Thursday, August 2, 2007 | return to: celebrities


Celebrity Jews

by nate bloom

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Bratz, the movie

"Bratz," a live-action film based on a line of best-selling dolls, opens on Friday, Aug. 3.

The Bratz dolls, which often outsell Barbie, have attracted controversy because they have exaggerated features and sometimes wear trashy clothes. They have, however, made Isaac Larian, the guy who marketed them after seeing a concept design, a very rich fellow. Larian is a Persian Jew who settled in Los Angeles as a young man. One of the four original dolls and a major character in the "Bratz" film is called Yasmin. She is named after Larian's real-life daughter, Jasmin.

Jewish actress Anneliese van der Pol, 24, appears in the film as the voice of Avery. She was born in Holland to an American mother and a Dutch father. Her mother, inspired by a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, named her after Anne Frank. Anneliese, who co-starred in the TV series, "That's So Raven," just ended a Broadway musical run as the co-star of "Beauty and the Beast."

TV notes

The new FX cable series, "Damages," starring Glenn Close as a morally ambiguous attorney premiered July 24 to absolutely stellar reviews. The program is produced, created and written by three Jewish guys —- Daniel Zelman and the brothers Glenn and Todd Kessler. (New shows air Tuesdays at 10 p.m.).

Zelman married actress Debra Messing ("Will and Grace") in 2000 and they've been a couple since 1991. He's been working as an actor and screenwriter for many years, but "Damages" is his first big hit. A line-up of "Simpsons" guest-voice actors for the fall, 2007 season has been announced and they include Jack Black and Jon Stewart. Black will play a comic book store owner in the Oct. 7 episode, while Jewish graphic artists Daniel Clowes ("Ghost World") and Art Spiegelman ("Maus") appear as themselves (in cartoon form).

Samberg's big-screen debut

Berkeley born-and-raised Andy Samberg, 28, tries to make the transition from "SNL" cast member to screen star in "Hot Rod," a comedy (opens Aug. 3). He plays an inept stunt daredevil who attempts to jump 15 buses to pay for a life-saving operation for his stepfather. Playing his love interest is the delicious Isla Fisher (sources are unclear whether Fisher has finished her conversion to Judaism before marrying Sacha Baron Cohen).

In 2001, Samberg joined with Justin Taccone and Akiva Schaeffer, whom he has known since junior high in Berkeley, to create the Web site "Lonely Island." The trio's comedic films led to an invitation for Samberg to join the SNL cast in 2005. Taccone has a supporting role in "Hot Rod" and Schaeffer directed the film.

These guys don't give out a lot of bio info, and it was with some difficulty that I confirmed that Samberg is Jewish. Andy's maternal grandfather, Alfred J. Marrow, served for a time as executive chair of the American Jewish Congress. While I assume Schaeffer is Jewish, I haven't yet confirmed that. Taccone's father, Tony Taccone, is artistic director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Quote of the week

"I've always been honored when people have made me feel special all around the world. I get that from the gay community, from the black community and the Jewish community because I'm half Jewish. If I can have that effect in America, then great." That's from English soccer star David Beckham, who joined the L.A. Galaxy soccer team early in July. Beckham has one Jewish grandparent, but if he wants to call himself "half Jewish," fine with me.

Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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