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Interfaith Celebrities: Isla Fisher Joins the Tribe

Feb. 3, 2009

The beautiful Australian actress Isla Fisher, 32, is best known to American audiences for her hilarious performance as Vince Vaughn's semi-psycho romantic interest in the 2005 hit, The Wedding Crashers.

Fisher and British Jewish comic actor/writer Sacha Baron Cohen, 37, of Borat fame, have been a couple since 2000 and they've been engaged for about five years. In October 2007, Fisher gave birth to the couple's daughter, Olive.

Isla Fisher
Isla Fisher is really going to get married. Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

For years now Fisher has been reportedly studying to convert to Judaism under Orthodox Jewish auspices. But the status of her conversion has been the subject of conflicting media reports. Fisher finally clarified matters in the February issue of Allure magazine: "I converted as of two years ago. It is always reported that I am still studying, so I am either the slowest studier in the world, or I have, in fact, converted. I never saw it as a losing or gaining situation, just an embracing situation. I think if one wanted to be buried next to one's beloved and they were Jewish, then one would have to be Jewish, too."

Fisher added that she took the Hebrew name Ayala ("doe"). It appears that her conversion was completed before Olive's birth.

Fisher promises in the Allure piece and in another interview that she and Cohen will really, truly, set a wedding date soon.

Fisher is a skilled comedic actress and she's usually very funny in interviews. In other words, she doesn't have to depend on writers to get off a witty remark and you can see why she and Cohen are well suited for each other, though Cohen, at 6-foot-3, is a full foot taller than Fisher.

She showed off her quick wit when she recently did a brief interview with GQ. The GQ interviewer, a man, asked about Fisher's conversion and then told her, "I am married to a Jew. But I haven't converted."

Fisher replied: "I'm willing to do a circumcision here. Get me a sharp knife and some ice and you won't even feel it."

The actress also told GQ that she is tired of waiting for good scripts, so she is working on a comedy project screenplay with Amy Poehler, of Saturday Night Live fame.

Fisher's current spate of interviews are tied to the Feb. 13 premiere of her new romantic comedy film, Confessions of a Shopaholic. The film is based on the series of Shopaholic novels by British author Sophie Kinsella.

In Shopaholic, Fisher plays a young woman who moves to Manhattan and finds that her boring job writing for a financial magazine won't pay for her shopping addiction. As the film progresses, she falls for a wealthy businessman, played by Hugh Dancy.

The movie's excellent supporting cast includes John Goodman, Joan Cusack, Lynn Redgrave and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Thomas, who isn't Jewish, was married to a French Jewish physician for 17 years and they had three children together. They broke up a few years ago. Thomas said in a recent interview that she briefly considered converting to Judaism but ultimately decided not to. She didn't elaborate on the reasons for her decision or whether her children were raised in any faith.

Fisher is Also Desirable

The popular website Askmen.com is just out with their annual list of the world's 99 Most Desirable Women. Isla Fisher is #31 on the list. The list is heavy with fashion models, but about a quarter of the "most desirable" are actresses.

The "99 desirables" also includes these Jewish actresses and models:

Elizabeth Banks, 34, another Jew by choice profiled in prior columns, is #95 on the most desirable list.

Emanuelle Chirqui, 31, has the #12 spot. Chriqui is a Montreal-born actress whose parents are Moroccan Jews. She has a recurring role on HBO's Entourage and recently co-starred as Adam Sandler's love interest in You Don't Mess with the Zohan.

Mila Kunis, 25, is ranked #27. As noted in a prior column, Kunis, who was born in the Ukraine to Jewish parents, has long been romantically involved with actor Macauley Culkin, who isn't Jewish. Kunis is best known for her role as Jackie on the long-running sitcom, That '70s Show. In the past year, she had a very nice supporting role as a resort tour guide whom (Jewish actor) Jason Segal falls for in the romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Actress Scarlett Johansson, 24, has the #7 spot. As noted in prior columns, Johansson's mother is Jewish and she identifies as Jewish. Her high place on this list is no surprise. Johansson always finishes near the top of any recent list of the hottest female celebrities.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson looking smashingly pretty as always. Photo: Reuters/Lisa Hornak. 

Model, TV host, and Dancing with the Stars champ Brooke Burke, 37, is # 93 on the Askmen.com list.

Israeli fashion supermodel Bar Refaeli, 23, is ranked as #34. Refaeli has long been involved in on-and-off romantic relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio, who isn't Jewish. Prior to being with DiCaprio, she briefly dated hunky Jewish actor David Charvet, 36, of Baywatch fame. Charvet found more mature company with Brooke Burke and they've been engaged for three years and have two children together. Burke's mother is Jewish and she identifies as Jewish.

McLovin and McBride, Surprise?

In the past five years, Jewish producer/writer/director Judd Apatow, 41, has helped bring to the screen quite a number of hit comedy films. His success, however, was not overnight.

He co-created and co-wrote the '90s TV sitcom Freaks and Geeks. In this show he "road-tested" what later became his signature style, combining gross-out frat-boy humor with fairly insightful and tender romantic scenes. The series, set in a high school, got great reviews but anemic ratings. It was cancelled after 18 episodes and Apatow briefly became a stand-up comedian.

However, he roared back in 2005 as the director and writer of the (surprise) monster box office hit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This film's coupling of frat boy humor and sweet romance harkened back to Freaks and Geeks, as did Aparow's hit 2007 film, Superbad. The latter was produced by Apatow, but was written by Jewish actor Seth Rogen (the co-star of Knocked Up).

In 2008, Apatow produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was written by and co-starred Jewish actor Jason Segal (who also co-stars in How I Met Your Mother, the TV series). Also in 2008, Apatow co-wrote (with Seth Rogen and others) the stoner comedy The Pineapple Express. It was another hit.

The Jewish actors in these four films include Rogen, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, Mila Kunis, James Franco (whose mother is Jewish), Jay Baruchel (whose father is Jewish), Jonah Hill, Kat Dennings and Elizabeth Banks. (By the way, Rogen, Segal and Franco all were regulars on Freaks and Geeks.)

Since following Jewish celebs is my stock in trade, I've wondered if there were yet more Jewish actors in these four Apatow films. Well, there are (or were). In the last few months, two of Apatow's gang disclosed their respective interfaith backgrounds.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, 19, revealed in a short interview that his mother is Jewish. It seems like the young actor identifies as Jewish, even though he has no formal religious background. (His father isn't Jewish). Mintz-Plasse was a complete unknown, and still in high school, when Apatow cast him as the deliciously nerdy character, McLovin, in Superbad.

Mintz-Plasse's revelation was quickly followed by Danny McBride, 31. A website linked to GQ asked McBride if he was "part of the Apatow Jew crew" and named Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd as members of that "crew." McBride replied in the affirmative, noting that he is "half Jewish" and that his mother is Jewish. (It appears that McBride, also, has no religious background).

McBride appeared in Superbad and he had a major supporting role in Apatow's Pineapple Express as the quirky pot dealer, Red, who betrays potheads Rogen and Franco near the start of the film. However, by the end, Red redeems himself by coming to their aid.

A small-budget indie comedy film McBride wrote and starred in, 2006's The Fist Foot Way, has acquired an almost cult following on DVD.

A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.

Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Starting April 2012, a monthly version of his column (featuring relevant "oldies but goodies") will appear in the following Florida newspapers: the Jewish News (Sarasota and Manatee County), the Federation Star (Collier County) and L'Chayim (Lee and Charlotte counties).

The author welcomes questions and celebrity "tips," especially about people you personally know. Write him at middleoftheroad1@aol.com. And feel free to comment below.

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