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Interfaith Celebrities: Films Spider-Man & Lola Versus

June 26, 2012

The New Spidey's Cute Couple: Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield

Trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man.

The new Spider-Man movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, opens in theaters on July 3. It co-stars Andrew Garfield, 28, in the title role, and Emma Stone, 23, as Spider-Man's love interest, Gwen Stacy. The film is labeled a "re-boot" of the Spider-Man movie series rather than a sequel. As in the series of films starring Tobey Maguire, 36, in the title role, we learn how the mild-mannered Peter Parker became Spider-Man. However, this time Parker's love interest is not Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst, 30, in the previous three movies), but Gwen Stacy, a character who was Parker's girlfriend before Watson in the original Marvel comic book stories.

I haven't seen a "showbiz news show" review of the new Spider-Man movie in which the commentator didn't say something about Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield making a "cute couple."

And I have to admit it — they're right. They're both physically attractive people without being overwhelmingly gorgeous. Plus, they exude the intelligence that smart actors usually project. On top of all of this, they banter well in interviews with reporters.

Garfield and Stone became a real-life romantic couple not long after they began filming in late 2010. They have been living together, in New York City, for about a year.

Both thespians have similar career stories. Both began acting as young teens and compiled an impressive list of better and better acting credits until they got a couple of high profile film roles that put them on the cusp of real stardom.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield at the Madrid, Spain premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Garfield's film breakthrough role came in The Social Network (2010) in which he played Eduardo Saverin, a (real-life) Brazilian Jewish guy who aided Mark Zuckerberg (also Jewish) in the creation of Facebook.

Stone landed on my radar, and that of much of the public, with her portrayal of a "tough but lovable" young woman who ultimately hooks-up with (Jewish actor) the character played by Jesse Eisenberg, 28, in the hilarious satire, Zombieland (2009). In 2010, she followed this with the starring role in the clever teen comedy, Easy A.

Stone, who is partially of Swedish descent, went to an Arizona Catholic girls' high school for one semester. While it is pretty clear she is not of Jewish or part Jewish background, it isn't clear in what religion, if any, she was raised. Her mother, Krista, is a homemaker. Her father, Jeff, is a building contractor.

Garfield, who was born (1983) in Los Angeles and raised in England, has noted in interviews that he is Jewish. My friend Michael, a family history expert, has been trying to piece together his family history for some time and he's dug up some stuff not in other biographical sources on Garfield.

Garfield's father is described as an American. This is true, but a bit misleading. His English paternal grandfather, Samuel Garfinkel, grew up in the famous Whitechapel area of London, the son of Polish-born Jews. Andrew's paternal grandmother, May Savage, was the daughter or granddaughter of Russian and Rumanian Jewish immigrants to England. These grandparents married in a synagogue in England in 1933 and moved to the States around 1945. Andrew's uncle, Leigh Garfield, was born in England. (He died in 2002, age 58, and was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Texas.) However, Andrew's father, Richard, was born in the United States in 1950. Therefore, Richard is an American citizen by birth.

It appears that Samuel Garfinkel changed his name to "Garfield" not long after coming to the States. Samuel and May returned to England before their deaths.

Andrew was 3 years old when his parents moved (1986) to England, where they opened a small design business. Andrew's mother, Linda Hillman, was born in England and, it seems, never became an American citizen. It isn't clear whether she is Jewish or not. But it is my educated guess (and Michael's similar guess) that she is Jewish, too. We speculate that Andrew Garfield's parents might have met through mutual contacts in the Anglo-Jewish expatriate community in Los Angeles.

Beyond noting that he is Jewish, Garfield hasn't discussed anything about his religious beliefs or any religious educational studies. In the July, 2012 issue of Nylon magazine he does offer this culinary tidbit: he eats matzo ball soup every day he's in New York.

My Spidey Sense is Tingling

Embeth Davidtz, 46, plays Mary Parker, Peter Parker's mother. Most people remember Davidtz best for her bravura performance as Helen Hirsch, a (real-life) Jewish woman who worked as a maid in the home of the concentration camp commander in Schindler's List (1993). I know most people erroneously assumed that Davidtz was Jewish in real life when Schindler's List came out.

Jason Schwartzman and John Schwartzman at last year's Oscars.

Davidtz was born in the States to (non-Jewish) South African parents and grew up in South Africa. In 2002, she married Jewish attorney Jerry Sloane in what brief press reports described as a Jewish wedding. She and Sloane are still married and have two children. (It is possible that Davidtz is a Jew-by-choice. But, I don't know more than I just wrote.)

The cinematographer of The Amazing Spider-Man is John Schwartzman, 51. His long list of credits included his Oscar-nominated work on the hit film Seabiscuit (2003). He is a member of a famous extended interfaith family: the Schwartzman/Coppolas. John's late father, Jack Schwartzman (born Jacob Schwartzman), was a New York Jewish guy who made it big in Hollywood as a producer. His first marriage, to John's Jewish mother, ended in divorce. In 1980, he married actress Talia Coppola Shire, 66, the sister of (Italian Catholic) film director Francis Ford Coppola, 73. (Shire's first husband, film composer David Shire, now 74, is Jewish, too.) Jack Schwartzman and Talia Shire are the parents of now-famous actor Jason Schwartzman, 31. Obviously, Jason and John Schwartzman are half-brothers.

Back in 2007, I went through some of this same family history in a column item for InterfaithFamily.com. I closed that column item with this note:

"In one interview, Jason Schwartzman indicated that he was raised without religion, but did add that he loved matzo ball soup."

Somebody — perhaps John Schwartzman — should really get Jason Schwartman and Andrew Garfield together for a dinner party featuring matzo ball soup. Or they could do the Jewish equivalent of a "pub crawl," hitting one NYC Jewish deli after another to sample their favorite soup.

Worth Catching When You Can: Lola, Greta, Zoe, and Joel

The comedy/drama, Lola Versus, like a lot of indie films, had an official opening date (June 8), but it only opened in a couple of cities that day. Good reviews have lead to a gradual roll out of the film across the country. It may open soon in a theater near you. Look for the DVD/streaming video in the not-too-distant future if the film doesn't open near you or has already come and gone.

Greta Gerwig and Joel Kinnaman star in Lola Versus.

Lola Versus stars Greta Gerwig, 28, (Greenberg), an indie film, favorite leading actress, as Lola, a grad student whose boyfriend (played by interfaith actor Joel Kinnaman, 32) suddenly dumps her three weeks before their planned wedding. Feeling lost, Lola has a series of adventures that include some new guys. Her anchors include her free spirited parents (played by Jewish actress Debra Winger, 57, and Bill Pullman, 58) and Alice, her best friend (played by interfaith actress Zoe Lister-Jones, 29).

Lola was co-written by Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, 28, the actress's real-life (on-and-off) romantic partner of 8 years. Wein also directed Lola. In 2009, the duo co-wrote, and Wein directed, Breaking Upwards, a well-received film based on their real-life relationship.

Lister-Jones is best known for playing the title character's best friend on the TV sitcom, Whitney. Last September, just after Whitney premiered, I wrote this about Lister-Jones:

Starting on Thursday, September 22, at 8:30 p.m., was the new NBC comedy, Whitney, starring comedian Whitney Cummings in the title role. Whitney has been "happily unmarried" to Alex (Chris D'Elia) for five years,but she's afraid of boredom setting in and often consults her funny girlfriends, including "Lily," played by interfaith actress Zoe Lister-Jones, 29. Lister-Jones, who was raised in her mother's Jewish faith, is a multi-talented artist who sings, writes plays and acts. In 2007, she played an Orthodox Jewish woman who becomes friends with a Muslim woman in the indie film, Arranged.

Wein, who describes himself as "white, Jewish, and scared" on his Twitter account, told W magazine that he works in the "nebbish, neurotic comedy mode of Woody Allen" and that Lola Versus is in the style of Annie Hall. "Except," Wein says, "it's not a love story between a guy and a girl — it's the love story of a woman who's learning about herself."

Trailer for Lola Versus.

Kinnaman is now best known for his starring role as Detective Stephen Holder in the hit AMC series The Killing. He was born and raised in Sweden, the son of an American, non-Jewish father who left the States during the Vietnam War. His mother is a Swedish Jew. Success in Swedish films paved his way to American roles.

By the way, while it isn't official, there have been persistent and credible reports that Gerwig is romantically involved with Noah Baumbach, 42, who directed her in Greenberg. Baumbach, who is of interfaith background, was previously married to Jewish actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, 50, who had a supporting role in that 2010 film.

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hebrew word for an unleavened bread, traditionally eaten during the holiday of Passover.

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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