Jews in the News: Sean Penn, Drake and Doug Emhoff

Hopkins’ Next Flick, Brian Epstein, Vax Live, Biden Update

Sir Anthony Hopkins, 83, just won his (second) best actor Oscar for “The Father”. Next January, he is scheduled to start filming “One Life”, a bio-pic about Sir Nicholas Winton (1909-2015), a British banker who arranged the rescue of 669 Czech children, mostly Jewish. Winton brought them to England on the eve of WWII. The children he saved included (future) director KAREL REISZ ("The French Lieutenant's Woman"). Winton’s parents, German Jews, moved to England in 1907 and quickly assimilated by converting to Christianity. Winton practiced no religion as an adult. He was knighted (made a “Sir”) in 2003 for his rescue work.

An aside: I thought if you “count” Winton as Jewish—that he would be the first Jewish, British knight to be played by another British knight (Hopkins). But, he’s not: Sir Michael Gambon played famous British Jewish impresario BERNARD DELFONT (1904-1993) in “Judy”, the 2019 film about Judy Garland. Delfont was knighted in 1974. (At your next Passover seder, throw this “ancient” question out and see if anyone knows the answer: “Why is Sir Michael Gambon different from all other knights?”)

In other Brit news, “Midas Man”, a bio-pic about almost legendary rock group manager BRIAN EPSTEIN (1934-1967) will begin filming later this year. It’s no exaggeration to say without Epstein, a Liverpool native, the Beatles probably wouldn’t have become famous. He also managed or promoted many other greats, like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. 

Brit actor JACOB FORTUNE-LLOYD, 33, has just been cast to play Epstein. Fortune-Lloyd, whose mother is Jewish, is best known in America for playing Townes, a British chess-prodigy-turned-chess journalist in “The Queen’s Gambit”, a mega-hit for Netflix.

“VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World” will air at 7PM on May 8 on ABC and CBS, and stream on Youtube. The program aims to inspire vaccine confidence worldwide and help get the Covid-19 vaccines to everyone, everywhere. Global Citizen, which organized the concert, will urge philanthropists and corporations to donate enough funds to vaccinate 27 million health care workers worldwide. The concert will feature Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez, and the Foo Fighters. Non-musical celebs who will adress the audience include SEAN PENN, 60. In 2013, he helped rescue a Jewish businessman from a Bolivian jail and in the decade since he's organized emergency aid for thousands around the world. He was one of the earliest organizers of aid to Americans during the pandemic.

Dave Grohl, the lead man of the Foo Fighters, isn’t Jewish. His wife, JORDYN BLUM, is Jewish. Last December, Grohl released (to Youtube) eight videos of in-studio performances of rock songs by Jewish songwriters. One video/song was released each night of Hanukkah. Grohl explained in a tweet: “GREG KURSTIN [a top rock producer] & I were kibbitzing about how we could make Hannukah extra-special this [bad] year…So hold on to your tuchuses... we've got something special coming for your shayna punims.”

The videos feature Grohl on drums and Kurstin, 51, on piano. Entitled “Kurstin X Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions”, the songs are by: The Beastie Boys (ADAM HORVITZMIKE DIAMOND, and the late ADAM YAUCH), DRAKE, Mountain (the late LESLIE WEST and CORKY LAING), Peaches (MERRILL NISKER), BOB DYLAN, Elastica (JUSTINE FRISCHMANN), The Knack (lead singer DOUG FIEGER), and The Velvet Underground (the late LOU REED). Check it out

I have no doubt that President Biden is a friend of the Jewish people and he’s very comfortable mixing, professional and socially, with Jewish folks and other minorities (racial, religious, ethnic, etc.). But his very immediate personal circle is a “bit less Jewish” than I thought it possibly was when he was running for President. I won’t repeat, here, the whole “megillah” I reported last year. Here’s the most recent news.

Last year, it was unclear how the two young adult children of “Second Gentleman" DOUGLAS EMHOFF, 56, identified in a religious/ethnic sense. They are the children of Emhoff’s first marriage, which was interfaith. In February, I reported that Emhoff’s daughter, Ella, 21, turned down an invitation to a Jewish event and, via a spokesperson, made it clear that she doesn’t identify as Jewish.

--Last year, I reported that Hallie Oliviere, the widow of the President’s son, Beau Biden, had a Jewish mother. I added that I had no info on the religious upbringing of Hallie or her two children with Beau. The “new” news is that the President attended the Catholic Church confirmation of Beau and Hallie’s older child, Robert, on April 19.

--Bucking the “trend”: in his recent autobiography, Hunter Biden, 51, the President’s surviving son, says his wife, MELISSA COHEN, 33, was instrumental in getting him off drugs. The couple were wed in 2019 and had a son in 2020. “Bits and pieces info” and my gut says their child will be raised Jewish. Hunter has four children with his (not Jewish) ex-wife.


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