After 1200 performances and more than a million tickets sold, the play Jewtopia is headed for the big screen. Since opening in 2003, the play went on to become the longest-running Off-Broadway comedy of all time. Now, Jewtopia will make its debut once again, this time as a film at the Newport Beach Film Festival in April.
A romantic comedy, the story is centered on a gentile who pretends to be Jewish in order to win the affection of a woman. In the play, two friends — a Jew named Adam and a Gentile named Chris – band together to help each other in their search for love. Gentile Chris wants to meet a Jewish woman because he believes marrying a Jewish woman means she will make all of life’s decisions for him, making his life easier. Jewish Adam on the other hand wants to date Gentile women because he does not wish to be reminded of his roots. The two team up and teach each other how to woo the women of their choice and of course, things don’t always go as planned!
If you saw the play, writer/director Bryan Fogel says you can expect a whole new story when it comes to the film adaptation of Jewtopia. Plus, there’s an A-List cast including Ivan Sergei, Joel David Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jon Lovitz, Rita Wilson, Tom Arnold, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Wendie Malick, Nicollette Sheridan and more! Fans of the play shouldn’t be too worried about the storyline though, Fogel assures us that love is still the cornerstone of this story, making Jewtopia a comedy after our own heart.
JDate: The world premiere of the film version of Jewtopia will be at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Thursday, April 26th. How does it feel to be the centerpiece of a major film festival?
Bryan Fogel: Pretty awesome. This is a bigger premiere than most films receive. It will be set in a 1200-seat theater which is billed as the largest theater west of the Mississippi. It’s a great place to have our premiere and we’re now getting a lot of invitations from other festivals as well.
JDate: When you were writing the play Jewtopia, did you ever imagine it would reach this level of success?
Bryan Fogel: The whole thing caught me by surprise. If you add up all the attendees at each play in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Toronto, etc., it was seen by around one million people. Sam and I saw how we could take the humor that worked on the stage and bring it to the big screen. I think every playwright’s dream is to make their play into a movie and every filmmaker’s dream is to do theatre, so it felt very natural and was a way to bring Jewtopia to a worldwide audience!
JDate: Fans of the play can expect to see many differences when they watch the movie. Can you tell us about any of those changes? And can we still expect any JDate references?
Bryan Fogel: The movie is radically different than the play and actually includes just one page of dialogue from the play. Taking these two characters and making them work in a film format just took on a life of its own. In the play, we had a cast of only seven people, while the movie required us to cast 60 or more actors.
In the movie version, we get to finally meet Chris and Adam’s families, see where they work and just go even deeper into their daily lives. In the play, Adam is helpless and single and Chris helps him by setting him up on dates. In the movie, Adam is about to get married to a woman who is all wrong for him and will ultimately drive him insane. Like the play though, Chris once again steps in to save Adam.
Also, JDate is not referenced in the movie as the story is different from the play. That said, the core is there and character arcs are still there…a gentile who is obsessed with Jewish women and our Jewish guy who is overwhelmed.
JDate: You have such an amazing cast in this movie; you’ve called it a “dream team.” How fun was it to have so many A-List actors in the first feature film you’ve ever directed?
Bryan Fogel: I was overwhelmed by the cast that came into this film. Almost every actor that I wanted to play a part signed on to do it. When I was writing this film, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if Rita Wilson would play this part? She’s perfect for it. And she did!
JDate: Would you or have you ever used online dating?
Bryan Fogel: YES – I’ve been on JDate in the past. I actually met some great girls. What I liked about it is that I didn’t have to troll around bars and clubs with a drink in my hand looking for strangers to talk to! That said, I did have a few awkward online dates.
JDate: Do you think a relationship based on a lie, like the relationship Chris starts with a Jewish woman by lying about his religion, is doomed from the beginning? Or is there a chance it can work out?
Bryan Fogel: Well in my fantasy world, I believe that it can…and audiences from my play have certainly embraced that – and hopefully in the movie too, as the character of Chris is very likable and he is lying for the right reasons and has the best intentions. I think when lying, it all depends on your intentions. That said, I’d never lie – ha! But, I think in reality it depends on how religious the person is that is being lied to. My hunch would be that if you’re Hasidic, then it probably won’t fly — but if you’re reform, you’re already very open minded religiously – you don’t wear a yarmulke or tallit, eat pork, play organs and have choirs in temple, call Hebrew school “Sunday school,” and anyone can be a Rabbi…so the odds are definitely higher that you might be able to lie you’re way into love too!
JDate: What advice do you think Chris and Adam would give a friend who just signed up for JDate?
Bryan Fogel: I think Chris would advise that there is no wrong move on JDate and that all Jewish girls are awesome. I think Adam would advise to stay away from any girls that might want to control or dominate you…whereas Chris would love that.
Chris would also advise for his friend to not be afraid to date older women…as the older they are, the less decisions he’ll have to make.
When searching through profiles, Adam would probably advise to make sure to search through all the Asian countries too — in hopes that his friend could perhaps even find an Asian Jew…the most exotic of all Jews! For Adam that would be the best of all worlds. But that’s what’s amazing about JDate – you can narrow down your search to find a Jew to suit any flavor!