Shia LaBeouf, erstwhile Even Stevens, walking meme fodder, and one of the most attention seeking “non-attention-seekers” in all of Hollywood, came out unexpectedly in his recent Variety interview against one of the movie-makers he’s worked with most: Steven Spielberg.
LaBeouf, who worked on the Spielberg-produced Transformers franchise and the Spielberg-directed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, said bluntly, “I don’t like the movies that I made with Spielberg”, with the exception of the first Transformers movie. He described the rest of his experiences working on Spielberg films as disappointing.
“You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of,” he said. “You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a f—cking company.”
Real talk, LaBeouf is not the first person to criticize the Transformers movies or the Indiana Jones reboot, none of which have met with (or arguably deserve) critical acclaim. Calling out Spielberg for valuing the dollar over the quality of his films in recent years isn’t objectionable, even if it sort of lacks self-awareness when you consider that LaBeouf had no problem taking the millions of dollars those movies made him. What is objectionable is who has the ability to publicly make that call out, and who doesn’t.
Consider the case of Katherine Heigl. In a 2008 Vanity Fair interview, Heigl made a simple statement about the movie, saying she found it “a little sexist.” Not that it was a bad movie. Not that she didn’t enjoy working on it. Just that she found that there are elements of the movie and its’ ethos tends—as has been noted extensively elsewhere—to paint women as humorless and uptight, and to paint men as goofy, fun-loving protagonists. The backlash she received was huge. She was painted as ungrateful and unhinged, with director Judd Apetow and co-star Seth Rogen calling her, among other things, “bat-shit crazy”, and essentially blacklisting her. This went on for almost a decade, to the extent where Rogen decided to be benevolent enough to half-forgive her for her transgressions on the Howard Stern show earlier this summer.
Putting these two actors and the expectations around them together, it’s clear to see that there’s a severe imbalance here that goes beyond either individual person. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with what either Heigl or LeBeouf said. Knocked Up was a little sexist, and Speilberg’s LaBeouf-featured movies really are way more corporate than artistically meritous. But that Heigl would have her career destroyed for what she said and that LeBeouf, in all likelihood, will keep on…doing whatever he does, regardless of what he said, is telling.
The message from Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche is clear: Steven Spielberg needs more women in his movies.
Last week, the Forward looked at Polygraph’s study on the ratio of dialogue spoken by men to that spoken by women in Hollywood movies – to no one’s surprise, it’s depressingly high – and found Steven Spielberg complicit in that inequality. Eight of his films were in the top 100 analyzed in which 90% or more of the dialogue was spoken by men, while only one ranked in the top 100 for gender parity, and none in the top 100 films in which women have 60% or more of the lines.
Binoche, who won an Academy Award for her role in ‘The English Patient,’ is not content to let Spielberg’s overwhelming preference for male leads go unquestioned. While participating in a panel discussion at the Cannes film festival this past weekend, the sought-after French actress relayed a conversation she had with Spielberg about the relative dearth of female leads in his films.
“Binoche said he defended himself, reasoning that he had made The Color Purple in 1985,” the Guardian’s Nigel Smith wrote of her comments. “Since then, all of his films have featured male leads,” he noted.
Spielberg wasn’t the only director Binoche discussed at the panel, at which she appeared on behalf of the new not-for-profit production company We Do It Together, which focuses on increasing opportunities for women in Hollywood. She also mentioned Martin Scorsese as a well-regarded director who, in her opinion, has failed to orient sufficient focus on women.
So there you have it, Spielberg and Scorsese. If you want Binoche on board for a future film – the actress has yet to work with either director – add a few more projects featuring women to your slate, first.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter, @TalyaZax
(JTA) — The next time you’re kvetching about having to go to another bar or bat mitzvah, think about this: Steven Spielberg could be there, and he could make you a star.
That’s how it worked out for Alden Ehrenreich, who is reportedly finalizing negotiations to be the next Han Solo. Ehrenreich, who is Jewish, is set to star in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” a Disney film about Solo’s backstory. Harrison Ford, now 73, played the character in the original “Star Wars” movies, as well as the latest one.
Ehrenreich, 26, has been in numerous films, most recently playing a hick Cowboy & Western movie star in the Coen Brothers’ “Hail Caesar.”
Ehrenreich’s big Hollywood break came 12 years ago, when he made a movie screened at the ceremony of a friend’s bat mitzvah, according to the Daily Beast.
Although Ehrenreich later described the movie as “a piece of shit,” Spielberg, whose daughter Sasha was friends with the bat mitzvah girl, was in the synagogue — and was impressed.
“I’m this 14-year-old, skinny little kid with long hair,” Ehrenreich told Rolling Stone. “I break into her house, try on her clothes and make up a song. All of this is just us literally taking a camera and going like, ‘Okay, ha ha, do this.’ We showed it to our parents—‘We’re gonna play this at her bat mitzvah!’—and they were like, ‘You look like an idiot in this. I don’t think you should really do that.’ We didn’t care.”
As a result of the film, Spielberg invited Ehrenreich to meet with him at the DreamWorks studio and introduced him to filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him as the lead in the 2009 film “Tetro.” Ehrenreich’s performance in that movie spurred film critic Roger Ebert to dub him the “new Leonardo diCaprio.”
The new Han Solo film, announced in 2013, is scheduled to be released in May 2018.
In January, four other Jewish actors — Logan Lerman, Dave Franco, Ansel Elgort and Emory Cohen — made the short list of actors under consideration for the star role, according to a list published by Variety.
Speaking about the project last year, writer Lawrence Kasdan said, “It will not be like, here is where he was born and this is how he was raised. I think what it will be is what was he like 10 years earlier, ya know, maybe a little earlier you’ll get a glimpse, but … what formed the person we meet in the cantina? It is not so much about his specific history. It is about what makes a person like that?”
In other words, what was Solo’s rite of passage into adulthood? Perhaps there was a bar or bat mitzvah involved.
Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film with Mark Rylance, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” will shine a light on an obscure battle between the Papacy and an Italian Jewish family that led to outrage and controversy in Europe and the United States in the mid-19th century.
Based on true events, the story focuses on a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, taken from his family’s home in Bologna, Italy in 1858 after a servant claimed she had secretly performed an emergency baptism on the boy when he was very ill as an infant. According to Papal law, the child was deemed a Catholic and was forcibly taken away to complete his conversion.
‘The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,’ painting by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, 1862.
After Mortara’s seizure, the Italian Jewish community banded together, writing letters to European and United States Jewry, inflaming protests and criticism of the Vatican. The young Mortara was taken to Rome where he received his Catholic education and was ordained in France when he was 21 years old. He died in Belgium in 1940.
Father Pio Edgardo Mortara (right) with his mother Marianna, circa 1878–90.
Based on a 1997 nonfiction book by Pulitzer Prize winning Brown University professor David Kertzer, the script will be penned by Tony Kushner. According to Variety, Spielberg is scheduled to start shooting in early 2017. The movie will reunite the famed director with Rylance, the Oscar winning British actor who captured audiences in Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” last year. Rylance will play the role of Pope Pius IX.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably moderately aware that the 88th annual Academy Awards are on Sunday. The Jews will be making quite the appearance in the three-hour special: as nominees, presenters and plotlines.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” had nerds of all backgrounds hyperventilating with excitement last year. It also caught the attention of the Academy with five nominations. The self-proclaimed most nebbishy Jewish director J.J. Abrams directed the film. The cast includes the original cast from the first trilogy with Jewish actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.
The Steven Spielberg-directed historical thriller “Bridge of Spies” is nominated for a slew of awards, including the highly coveted Best Picture. Ethan and Joel Coen wrote the screenplay for the film. The film is based on the true story of the arrest and trial of a U.S. spy pilot who was shot down by Soviet forces in the 60s.
Jewish actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of fugitive Daisy Domergue in Tarantino’s gruesome “The Hateful Eight.” Leigh plays the only female character in the main cast and is at once tough and villainous in the violent western mystery.
In the category of Best Documentary Short, “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah” is nominated. The film explores the life of Claude Lanzmann, who created the nine-hour Holocaust documentary “Shoah.” The film shows the emotional challenges Lanzmann experienced while talking to Holocaust survivors about their time in the camps.
The film “Son of Saul” is nominated in the category of Best Foreign Language Film and shows a day and a half in the life of a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. The Sonderkommando, a Nazi death camp prisoner assigned to dispose of gas chamber victims, recognizes his dead son in a corpse and vows to save him from the flames and give him a proper funeral. It won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
The critically acclaimed, yet controversial, documentary “Amy”, which tells the story of the Jewish rock star Amy Winehouse, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. “Amy” features interviews with family members and friends of Winehouse pieced together to explain her musical career as well as her struggle with drugs and alcohol. Winehouse’s father criticized the film for focusing too much on her addiction. Winehouse was Jewish, though she mostly identified with her religion culturally.
Jewish actors Sarah Silverman, Jason Segal, and Sasha Baron Cohen will be presenting awards during the evening and will probably get some laughs during their short time on stage. Cohen has a history of being ridiculous at awards shows. He was told explicitly by the Academy not to dress as his character in “The Dictator” during the 2012 Oscars, but did it anyway. He also “accidentally” spilled ashes on Ryan Seacrest before being escorted off the red carpet. It’s hard to imagine he won’t pull a stunt this year, which might make the notoriously long ceremony a little more interesting.
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