Jews in the News: Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Levin and Jake Gyllenhaal

Avengers and Emily Dickinson

“Avengers: Endgame”, which opens on April 26, is a direct sequel to “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018).  In “Endgame”, the surviving members of the Avengers work to reverse the damage caused by Thanos in “Infinity War.” The Jewish cast members are SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 34, as the Black Widow; PAUL RUDD, 50, as Ant-Man; GWYNETH PALTROW, 46, as Pepper Potts; and JON FAVREAU, 52, as Happy Hogan. 

Opening the same day in many cities is “Wild Nights with Emily”. It is a comedic, fictional take on the life of famous poet Emily Dickinson. It posits that Dickinson (Molly Shannon) was a lesbian and had a long-time affair with her brother’s wife (Amy Steinmetz). Comedic actor BRETT GELMAN, 42, appears as Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911). In real life, he encouraged Dickinson’s writing, edited her poems for publication after her death, and was a strong advocate for gender equality. In the film, he comes off as a jerk who can’t cope with a very smart woman.

As you can tell, I am not that happy about the depiction of Higginson. Nonetheless, advance reviews are good and how often do they make movies about Emily Dickinson? I am making a mental note to see it when it starts streaming.

 Nice Jewish Girl Plays Dominatrix

 “Bonding” is a 7-episode comedy series that begins streaming on Netflix on Wednesday, April 23.  Peter, a young gay man, acts as a bodyguard/assistant for a friend of his, a grad student who moonlights as a dominatrix. Tiff, the dominatrix, is played by ZOE LEVIN, 25. 

 Levin was born in Chicago and attended the city’s Anshe Emet Day School through the fourth grade. She began performing at the Skokie Jewish Community Center at age 8 (her mother would drive her from Chicago to Skokie, a suburb). Her family re-located to Glencoe, a heavily Jewish suburb, when she was 11. She graduated from New Trier High School, which has produced an amazing number of famous performers.

In 2014, she got her first notable TV role. She was a member of the ensemble cast in the short-lived Fox series, “Red Band Society.” It was about a group of seriously ill teens who are all hospitalized on the same ward.  Levin played the “mean girl” in the group.  Just before the show premiered, she was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. The interview is full of quotes that foreshadow her “Bonding” role. Levin told the paper: “I always get cast as the mean girl. Maybe it’s something about my face? Maybe I have resting mean face?”

“Bonding” is Levin’s first starring role. To get into the “right head space,” the NY Post reports, she dyed her sandy hair a “rich espresso color.” That, she said, “made me feel different.” But, Levin told the Post, her “transformation” wasn’t complete until she was fitted for an all-black, body hugging costume: “I felt like a completely different person. The boots and the heels and the corset — it’s like her armor, she’s go into battle.”  Levin also learned how to crack a bullwhip.

As you can tell, this is not a show for everyone. The script, the Post reports, has Tiff (Levin) “barking orders at submissive clients who pay to be humiliated in all sorts of creative, surprising and visually eye-popping scenarios.”

By the way, is it kosher for a series starting during Passover to have a star named Levin? (No, I am not serious).

Gyllenhaal Stuff

JAKE GYLLENHAAL, 38, is set to star in “Lake Success,” an HBO limited series based on the 2018 novel of the same name by GARY SHTEYNGART, 46. The story follows hedge fund manager Barry Cohen, a deeply troubled and self-deluded guy.  He flees his family, his past, and the SEC by getting on a cross-country bus. He hopes to find his old college girlfriend and somehow find redemption. Shteyngart will co-write the script and co-head production.

Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal’s hit off-Broadway show, “Sea Wall/A Life,” did well enough that it is moving to a much-larger Broadway theater this July. It is a two-actor show (Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge) that consists of each actor, separately, reciting long monologues about fatherhood, loss and resilience. The play, and Gyllenhaal, got a rave New York Times review.

And in the absurd corner: Gyllenhaal’s agent laughed-off a report on a silly gossip site that the Gyllenhaal plans to co-start a group for ex-boyfriends of singer Taylor Swift. Logistics would be hard if this report was true: Jake would need a Broadway theater to seat all the members of the Taylor Swift ex-boyfriend club. 


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