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Hollywood Now: Adrien Brody’s Houdini, Fort McCoy’s Interfaith Romance & More

Houdini’s Interfaith Marriage

Adrien Brody as Houdini. Credit: Colin Hutton/History Channel

Adrien Brody is the product of a father of Polish-Jewish descent and a mother who was Jewish on her mother’s side but was raised in her Catholic father’s faith. Brody has notably played Jewish characters before, most famously as the title character in The Pianist, for which he won an Oscar. On September 1 and 2, Brody takes on another Jewish character, the title role in History Channel’s Houdini, a biography of illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini, a Hungarian Jew and rabbi’s son who was born Erik Weisz. Houdini himself had an interfaith marriage with Bess, a Catholic singer he married in 1894. Houdini died at 52 in 1926, and Bess outlived him by 17 years. She is not interred next to her husband, because her family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Love and War

Kate & Andy
Kate Connor & Andy Hirsch. Credit: Monterey Media

Fort McCoy is an absorbing period drama set on a Wisconsin army outpost that served as a POW camp for German and Japanese prisoners during World War II. It’s seen through the eyes of a civilian family: Frank Stirn (Eric Stoltz), the base’s barber, and his wife, kids and sister-in-law. It’s based on a true story and a very personal one for actress Kate Connor, who wrote, produced, and directed the film and plays her own grandmother, Ruby. There’s an important interfaith storyline involving Anna, Connor’s great aunt, who fell in love with a Jewish soldier, played by Jewish actor Andy Hirsch, a co-producer on the film.

“My great aunt and uncle had an interfaith relationship during WWII, at a time when the obstacles to their union were so much larger than they are today,” says Connor. “My great uncle was a Jewish soldier fighting in the war not only for America, but for the entire Jewish people. When he returned from fighting he fell in love with my great aunt, who was Catholic. In spite of the discouragement from the outside world, their love endured and their families embraced them. They remarkably remained as in love as when they first met at Fort McCoy.”

Fort McCoy, now playing in Los Angeles and slated to open in several Florida, Wisconsin and Illinois theaters in the coming weeks, will be available on DVD, VOD and streaming services on September 23. Both Connor and Hirsch, who played Eddie Fisher in TV’s Liz & Dick in 2012, have roles in Chicago 8, about the eight anti-war protesters tried for causing a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, opening September 12.

“Love Isn’t Work”

Michael Chiklis
Michael Chiklis. Credit: Tracy Bennet, TriStar

In the new movie When the Game Stands Tall, about a record-breaking high school football team, Michael Chiklis plays the assistant coach at a Catholic school who helps the head coach (Jim Caviezel) shepherd the team to 151 wins. Off screen, Chiklis, who is of Greek and Irish descent, has been married to Michelle Epstein for 22 years, having met her at a party “neither one of us wanted to attend” two years prior. Married by a rabbi in June 1992, they have two daughters, Autumn, 20, and Odessa, 15, who are being raised in their mother’s Jewish faith and were bat mitzvahed.

The star of The Shield, Fantastic Four, Vegas, The Commish and other notable projects says his marriage works because “We complement each other. You’re not supposed to completely lose who you are and your identity to the other, you’re supposed to be who you are. I object to the idea that marriage is a lot of work. It never felt like work to me to love my wife, ever. I think that life can be work, overcoming challenges and worry and all of that can be work, but loving my wife is very easy.” When the Game Stands Tall opens in theaters August 22.

Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller wrote and reported from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, The Nosher, Hadassah and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv’at Brenner in Israel and attended High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.


Author: Gerri Miller