Celebrity Jews

LaBeouf is back

Shia LaBeouf

A recent Variety profile helps explain the troubled roots of actor Shia LaBeouf, 30. His non-Jewish father had multiple substance abuse problems, including alcoholism. His parents divorced when he was 10. LaBeouf, who had a bar mitzvah, lived a pretty hardscrabble existence with his Jewish mother in a run-down part of Los Angeles. He went out alone, at age 11, and got stand-up comedy gigs at local clubs and then found himself an agent. He snared a starring role on a hit Disney Channel series (“Even Stevens”) and became a tween star. A series of films followed, including “Holes” and “Indiana Jones.”

Jason Stuart

In 2011, LaBeouf succumbed, it seemed, to the child actor curse and began to screw up big time. There was a string of bizarre incidents, the worst perhaps when he was dragged out of a Broadway show for shouting at the stage. LaBeouf confessed to Variety that, like his father, he has a drinking problem and was drunk during the Broadway incident. He told Variety he’s been going to AA and has been sober for a year. The other good news: “American Honey,” an indie film in which he stars, won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It opens in San Francisco on Friday, Oct. 7 and in the East Bay on Oct. 14. LaBeouf plays the leader of a group of young people who barnstorm the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions.

Also opening Oct. 7 is “The Birth of a Nation,” a new take on the racist 1915 classic. This version tells the story of slave Nat Turner of the 1831 slave revolt. The film got good reviews at Sundance. Stand-up comedian Jason Stuart, 57, plays a nasty slave master. He told Out magazine that things are changing regarding casting gay actors: “Look at someone like me: a gay liberal Jew playing a white, heterosexual Christian plantation owner.”

They should erect two statues

Theo Epstein

Respected pundits give them the best chance of winning it all. The Cubs have not won a league championship since 1945 or a World Series since 1908. The suffering of Cubs’ fans was long shared by Red Sox fans. The Sox won the Series in 1918 and didn’t win again until 2004. If the Cubs do win, they will have one thing very much in common with the 2004 Red Sox. The same guy built these teams through deft draft picks, trades and choice of coaches. In 2004, the general manager and builder of the Red Sox team that finally won the Series was Theo Epstein, 42. Epstein’s title is different with the Cubs (president of baseball operations), but he’s really doing the same job as he did with the Sox.

Epstein’s grandfather (Philip Epstein) and great-uncle (Julius Epstein) were identical twins and screenwriters. In 1943, they won the Oscar for their script for “Casablanca.” If the Cubs win, they should erect statues of Theo Epstein in front of both Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, with Epstein standing on a pedestal with a crowd of (carved) fans looking up at him. A bronze plaque attached to the bottom should quote the famous “Casablanca” line: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Two Jewish players will appear in the playoffs: Joc Pederson, 24, a Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, and Kevin Pillar, 28, a Toronto outfielder.

Hirsch and Sagal, together again

Judd Hirsch, 81, has been cast as the co-star of the CBS series “Superior Donuts,” which will premiere midseason. He’ll play a former ’60s radical who runs a doughnut shop in a rapidly gentrifying Chicago neighborhood. Katey Sagal, 62, is a co-star. Both recently guest-starred on “The Big Bang Theory.”

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.