Hollywood Now: What’s New for Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Bilson & Alison Brie Plus a Big Screen Interfaith Romance

By Gerri Miller

June 13, 2017


Scarlett Johansson with Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz in Rough Night
Kravitz, Glazer, Bell, Johansson. Credit: CTMG/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Scarlett’s Rough Night

In the girls-gone-wild tradition of Bridesmaids, Rough Night reunites five college friends for a bachelorette party weekend in Miami that goes hilariously awry. Scarlett Johansson stars with Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Zoe Kravitz and plays the career-driven bride-to-be who plans to run for state legislature. The frivolity of their reunion takes a dark turn when they accidentally kill a male stripper and try to cover it up. “Underneath this wild, R-rated comedy is a movie with a very warm heart about friendship, and not taking it for granted,” says Johansson, who is Jewish on her mother’s side and identifies as Jewish. Kravitz (Big Little Lies) is the daughter of musician/actor Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, who both had a Jewish parent. She identifies as a secular Jew.

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick
Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani. Credit: Sarah Shatz

A Big Screen Romance of the Interfaith Kind

The Big Sick, a funny and charming romantic comedy with an interfaith relationship at the heart of it, isn’t about Jewish intermarriage, but its theme of marrying outside one’s faith/culture has universal resonance. Based on the real-life courtship of actor-comedian Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), who plays himself, and his now-wife Emily Gordon, played by Zoe Kazan, it’s a romance complicated by two major problems: Her sudden illness and his parents’ insistence that he marry a Pakistani Muslim. Gordon is Caucasian and Christian.

“So often in movies, the disapproving parents are portrayed as Old World types who don’t understand the modern ways or don’t believe in love. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted the audience to see things from their perspective, which is a compelling one. That felt very three-dimensional. It felt like there are no right answers,” Nanjiani says.

Actor/writer/director Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer, Hello My Name is Doris) eagerly signed on to direct the screenplay by Nanjiani and Gordon. “My mother is Jewish and my father is an Episcopalian, and they were married in the early ’60s. Her family did not approve of their marriage and she was excommunicated,” Showalter told the Hollywood Reporter. “Their story is my parents’ story. It hits very close to home for me.”
Co-starring Ray Romano and Holly Hunter and opening in limited release June 23 and nationally July 14, The Big Sick is produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, who have collaborated on such hits as Bridesmaids, This is 40 and Trainwreck. “We wanted to delve as deeply as possible into the discomfort of beliefs not shared,” says Mendel. “That is the crux of this family story: Which is stronger—love or beliefs? It’s easy to say love should be stronger but in practice, it’s not so simple.”
Rachel Bilson now starring in Nashville
Rachel Bilson. Credit: CMT
A New Face in Nashville

Rachel Bilson (Hart of Dixie) is joining the cast of the CMT series Nashville, debuting in the June 22 episode, as marketing expert Alyssa Greene, brought in from Silicon Valley to bolster the bottom line of Highway 65. Bilson, whose father is Jewish, was raised in her mother’s Catholic faith and attended a Catholic high school.

Alison Brie in GLOW
Alison Brie. Credit: Netflix
Alison Brie’s Aglow

Beginning June 23, Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) stars in the Netflix dramedy series GLOW, which is inspired by Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a quirky series that aired in syndication from 1986-1990. Brie plays a struggling actress who goes to a casting call and winds up in the wrestling ring. It’s about the camaraderie that develops within this odd group of misfits.

Although she sometimes attended a “Christian-Hindu hybrid church (the Self-Realization Fellowship)” with her father, Brie says that her Jewish mother “would always make sure we knew we were Jewish.” She first started acting in plays at the Jewish community center. She’s now married to actor Dave Franco (Neighbors), also the product of interfaith parents (Jewish mother, Christian father). The couple co-stars in The Little Hours, a raunchy comedy, opening June 30. Despite being set in a medieval cloister, its sensibility is totally modern and quite profane, involving a trio of nuns all lusting after the convent’s hunky handyman, played by Franco.

In December, the newlyweds appear in The Disaster Artist with Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Bryan Cranston and her brother-in-law/his brother James Franco (who also directs). And after that, Brie has a role opposite Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s The Papers, about the Pentagon Papers that proved the Johnson administration hid details about the Vietnam War.

Julie Chen is back for the 19th season of Big Brother
Julie Chen. Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
The Summer of Big Brother

Julie Chen, who co-hosts The Talk during the day, begins her summer gig as the host of CBS’ Big Brother on June 28, the start of the competition show’s 19th season. The Chinese-American TV personality, who attended a Catholic high school, has been married to CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves, who is Jewish, since 2004. They’re exposing their son Charlie, 7, to “everything out there so he can make his own choices,” she says.

Jennifer Finnigan and Jonathan Silverman
Jennifer Finnigan and Jonathan Silverman. Credit: @jennigan1/Instagram
Oh, Baby!

After 13 years together and ten as a married couple, actors Jennifer Finnigan and Jonathan Silverman are expecting their first child. “We are beyond excited to start this new chapter of our lives. We can’t wait to be parents!” she posted on Instagram. Finnigan, who’s not Jewish, last starred in FX’s Tyrant. She appeared with her Jewish husband in the 2013 medical drama Monday Mornings. Starting July 9, she’ll star in the CBS summer series Salvation as a low-level Pentagon official who finds out that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth.

Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey in Baby Driver
Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey. Credit: TriStar Pictures
Ansel’s Daredevil Driving

Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars), who is Jewish on his father’s side, has the title role in Baby Driver, opening June 28. He plays the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers (Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx)—a role that posed a few challenges. Not only did he have to learn daredevil driving skills, the character “has a deaf foster dad who he signs with, so I had to learn to sign, and his life moves through music so there’s the dance and choreography challenges too,” Elgort says. He’ll re-team with Spacey in his next film, Billionaire Boys Club, set in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. It’s about a group of wealthy boys whose get-rich scam turns deadly.


About Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, FromtheGrapevine.com, Brain World, HeathCentral.com, and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.