Jews in the News: Scarlett Johansson, Julia Haart and Sacha Baron Cohen

Films, Documentaries, Reality Series, A “Kosher” Lawsuit, Nostalgia and More

“Black Widow” opened in theaters on July 9th and starts streaming on Disney Premiere + on the same day. It’s turned into a box office blockbuster.  It’s another tale about Natasha Romanoff/ AKA the Black Widow [“BW”].

“Marvel Universe” fans know that “BW” died in “Avengers: End Game” (2019). However, this film is an “End Game” prequel. The new flick finds “BW” battling a serious conspiracy.

Once again, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 36, plays “BW”. Oscar-winner RACHEL WEISZ, 51, co-stars. She plays Melina Vostokoff, a veteran member of the Black Widow organization, a seasoned spy, and a mother-figure to Romanoff. This is Weisz’s first role in a comic-book inspired film.

Also, worth noting: the film’s director, Australian CATE SHORTLAND, 52, is a Jew-by-Choice. She and her husband, Australian director TONY KRAWITZ, 52, have two children.

The 8-part original CNN series, “History of the Sitcom”, began on July 12th and new episodes premiere on Sundays at 9PM. (Also available on-demand).

It features 180 interviews with famous sit-com figures, including the late CARL REINER, NORMAN LEAR, LISA KUDROW, JASON ALEXANDER, MEL BROOKS, JUDD APATOW, DAN LEVY and CHUCK LORRE.

Another CNN original series, "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury", began on Sunday, July 18 (10PM). This six-part series covers the City’s history from Biblical times until the present. It is narrated by actor Ewan McGregor (McGregor’s ex-wife is Jewish. The couple's four children were raised Jewish). This series is also available on-demand.

"My Unorthodox Life", an original Netflix reality show, began streaming on July 14. The series centers around the personal and professional life of fashion mogul JULIA HAART, 50ish. Haart, the mother of four, left her life in a Hasidic sect to become the head of a major modeling empire. In dress and conduct, she is no longer a typical Hasidic woman. Much of the series focuses on the contrast between the former Hasidic lifestyle of her and her children and their current lifestyles.

The six-part original Hulu documentary “McCartney 3,2,1” began streaming on July 13.  It is a series of conversations with nine-time Grammy winning producer RICK RUBIN, 58. McCartney describes the “origin” of many of his most famous songs (Beatles’ tunes mostly). NPR says that many of the stories have been told before, but the documentary is entertaining and informative.  By the way, McCartney has more “Jewish ties” than any other Beatle. Two of Paul’s three marriages “went well” and the spouses in those marriages were/are Jewish: LINDA EASTMAN, who died in 1998, and NANCY SHEVELL, 61 (Paul’s wife since 2011).

On July 12, SACHA BARON COHEN, 49, filed a lawsuit against Solar Therapeutics, a U.S. cannabis company.  The suit said that the company did not have Cohen’s permission to use his image (as the character Borat) on a company billboard ad.  The ad showed Borat flashing thumbs up and exclaiming ‘It’s Nice’.  Cohen’s attorney said in legal docs that Cohen “never used his cannabis in his life” and wouldn’t do an ad for a cannabis company for “any amount of money.’”

The billboard has been taken down, but the suit seeks monetary damages for using Cohen’s image. I found this part of Cohen’s complaint especially interesting: “Baron Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family; he is an Observant Jew; and he is proud of his cultural heritage. He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules.

On July 21, Netflix began streaming “Movies That Made Us (Season 2)”. It is the latest entry in a series of smart, nostalgic Netflix documentaries made by BRIAN VOLK-WEISS, 45. Season 2, like Movies, Season 1, provides the “backstory” on four blockbuster hit movies. This time its “Pretty Woman”, “Forrest Gump”, “Jurassic Park”, and “Back to the Future”.

Here are the Jewish connections: “Pretty Woman” had JASON ALEXANDER now 61, in a supporting role as Richard Gere’s snooty attorney; “Forrest Gump” was written by ERIC ROTH, now 76; “Jurassic Park” was directed by Steven Spielberg, now 74, and co-starred JEFF GOLDBLUM, now 68; and the script for “Back to the Future” was co-written by BOB GALE, now 70.

I recently saw “Back to the Future” again and I noticed how the movie was artfully filmed to hide how short (5’4”) star Michael J. Fox is. I then noticed that his co-star, Lea Thompson, was part of a pattern. She’s a short, but well-proportioned pretty woman. A perfect romantic match for Fox. The actor, I realized, had “like” partners in many other roles and at least 3 are Jewish (TRACY POLLAN in “Family Ties”; JULIE WARNER in “Doc Hollywood”, and HELEN SLATER in “Secret of My Success”).

Here's another “pattern”: Fox married Pollan in 1989 and their four children were raised Jewish and all had a bar or bat mitzvah. Thompson has a similar story. She wed director HOWARD DEUTCH in 1989 and their two daughters—actresses MADELYN and ZOEY DEUTCH-- were raised Jewish and had bat mitzvahs.


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