Its Quite a Story: Here’s What I Know
I’ve previously reported that TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, 24, who was nominated for the leading actor Oscar for playing a young Jewish man in “Call Me By Your Name,” is the son of an American Jewish mother and a French Protestant father. In an interview exchange, he seemed to call himself Jewish and his mother has posted photos of the family celebrating Chanukah and Pesach. Normally, I don’t report much on the non-Jewish side of a celeb’s family. But there’s a good, and maybe great “Jewish story” on that side of Chalamet’s family. His father, Marc, and late paternal grandfather, Roger, came from a small French village called Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon (“Chambon”). Growing up, Timothée spent his summers there.
In 1990, Chambon was one of two municipalities (the other is in the Netherlands) collectively honored as the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. These two towns remain the only to be so honored. As you may know, French Protestants, usually called Huguenots, were viciously persecuted by the Catholic kings of France during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and many fled to England and America. However, Chambon is in an isolated location and this isolation allowed the town to become and remain overwhelmingly Protestant. In 1940, the Germans occupied France. Led by two Protestant ministers (André Trocmé and deputy pastor Edouard Theis), the villagers of Chambon did everything imaginable to help Jews: hid them in local homes and public buildings, got them ration cards, and helped some to escape to neutral Switzerland. Estimates vary on how many Jews they saved (800-3000). Whatever the number, it was a heroic and great example of goodness. They did this at considerable risk to themselves. One of Trocmé’s cousins, Daniel, was sent to a concentration camp and murdered.
A friend discovered that Roger Chalamet, who died in 1985, was a Protestant minister. He was born in either 1926 or 1928. In any event, he was clearly old enough to have witnessed the occupation and the heroism of his fellow villagers and perhaps he participated in this heroism himself. One can reasonably speculate that his decision to be a minister was inspired by the heroism of the pastors of his hometown. I am working on a way to get in touch with his grandson and learn more. So far, only one French publication has noted the actor’s ties to this town. There was little in the way of details—just that Chambon is proud of the young actor. As I learn more, I will report it, because, as I told my friend, “What are the odds that an Oscar-nominated American actor, with a Jewish mother, would have such strong ties to a French town of less than 3,000 people with such a wonderful Jewish story?”
Other notes: Chalamet will appear in the upcoming film, “Beautiful Boy”. It’s based on a memoir by Jewish journalist DAVID SHEFF, 62, about his son’s addiction problems. Chalamet plays the son. Chalamet’s co-star in “Call Me By Your Name”, Armie Hammer, will play the late MARTIN GINSBURG in a bio-pic (“On the Basis of Sex”) about Martin and his wife, Supreme Court Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG, now 85. Both films will open later this year.
Upcoming on TV
ZACH BRAFF, 42, the former star of “Scrubs,” returns to series TV with his new ABC show “Alex, Inc.”. He plays Alex Schuman, a radio journalist, husband, and father of two, who decides to quit his job and start his own company (Starts Wednesday, March 28, at 8:30PM)
The HBO series, “Barry,” stars Bill Hader as a low-rent hitman who moves to Los Angeles and finds a new outlook on life by getting involved in the LA community theater scene. Co-stars include HENRY WINKLER, 72, Canadian actress SARAH GOLDBERG, 32, and GLENN FLESHLER, 49 (starts Mar. 25). Also on HBO is the two-part documentary, “The Zen of Garry Shandling.” It will premiere on March 26 and 27. It’s a biographical tribute to the late comedian GARRY SHANDLING. The director is JUDD APATOW, 50. Early in his career, Apatow wrote for Shandling and discovered in Shandling’s journals that Shandling made a conscious decision to mentor him and others. He told Variety, “He wanted to help people and he thought that was the win in life, to help people.” There are tons of clips and home movies. The more than 40 interviewees include SACHA BARON COHEN, JON FAVREAU, JERRY SEINFELD, and SARAH SILVERMAN.