September 18, 2019

Interfaith Antics

Stuart Blumberg remembers the days when he was a struggling writer, rooming in New York with his buddy, Edward Norton, the struggling actor. Every evening, Blumberg arrived home late, whereupon he and Norton settled in front of the TV with a couple of pizza slices. They popped “Raging Bull” or the British cult film, “Withnail and I,” into the VCR. “We watched those same two movies again and again,” Blumberg recalls. “It was like meditation while we were eating. And we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great one day if we could make a movie together?'”

The old friends have at last fulfilled their dream. Norton, now one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, is directing and starring in Blumberg’s comic screenplay, “Keeping the Faith,” about two old friends, a priest and a rabbi, who fall for the same Irish Catholic woman (Jenna Elfman), a long-lost childhood pal. Hip Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller), who brings gospel choirs and meditation to his Upper West Side shul, is a “proxy” for Blumberg, who like the protagonist is charismatic and has had moments of commitmentphobia.

The fictional priest Brian Finn, meanwhile, is not unlike Norton. “There is a sweetness to the character that reminds me of Ed,” Blumberg says. And a certain meticulousness, too.

Norton played Felix to Blumberg’s Oscar when the two shared modest apartments in New York’s East Village and Upper West Side. “I’m much cleaner now,” insists Blumberg, who turned 30 on the set, along with Norton. “But in those days, I’d have a lot of quarters lying around for the laundry; he’d clean up after me, and he’d get so angry that he’d take my quarters as, like, a form of recompense.”