Jews in the News: Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and Jon Favreau

A Second Jewish Solo

 “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which opens on May 25, is described as a “space Western”. The film covers Han Solo’s early days as a smuggler and his friendship with Chewbacca, a wookie. We also find out how he met Lando Clarissian. ALDEN EHRENREICH, 28, plays Solo, with Donald Glover playing Clarissian. Ehrenreich, who was discovered at a bar mitzvah reception by STEVEN SPIELBERG, told “” that the young Solo “was more of an idealist” than the one in the original films. He also added that he consulted with the “original Solo”, HARRISON FORD, now 75, about how to play the role. (Ford’s late mother was Jewish. He's always been secular).

The script is by LAWRENCE KASDAN, 68, and his son, JONATHAN KASDAN, 38. The elder Kasdan previously co-wrote two of the best “Star Wars” films: “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Return of the Jedi” (1983). The younger Kasdan has a small role in “Solo” as Tag Greenley and JON FAVREAU, 51, provides the voice of Rio Durant (described as a very cool and important alien character in film publicity)

 Woody’s at Coney Island Again

 “Annie Hall” (1977) is universally regarded as one of WOODY ALLEN’s best movies and it one of only seven comedy films to win the best picture Oscar. There are hilarious short scenes in which Alvy Singer’s (Allen) childhood is described and then depicted in flashback. The first such scene is prefaced by Singer saying: “My analyst says I exaggerate my childhood memories, but I swear, I was brought up underneath the roller coaster in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. Maybe that accounts for my personality, which is a little nervous, I think.” 

 The film then cuts to his working-class Jewish family, in the late 1930s, attempting to live a normal life as the roar of the roller coaster fills the house and vibrations shake plates off the table. It’s an absurdly funny scene.

Well, Allen, now 83, returned to Coney Island in his film “Wonder Wheel.” Directed and written by Allen, it received mostly “bad-ish” critical reviews when it opened in a few theaters in 2017. Amazon produced the film and it will begin streaming on June 1 on Amazon.

Consistent with most of Allen’s later work, this film is mostly “dark” and the joie de vive of “Annie Hall” is nowhere to be found. The story is set in Coney Island in the early 1950s. Justin Timberlake plays Mickey Rubin, a Jewish guy and aspiring playwright who is attracted to two sisters (Kate Winslet and Juno Temple).  Both sisters are profoundly troubled in different ways and, spoiler alert (!), it’s an unhappy story with just a glimmer of hope at the end. The supporting cast includes DAVID KRUMHOLTZ, 40.

On Ronan Farrow

One can’t say that Allen’s career is sputtering. He’s 83 and few filmmakers his age aren't even working. But youu can’t say that Allen is on any sort of hot streak. On the other hand, his biological son, RONAN FARROW, 30, is the hottest thing in journalism now.

His list of accomplishments is extraordinary: he graduated from college at age 15.  From 2001 to 2009 he worked for UNICEF. He also attended Yale Law School during his last three years with UNICEF, graduating in 2009. In 2009, Farrow joined the Obama administration as Special Adviser for Humanitarian and NGO Affairs. He was part of a team of officials recruited by the diplomat RICHARD HOLBROOKE (1941-2010), for whom Farrow had previously worked as a speechwriter. After leaving government, he was named a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford. In Oct., 2017, his investigative article for the “New Yorker” magazine blew the whistle on HARVEY WEINSTEIN and, in many ways, started the ball running on the “Me-Too” movement.  That work earned him a Pulitzer Prize this year (shared with others). He also co-wrote the May 7, 2018 “New Yorker’ piece that ended the career of ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, 63, the New York State Attorney General.

I’m not sure how Woody Allen has been able to mentally compartmentalize the whole “Soon-Yi” scandal, but it must be made harder by seeing Ronan’s name in the news all the time and knowing that Ronan has only expressed contempt for him.

 I don’t know if Ronan has any religious beliefs (my sense is “no”). But I was oddly cheered by something he recently said on NPR—he said that Holbrooke, the man who ended the slaughter in Bosnia, was “the closest thing I ever had to a father.” Holbrooke’s parents were Jewish. His mother was a German Jewish refugee.


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