Susan Sarandon and Melissa Barrera among Hollywood figures facing blowback for stances on Israel and Jews
Melissa Barrera at the Los Angeles premiere of “Carmen” held at the Linwood Dunn Theatre on April 20, 2023 in Los Angeles, California (Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images)

By Andrew Lapin
November 22, 2023

(JTA) — The star of a blockbuster horror franchise and an Oscar-winning veteran actress saw their careers take a hit this week over their public comments on Jews and Israel in some of the most high-profile examples yet of how the ongoing Israel-Hamas war has impacted Hollywood.

Variety reported Tuesday that Melissa Barrera was recently fired from the upcoming seventh installment of the “Scream” series over pro-Palestinian social media posts that the film’s producers implied had crossed the line into antisemitism. 

The “In The Heights” star had reportedly posted that “Western media only shows” the Israeli side of the conflict, adding, “Why do they do that, I will let you deduce for yourself” — wording that flirted with dog-whistle stereotypes about Jews controlling the media. In other pro-Palestinian posts, she shared an article from Jewish Currents, the left-wing magazine, that said Israel was carrying out genocide and also shared an accusation that it was committing “ethnic cleansing” in the Gaza Strip. The posts were no longer visible as of Wednesday.

Barrera had starred in the recent fifth and sixth “Scream” movies, which were released in 2022 and 2023 and were both big hits.

Spyglass Media Group, the production company behind “Scream VII,” told Variety in a statement: “We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form, including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech.” Spyglass’s co-founder and current CEO, Gary Barber, is Jewish and signed a Hollywood open letter in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that stated in part, “We unequivocally stand in solidarity with Israel in the global fight against terrorism. Am Yisrael Chai.”

The film’s director, Christopher Landon, posted and then deleted a message Tuesday to the social network X with a broken-heart emoji. “Everything sucks. Stop yelling. This was not my decision to make,” he wrote. Variety also reported that Barrera appeared to no longer be working with a publicist following her firing. 

Barrera’s “Scream” co-star, Jenna Ortega, also announced this week she is not returning to the next installment. Ortega has also been an outspoken pro-Palestinian advocate online, although earlier rumors that she left over objections to Barrera’s firing were disputed by multiple outlets, which instead cited scheduling conflicts.

Susan Sarandon joins flight attendants, members, and supporters of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA on the picket line outside Netflix and Warner Bros. on August 17, 2023 in New York City. (Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Susan Sarandon was dropped this week by United Talent Agency over comments she made at a pro-Palestinian rally, including that American Jews facing antisemitism are now “getting a taste of what it feels like to be Muslim in this country.”

Sarandon, who won an Oscar for her role in “Dead Man Walking” and recently starred in the superhero movie “Blue Beetle,” has long been a vocal left-wing activist. She has appeared at several pro-Palestinian rallies since the war broke out, but her recent comments comparing Jews and Muslims appear to have been the last straw for UTA. On Instagram, Sarandon has also reposted anti-Israel messages from former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, who has been accused of antisemitism in his activism.

While Barrera and Sarandon’s comments differed in approach and tone, reactions to them pointed to what reports have indicated is a larger rift developing over Israel in the entertainment industry. The Writers Guild of America declined to sign a statement on the war last month, while industry leaders including Israeli actress Gal Gadot helped organize a controversial screening of footage from the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks that was met with violence and condemned by other industry figures including director Boots Riley. Comedian Dave Chappelle lambasted Israel onstage during a Boston show last month, prompting some fan walkouts.

And after an A-list agent, Maha Dakhil, reposted several Instagram messages last month that included the statement “You’re currently learning who supports genocide,” she faced severe blowback and resigned from top industry leadership roles. Tom Cruise, a client of Dakhil’s, reportedly personally intervened at her agency, Creative Artists Agency, to help save her standing in the company. She has since met with top Jewish leaders, including Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Other talents that have reportedly lost Hollywood representation over their Israel comments include the entrepreneurs Saira Rao and Regina Jackson, founders of Race2Dinner, an organization that staged pricey antiracist dinner parties. Rao posted on X that the two were dropped by CAA over “our words denouncing genocide.”

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