Celebrity jews

At the movies

Zoe Kravitz

Opening Friday, May 15 is “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the fourth in the “Mad Max” series and the first in 30 years. After a series of worldwide apocalyptic disasters, Mad Max (Tom Hardy) meets Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is trying to cross a huge desert. With her are five former captives, called the Five Wives, of a bad guy with a bloodthirsty gang. Max helps them, and then when he is captured he depends on Furiosa and the Five Wives to help him escape. Zoe Kravitz, 26, plays “Toast the Knowing,” one of the Five Wives. In a recent interview, Kravitz described her character as the “toughest of the five.” By the way, Kravitz, along with her mother, actress Lisa Bonet, 47, appeared in People magazine’s recent “most beautiful” issue.

Skylar Astin

“Pitch Perfect 2” is a sequel to the 2012 musical comedy about a female college a cappella group that became a sleeper hit. The sequel marks the directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks, 41, who co-produced both films with her husband, Max Handelman, 42. Banks reprises the role she played in the original as a reporter who comments on the singing competitions. The sequel finds the same college group, the Barden Bellas, in a worldwide singing competition. Skylar Astin, 27 (born Skylar Astin Lipstein), co-stars again as Jesse, who sings in the college’s male group and is romantically involved with Beca (Anna Kendrick). Ben Platt, 21, has a big part as Benji, a comic scene stealer who is Jesse’s roommate. (Both guys have top Broadway credits. Last fall, Platt, whose father is a prominent entertainment producer, did a one-man cabaret show in New York in which he sang and told “tales about my big Jewish family”).

Joining the cast is Hailee Steinfeld, 18, as Emily, a new Bella member. I knew she could act (she got an Oscar nomination for “True Grit”), but I didn’t know she could sing, too.


A Jewish pharaoh?

Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Art Sherman, now 78, a longtime Bay Area resident and the trainer of thoroughbred California Chrome, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the first two races in the Triple Crown. The favorite in this year’s Preakness on Saturday, May 16 — NBC coverage starts at 1:30 p.m. — is American Pharoah, who won the Kentucky Derby on May 2 (stories vary about the misspelling of Pharaoh).

Ahmed Zayat

The Derby coverage frequently mentioned that the horse’s owner, Ahmed Zayat, 52, is Egyptian-born. Not mentioned was the fact that Zayat is also an Orthodox Jew.

Zayat, who came to the United States in 1980 when he was 18, owned a large Egyptian beverage company, which he sold for millions to Heineken (he retains interests in other industries). A father of four, Hayat resides in Teaneck, New Jersey, and is a major donor to a local Jewish school. A Daily Racing Form profile in 2011 said Zayat “is so observant that during Passover, for instance, there were days he would not return calls, owing to religious custom.”

By the way, recent profiles mention that Zayat’s stable declared bankruptcy in 2010 and that a major creditor alleged he was gambling while going into debt. No one seemed to report with equal fervor that a bankruptcy court cleared Zayat of wrongdoing, and he paid back all of his creditors 100 percent of what was owed.


Portman speaks

“A Tale of Love and Darkness,” based on the Amos Oz novel, will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18. It is the directorial debut of Natalie Portman, 33. The Hollywood Reporter published a great interview with the very articulate actress that should be read in full, beyond the provocative headline: “Portman sounds off on Israel, Netanyahu, French anti-Semitism and the ‘false idol’ of Oscar.”

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected]

Nate Bloom

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