says he strove to give “Force” a cool retro look that distinguishes it from the many “CGI” special effects spectaculars at any multiplex. The “Forces” special effects are mostly not CGI and the movie wasn’t shot digitally, but on “real” film stock.

 “Sisters” sounds like hoot: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who wed comic NICK KROLL, 37, in 2013), co-star as sisters whose parents are downsizing and summon them to take away their “stuff.” Their trip home becomes an excuse for a big blow-out party for their old hometown friends. Co-stars include IKE BARINHOLTZ, 37 (playing James, the main male character and Poehler’s love interest) and MAYA RUDOLPH, 43, as the sisters’ oldest friend.

Goldbergs Out of the Closet

I found out too late to tell you in advance: but “The Goldbergs” series on ABC had a milestone on Dec. 16: a Hanukkah episode. It was a milestone because, so far as I know, it’s the first time the Goldberg family has been explicitly identified as Jewish since the series began (fall, 2013). It was a pretty good episode---the family matriarch tries to jazz up Hanukkah by making it a lot like Christmas. But her father (GEORGE SEGAL), and other things, convince her of the error of her ways. (Available to view on-line or via services like the ABC app on Roku; also Hulu.)


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