Mike Nichols and Being Jewish
Director MIKE NICHOLS, the Berlin-born son of German Jewish refugees, died on November 19, age 83. You can easily find print and on-line biographies of Nichols. What is harder to find is material about his relationship to his Jewish background after his early days as a child refugee in New York. In 2006, he was interviewed by ABIGAIL POGREBIN for her book, "Stars of David," in which famous Jews talked about being Jewish. Here is a little first-person information about his family life, as he related it to Pogrebin. It requires a brief preface: Nichols was married four times and none of his wives, including his widow, journalist Diane Sawyer, were Jewish. He had one child, DAISY, now about 44, with his first wife, and two children, JENNY, now around 36, and MAX, now about 39, with his third wife.
Nichols told Pogrebin that his parents were not religious observant at all. He said he was connected to his Jewish heritage, but did not practice Judaism or any other religion. His three children, he told her, were not raised in any faith. Despite their secular upbringing, Nichols said, all three of his children ultimately came to identify as Jewish. Nichols told Pogrebin that his daughter, Jenny, once said to him, "In the end you pick Jewish because it is harder."
When asked what he thought about his daughter's statement, Nichols replied: [I was] "Proud [of my daughter]. Impressed. I think it was also accurate. If you get a choice, you do pick it because it's harder. You don't like yourself if you pick the other one and always feel like you're full of sh-t."
Max Nichols is a leading music business executive. In 2001, he married Jewish journalist RACHEL ALEXANDER, now 40, in a Jewish rabbinical ceremony in Venice, Italy. Alexander was then a sportswriter for the Washington Post. She took her husband's name and now is a prominent ESPN/CNN TV sportscaster under the name Rachel Nichols.
Some New Faces and a TV Special
Still playing in theaters is the hit sci-fi film, “Interstellar.” Casey Affleck co-stars as Tom, the son of Cooper, the movie’s star character. Playing Tom as a 15-year-old is TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, 18. He also played Finn Walden in the 2nd season of “Homeland” and may co-star in an upcoming “X Men” movie. Raised in the States, his father is French and his mother is an American Jew. She’s the sister of RODMAN FLENDER, 52, a big-time TV director. Last year, Chalamet briefly dated Madonna’s 17-year-old daughter, Lourdes.
The CW series, “Jane, the Virgin,” has an implausible premise, but the charming title character (played by the charming Gina Rodriguez) makes the show work. It’s emerged as a critical and popular hit since its mid-October premiere. The premise: Jane, a “virg,” gets impregnated at her doctor’s office with sperm that had been stored for Rafael, her boss. He had stored the sperm before cancer treatments made him infertile. The sperm was meant for Petra, Rafael’s evil wife, who married him for his money; is serially unfaithful to him; and wanted to have his baby only when she realized he might leave her. Playing Petra is Israeli actress YAEL GROBGLAS, who is around 26. Described often as a “blonde bombshell,” she starred in several Israeli TV shows. She told the NY Times:” It’s been a blast playing such a mischievous character because she’s so unlike me.” Rodriguez, by the way, had a Jewish grandfather and her parents, she told a reporter, exposed her to many religions. She hasn’t really picked one, but added “my oldest sister is Jewish.”
If you get AT&T cable TV, be advised that there’s a free preview of all premium channels, including on-demand libraries of these channels, from Nov. 27-Nov. 30. During this preview (or on Netflix, etc), you can binge-view series like HBO’s “Broadwalk Empire” and Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie”. The next-to-last season of “Boardwalk” (2013-14) featured the handsome BEN ROSENFIELD, 22, as Willie Thompson, the smart but troubled nephew of star character Nucky Thompson. More recently, he filmed a large supporting role in a yet-untitled WOODY ALLEN movie that’ll be released in 2015. Meanwhile, “Nurse Jackie”, which will begin its 7th and final season in April, has featured the DOMINIC FUMUSA, 45, as Jackie’s hunky husband, Kevin, since it began. Fumusa has been married to stage actress ILANA LEVINE, 50, since 2002 and they have two kids. A film director friend, who knows Fumusa, recently told me the actor converted to Judaism “after a long period of study.” My web check revealed that Fumusa briefly mentioned his conversion to a blogger and that he and his wife are active in their local Jewish Federation.
On Thursday, Dec. 4, at 8PM, NBC will present a live version of the classic musical “Peter Pan.” It stars Allison Williams as Peter, with Christopher Walken as Capt. Hook. The musical was penned by five Jewish theater legends, all now deceased. Lyrics by: BETTY COMDEN, ADOLPH GREENE, and CAROLYN LEIGH—with music by: MARK CHARLAP and JULE STYNE.