The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Hollywood Jewish guys [heart] shiksas: Part 2

October 23, 2009 |  5:40 pm

I got a lot of heated feedback for my post this week riffing on a provocative story in Tablet magazine detailing how Hollywood's Jewish guys, from famous comedians to studio executives, have since time immemorial -- meaning since the days of burlesque -- preferred casting blond shiksas to dark, sultry Jewish women in leading roles. A host of commenters, led by "Jimbo" and "fman," thought my views on the issue were either offensive or blown out of proportion.

Fair enough. So as further support for my case, I offer this new post from Danielle Berrin's "Hollywood Jew" blog in the Jewish Journal. It's an appreciation of the gifted actress Rachel Weisz, whose new film, "Agora," just had a big opening in Spain. Berrin unearthed a 2001 interview Weisz did about being a Jewish actress in Hollywood that further proves my worst suspicions about Hollywood executives' discrimination against Jewish women. Here's an excerpt from the interview, conducted by Index magazine's Emma Forrest:

Emma: Is it limiting as an actress to be perceived as being too ethnic in any way?

Rachel: Well, I think you and I have always felt the same way--that we're Jewish but we can get away with just being exotic.... Hollywood's run by Jews. I was advised by an American agent when I was about 19 to change my surname. And I said, "Why? Jews run Hollywood." He said, "Exactly." He had a theory that all the executives think acting's a job for shiksas.

Emma: Of all the self-loathing Jews in the world, the most self-loathing are the Hollywood Jews. They don't want to see images of themselves on screen. That's why Lauren Bacall had to hide her identity, and Winona Ryder changed her name from Horowitz.

Rachel: In some way, acting is prostitution, and Hollywood Jews don't want their own women to participate. Also, there's an element of "Portnoy's Complaint." They all fancy Aryan blondes.


Photo of Rachel Weisz in Wong Kar Wai's "My Blueberry Nights" by Macall Polay / The Weinstein Co.