From Donald Trump to Tina Fey to year's top designers, THR's cover stories explored a wide range of subjects.
in 2016, The Hollywood Reporter tackled a wide range of topics in its magazine cover stories.
These ran the gamut from timely news (Janice Min's interview with the Academy chiefs amid the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Michael Wolff's interview with Donald Trump) to newsmaking (Stephen Galloway's cover with the controversial Woody Allen) to insightful conversations between interesting pairs of famous faces (Tina Fey and David Letterman, Spike Lee and Bernie Sanders).
Below are all of THR's cover stories of 2016.
"It's a big day, huh O.J.?" says a guard, peering through the bars of O.J. Simpson's jail cell.
"The biggest," he responds, his voice shaky.
"I'm just so nervous," he adds, running a razor over his stubbly cheek. The football icon, charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, is on this day awaiting the verdict in the most high-profile criminal trial in U.S. history. A worldwide audience of roughly 100 million will be watching live and then exhaustively dissecting and analyzing the outcome, as they have every other detail of the case.
"You know," the guard tells him, "I don't think you gotta be nervous." He pauses and leans in, "I've been talking to my buddies over at the hotel where they're keeping the jurors and, let's just say, I don't think you gotta be nervous."
"Good!" shouts executive producer Ryan Murphy as he emerges from behind a pair of monitors on the Los Angeles soundstage where he's directing The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, premiering Feb. 2 on FX. It's surprising, little-known details like this, culled from Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of his Life, that convinced Murphy, along with producer Nina Jacobson, to dive headfirst into one of the most well-worn, polarizing stories in modern America where, of course, everyone knows the ending.
Over the course of almost five decades, David Bowie transformed the very possibilities of pop music. Since his arrival at the dawn of the 1970s, every new movement that followed — punk, new wave, hip-hop, electronic, Goth, grunge, industrial — bore his stamp in some way. While age caught up with his peers, making them look old and irrelevant, or (best case) turning them into objects of nostalgia, Bowie's cool never faded; his impact only kept expanding.
Yet one thing that became evident following the shocking announcement of his death at age 69 on Jan. 10 was how far his influence truly reached. From the Broadway stage to the financial markets, Bowie's legacy is perhaps as broad as any other cultural figure of our time.
The morning after picking up the Breakthrough Performance Award at the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, Brie Larson rolls up to a Studio City eatery in a shiny black chauffeur-driven SUV. Nobody on the sidewalk outside the bustling diner appears particularly starstruck by the 26-year-old actress in ripped Levis and gray sweater — or even seems to recognize her. But Larson is in a playful mood. As she approaches her breakfast companion, she hikes her nubbly pink coat over her head and jokes — with faux drama-queen theatrics — "Please, no photos!"
It's early Saturday, Jan. 23, the day after a history-making announcement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences about diversifying its membership, and the 88-year-old organization's leaders are in a palpably good mood at their Beverly Hills offices. Just nine days earlier, on Jan. 14, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took the stage on live TV at the crack of dawn knowing that the words she was about to utter — the names of 20 acting nominees, all of whom were white, again — would elicit year two of #OscarsSoWhite outrage. "The sequel is always bigger," says Academy CEO Dawn Hudson now, ruefully.
The Vice founder and CEO is seated at his $4.2 billion digital-media company's Venice outpost in mid-January, outlining for the first time his ambitious plan to launch a millennial-minded network, Viceland, on Feb. 29. Though in his telling, it's less about the cable play than it is the doors (and advertising dollars) the opportunity will unlock, all part of Smith's larger plan to become "the biggest f—ing media company in the world."
With Viceland's co-president Spike Jonze, a close Smith pal and a longtime Vice partner, seated beside him, he reveals all the ways in which Viceland will feel like nothing else on TV. Nearly all of the shows are being made in-house, he stresses, and the viewer will be able to enjoy such things as themed days (think "Stoner Sundays") and significantly fewer 30-second ads.
It's finally a "Bill Maher election." And by that I mean it's a year of new rules — to borrow from Real Time — largely rewritten by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. No one thought a politician could survive, much less stay in the lead for as long as Trump has, based on a campaign of braggadocio and utter contempt for political correctness. But the younger generation is leading a movement to prize authenticity above all. Trump is a petulant child, but at least that's real, they seem to be saying. Bernie, too, is as real as real gets. (So real he doesn't even own a comb.)
The Santa Anita racetrack sits in silence at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, bathed in sunlight, steaming in the heat.
As I pull into its parking lot, I'm struck by the uncommon calm. A few hundred cars are parked in perfect alignment, but space after space is empty. Perhaps that's because it's Super Bowl Sunday, and only hard-core horse-racing fans (or football haters) have peeled themselves off their couches to venture 30 minutes northeast of Los Angeles.
I pay the $1 entrance fee and place my $2 bet, and 10 minutes later I'm standing by the finish line, transfixed, as six horses thunder around the track. For a moment, it looks as if my pick, a mottled gray beauty named Rocket Heat, will break from the pack. Then he falls back. Seconds later, the race is over. Rocket Heat has come in fourth.
"How much did you lose?" a heavyset peroxide blonde asks the man standing next to me.
"Seven bucks," he answers, with a shrug.
"Well, it's either you or me," she says.
Multiply that man's losses by 17 billion, and you'll have something like the annual damage suffered by U.S. gamblers each year, a total of $119 billion in 2013, or about the same as Americans spent on fast food, according to research group H2 Gambling Capital.
Most gamblers limit themselves to modest amounts, and the average American wagers only a few hundred dollars a year. But a small percentage risk everything. Their habit has cost them pain, suffering, embarrassment and debt. They've lost houses, property, friendships, dignity, self-respect, the faith of others and perhaps their faith in themselves. They are addicts.
David Milch is one of them.
Chris Rock has hit a wall. It's a Saturday afternoon in mid-December, and the Oscar host has been holed up on a Hollywood soundstage since breakfast, shooting what he'd argue is a never-ending string of promos for the big show, still two and a half months away. He jokes, "You could learn how to take out a pancreas in two and a half months." Rock swears hosting didn't require this much work or draw this much early scrutiny back in 2005, the first and only other time he emceed. And this is all weeks before the 88th awards show will become a flashpoint in a national debate about race.
Everybody has a favorite movie line, even movie moguls. Disney's Alan Horn likes, "I'll have what she's having," from When Harry Met Sally …. Fox's Stacey Snider picks "You complete me," from Jerry Maguire. Tellingly, several top executives — Viacom's Philippe Dauman, Netflix's Ted Sarandos — choose "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," from The Godfather.
Of course, to compile THR's latest poll, the magazine didn't merely talk to moguls. Just as with previous ballots (Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films, Hollywood's 100 Favorite TV Shows), THR surveyed a vast range of industry professionals — more than 1,600 producers, directors, actors, agents, publicists, craft workers and yes, even writers (Salman Rushdie picks "It was Beauty killed the Beast," from King Kong) — and this time asked them to choose their favorite lines of dialogue from all of film history. While the editors were at it, they also chatted with many of the writers who penned those classic lines to find out the backstory behind the most quoted words ("I wrote, 'Yippie-ki-yay, asshole,' " recalls Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza).
Well, no one can say Hollywood had the same ol', same ol' this past year. Not long ago, few knew the names Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Saoirse Ronan, Daisy Ridley and Rami Malek. Today, they're among the hottest talent in the world thanks to a few Oscars, award noms, big movies and Emmy-winning TV shows. But the long march from oblivion to A-list isn't an individual journey. At every step of the way is a stylist who helps craft the look and story of each star. "I didn't know that much about the fashion world, so it's good to have somebody who understands what's going on," says Larson of Cristina Ehrlich (No. 2 on THR's list), who began dressing the indie breakout like she mattered in Chanel, Celine and Jason Wu, as her role in Room gained buzz, with the denouement a Gucci cobalt dress she wore to accept her best actress Oscar. Brooke Wall, CEO of The Wall Group, which was acquired by WME/IMG in July and reps 15 of the 25 stylists on 2016's list, says crisply, "There's a strategy behind every look." Mark Shapiro, WME/IMG's chief content officer, adds: "Perception is reality in this business. By pairing the right individuals in this always-on media environment, our stylists can change public opinion, attract opportunities and help their clients be the best versions of themselves."
It's lunchtime on Feb. 29, the Monday after the Oscars, yet the ground-floor restaurant in the Beverly Hills headquarters of William Morris Endeavor has been completely cleared out. Well, almost. Sliding into a booth at Jack & Ben’s, the eatery named for their fathers, are co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. They have closed the place to sit with The Hollywood Reporter for their first extensive interview since WME’s brash $2.4 billion cash purchase of the sports and fashion powerhouse IMG was completed in May 2014.
It's the last night of March, and there are hundreds of people lined up on the sidewalk outside St. Mary's Park in the Bronx. The rainbow crowd, mostly under 30 but with representation from every generation (and based on the packed subway on the way here, every borough), is buzzing with anticipation. Some 18,500 supporters are gathering on this unseasonably mild evening to see Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speak at his first big New York rally, and even though he's a long shot to win the state's Democratic primary April 19, the mood is celebratory.
On the sidewalk outside the park, a man in a Donald Trump mask holds a sign offering foam noodle whacks for $3, and two eager pint-size activists are gleefully whacking away. At the entrance, everyone submits calmly to Secret Service inspections, including a young woman in a college sweatshirt who sets off the metal detector ("I have a lot of piercings," she explains). And inside there's an energetic sense of mission pervading the crowd — along with the unmistakable whiff of marijuana. ("Smell the Bern," jokes one journalist in the casually cordoned-off press area, and it sounds like it's not the first time he's used this line at a Sanders event.)
In early 2013, Julia Louis-Dreyfus received what she considered the ultimate fan note.
"Dear Julia," it began, "Hope you get everything you want as Veep — gun control, immigration and education reform." The letterhead read Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State.
For Louis-Dreyfus, it was more than flattery. Here was confirmation, at the highest level, of just how much her HBO comedy had won the respect of the finicky Beltway crowd.
Then, some two years later, Louis-Dreyfus would learn of a second document — the note behind the note, as it were. This one, dated around the same time and unveiled as part of a batch of exposed Clinton emails, was from the secretary of state to her then-aide, Robert V. Russo.
"A friend wants me to sign something for Julia Lewis-Dreyfus for Veep. Any ideas?" Clinton wrote, her question (and mangling of the star's name) suggesting unfamiliarity with the series. Russo responded: "Let me brainstorm on this one/do some research. I confess I haven't seen the show!"
"People often have said, 'Gee, you live in a bubble' — and maybe I do," admits Woody Allen as he settles into an armchair inside his private screening room on New York's Upper East Side. A creature of habit, he has been watching movies (and taking meetings) in this somber little theater for the past 35 years. "I get up in the morning," he says, "take the kids to school, then do the treadmill, then get into my room and work, have lunch, go back and work, practice the clarinet, see friends or go to a basketball game. It's a bourgeois, middle-class worker's life. But it's enabled me to be productive over the years."
Productive is putting it mildly.
Ricky Gervais truly does not care if he's offended you. "That's on you," he'll say with his trademark cackle. Same goes for critics. Since the breakout success of The Office and its fatuous, boss-from-hell hero David Brent, Gervais' work has been all over the critical map — adored, despised, put on a pedestal and torn to shreds. Jokes in his stand-up routine about the disabled have drawn harsh rebukes; so have the barbs he's thrown at Jennifer Lawrence and Caitlyn Jenner during his four turns as host of the Golden Globes. (Asked if he'd return for a fifth time, he says, "If not next year, then one day, sure.")
But the actor, writer, producer, director and comedian is fine with all that. "I'm not the person who thinks, 'Now I'm famous. I shouldn't say anything,' " says Gervais, 54. He is more than happy, he insists, to rile up social media in exchange for the freedom to do as he pleases.
Jennifer Lopez has been saddled with the reputation of a diva for much of her career. Sarah Paulson has yet to land a leading-lady role without being asked to dye her naturally brown hair blond. And Julianna Margulies likely still would be fighting for acceptance into the Producers Guild had her seven-season drama, The Good Wife, not already concluded its run. Such is the plight of today's working actresses, even those at the top of their game.
In late March, THR gathered seven such women — Margulies, 49; Lopez, 46 (NBC's Shades of Blue); Paulson, 41 (FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, American Horror Story: Hotel); Kirsten Dunst, 34 (FX's Fargo); Regina King, 45 (ABC's American Crime, HBO's The Leftovers); Kerry Washington, 39 (ABC's Scandal, HBO's Confirmation); and Constance Zimmer, 45 (Lifetime's UnREAL) — for a candid conversation about the roles they will (and won't) strip down for, the scenes that required them to call their lawyers and the need to love their characters, even if their audience does not.
"Forgive me if this day becomes slightly emotional for me," says LeVar Burton. "Being here in this house, at this particular time in history. This is a moment."
This house being the White House. This moment being a daylong event — hosted by Valerie Jarrett, the president's closest adviser — devoted to A+E Networks' Roots, a reimagining of the blockbuster 1977 miniseries about several generations of a slave family. The four-part, eight-hour project will debut on Memorial Day (May 30), airing simultaneously on History, Lifetime and A&E. The White House screening and panel discussion is a key step toward making Roots not just a successful television show but also an old-fashioned, watercooler-style collective cultural event.
The long day is ending for Donald Trump with a pint of vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream. We're settling in for a late-night chat at his Beverly Hills house, a 5,395-square-foot Colonial mansion directly across from the Beverly Hills Hotel. He's here for the final presidential primary, a California coronation of sorts, after rallies in Orange County (where violence broke out and seven people were arrested). He is, as he has been for much of our conversation — and perhaps much of the last year — marveling at his own campaign. "You looked outside before, you see what's going on," he boasts about the police surrounding his house, and the Secret Service detail cramming his garage and snaking around the pool at the center of the front drive. And he's just returned from a big donor fundraiser in Brentwood for the Republican Party at the home of Tom Barrack, the investor and former Miramax co-owner. "There had to be over a thousand policeman. They had a neighborhood roped off, four or five blocks away from this beautiful house. Machine guns all over the place."
Bill Simmons is mere weeks away from launching the most high-profile phase of his professional career — his very own HBO talk show to complement a recently launched website and an already popular podcast. But on this springtime afternoon, the 46-year-old sportswriter turned multimedia juggernaut sits slouched in his Los Angeles office, unable to pull himself out of the past.
Specifically, May 8, 2015, the day the world fell on top of him.
For 20-plus years, Steven Spielberg and NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer have shared lunch once a month at the Commissary on the Universal lot. They kept it up even as Spielberg, along with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, launched Dreamworks SKG in 1994 and had no formal business ties to the studio that launched his career. The tradition carried on after Dreamworks sold itself to Paramount in 2005, and then after Dreamworks made a deal to distribute its films through Disney in 2008. And they will continue now that Spielberg and his company — in its latest iteration as Amblin Partners — finally have circled back, striking a distribution deal in December 2015 with Universal, the home that Spielberg, throughout it all, never physically left.
Bob Iger is showing off pictures he recently took of food. "We've got a Szechuan chicken burger, a Peking duck pizza shaped in a Mickey head," he says in a demeanor one might call "CEO giddy," as animated as one of the most polished leaders in corporate America gets. "There's something called siu mai dumplings that are Shanghainese — they're tremendous!" Seated in a conference room adjacent to his office at the Walt Disney Co. headquarters in Burbank, Iger scrolls his iPad through dozens of photos shot during one of his twice-monthly visits to the new Shanghai Disney theme park. What about a churro stand? "Believe it or not, yes," he says. "I've tasted all the food at the park. Except I haven't tasted the turkey legs yet."
It's a scorching July afternoon, and a soundtrack of pop hits is bumping inside a cavernous Hollywood photo studio where Selena Gomez and Kevin Hart have gathered for a shoot with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. The singer and comedian have spent the past few hours prepping with stylists for a series of professional, meticulously crafted photos seen here. But at the moment, Gomez, her petite frame decked in chic separates by The Row and Calvin Klein, has co-opted the set, motioning for the equally diminutive Hart to pull his tiny white Ferrari closer to the humongous black Dodge Ram truck she arrived in a few hours earlier. "We've got to get this shot," she says, leaning back on the sports car as a crowd of handlers and THR staff forms around them. Gomez motions to the onlookers, their phones raised in unison, ready to capture the moment as Systrom looks on with a smile. A few hours later, Hart posts the photo on his Instagram page; within days, it quickly amasses more than 350,000 likes.
"I'm sorry, Jon and I are quite happy here making jerky and canning our own urine for the end of times," says Stephen Colbert.
It is Monday, July 18, and Jon Stewart and Colbert are on the Ed Sullivan Theater stage in New York taping a bit for tonight's Late Show that will mark the return of the supremely unctuous fictional newscaster Colbert played for 10 years on Comedy Central. It also kicks off eight days of live shows during the Republican and Democratic conventions.
In the bit, Stewart, dressed in a blue plaid bathrobe and slippers and drinking from a tin cup, is living in a cabin in the woods with the fictional Colbert of The Colbert Report. (In real life, Stewart, who also is an executive producer on CBS' The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, actually has been living on his farm in New Jersey, somewhat off the grid, tending to a menagerie of pigs, goats and chickens.)
Stewart and Colbert run through the bit four times, effortlessly trading lines and clearly enjoying working together again. When Stewart spits a mouthful of water in Colbert's face after learning that Trump — not Jeb Bush — is the GOP nominee, Colbert barely stifles a laugh. As two makeup artists descend to dry off Colbert, Stewart asks him why he doesn't wear an earpiece. Colbert explains that he's deaf in one ear, the result of botched surgery for a perforated eardrum. Cracks Stewart, "That's what separates you from Brian Williams."
"Yes," answers Colbert, "and nothing else."
The Nation divides over many lines, but a basic split is between Lena Dunham, who made a primetime appearance July 26 at the Democratic National Convention, and Willie Robertson, a star of Duck Dynasty and a celebrity endorser at the Republican convention. No longer an actual aspect of political decision-making, party conventions are wholly symbolic affairs, an elaborate messaging apparatus and targeted media platform. In this instance, Dunham represented a cosmopolitan, millennial, pansexual, women-focused view, abhorrent to a significant part of the country, and Robertson a nativist, older, gun-associated, military-inclined, white-male-focused view, abhorrent to the Dunham part.
In any effort to achieve the political middle, or extend the base of support, both figures would seem supremely counterproductive, except that either side — in a world divided not just by politics but by sensibility, cultural experience and media habits — likely is only dimly aware of the meaning of the other. Quadrennial party conventions, once an argument to the country as a whole, are now a clash of cultures that don't know each other — and whose members would probably despise each other even more if they did.
When Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos and HBO CEO Richard Plepler jovially greeted each other at Highline Stages in New York's Meatpacking District in late July, gone was the tinge of animosity that once crept into the rivalry between their two companies.
After all, "Peak TV," as the current boom of 400-plus scripted series has come to be called, has been a boon to both. Netflix brought HBO's model of a premium content outlet (and dozens of Emmy nominations each year) to the web, and HBO promptly mimicked Netflix by launching its own digital streaming service, HBO Now. In fact, Sarandos, 52, rejects fears that Peak TV has led to a content bubble ready to burst. "It's an analog phrase," he says. "Everything exists in perpetuity now, so every time we put on a new show, we are competing with everything ever made."
How to stand out in that cluttered TV universe was a recurring theme at THR's first roundtable gathering of CEO-level television executives. Sarandos and Plepler, 57, were joined by A+E Networks' Nancy Dubuc, 47, AMC Networks' Josh Sapan, 65, and NBCUniversal's Bonnie Hammer, 66, who expressed one of the only sure things in a changing TV business: "The crap is going to fail."
"Don't count on me, I'm one person," says Ava DuVernay, with a light shrug that suggests she’s sorry to disappoint. "That’s not change. That’s an anomaly."
She’s back in New Orleans, where she has spent a sizable portion of her spring filming the first 13 episodes of the forthcoming cable series Queen Sugar — a present-day drama about a family of sugarcane farmers in Louisiana — and the conversation has turned to Hollywood’s “diversity” problem. It is a word that she bemoans but a subject on which she has become the industry’s reluctant expert ever since her star-making turn as the director of 2014 Academy Award nominee Selma. In the nearly two years since, the former publicist has been courted for (and passed on) a Marvel superhero movie, inspired a Barbie doll of her likeness and, in signing on to direct Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, will become the first woman of color tapped to helm a $100 million live-action movie. She adds with the kind of steely confidence that has earned her a bevy of followers (197,000 of them on Twitter) and a platform that commands the industry’s attention: "The fact that the mainstream starts to gaze at this space doesn’t make it a moment. It makes it a moment for them."
"My main goal," says Renee Zellweger, curled up in an oversized club chair in a private VIP room off the lobby of Santa Monica's Hotel Casa del Mar, "is to avoid any negativity that might enter my consciousness. If I'm not aware of it, then it's not real. It doesn't exist."
For the past six years, Zellweger has been avoiding it like crazy. She's taken a self-imposed hiatus from acting, enjoying the Zen-like peacefulness of living "under the radar," as she calls it. She spent some downtime at her 40-acre farm in Connecticut, chilled out in her beach house in the Hamptons, then holed up for a while at her home in Santa Barbara. She enrolled in screenwriting courses at UCLA, even co-wrote a TV pilot with one of her professors that she pitched to Lifetime (it passed) and pursued a range of other soul-nourishing endeavors.
"I wanted to grow," she explains. "If you don't explore other things, you wake up 20 years later and you're still that same person who only learns anything when she goes out to research a character. You need to grow!"
Tom Ford sits in his office in the old Geffen Records building on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, one leg squeezed firmly over the other, his arms snapped tight across his chest.
He's not so much curled up as he is coiled in his black-and-steel armchair (everything here is a variation on black, from the furniture to the walls to Ford's stylish suit — except for a single bunch of white flowers sitting on his massive desk). He eyes me warily. We're 30 minutes into a three-hour interview on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and he clearly feels uneasy.
It has been two decades since the brilliant and flamboyant designer took over Gucci and rocked the fashion world with his bold, hedonistic reinvention of the company — which he left under strained circumstances in 2004, before starting his own hugely successful Tom Ford fashion line. And it's been seven years since he did the same behind the cameras, stunning the film world with his sumptuous, Oscar-nominated A Single Man. But right now, being interviewed, he's not in control. And he hates it.
The interview below clues you in to how I met Jimmy Kimmel for the first time many years ago. What's most important is what happened after that, which we didn't really get into during the chat: He never changed. Fame didn't change him. He wasn't nice to critic schmucks one day when he was barely known and acting like we were a cancer 10 years later when he got his ABC late-night show. He was the same to me back then as he is now. And while I actively try not to become friends with people in the business (it's entirely possible that I would hate their next project — I mean, look at my job — and that could make things awkward), it's not always possible. You meet people through the years and become friendly. Because they're nice. Because they are fundamentally good people. And they stay that way. Even — and especially — when there's no gain for them. Those are the ones that stick.
I've known Kimmel since 1999, but it's not like our families hang out or he has an extra room at his house for me. (Honestly, nobody likes me that much and I don't like a lot of people anyway.) But we've kept in touch and been social and I have truly, through the years, enjoyed — and championed — his work. On the eve of the Sept. 18 Emmys, which Kimmel, 48, is hosting again, I flew down to Los Angeles from the Bay Area to have a chat in his office. Circumstances had caused us to miss hanging out or having dinner at the most recent Television Critics Association summer tour and a couple of recent outings to L.A. were too brief to get together, so this was a nice catch-up.
What does it say about the state of the red carpet when at the Emmys, Amy Schumer appeared more comfortable name-checking her brand of feminine hygiene ("I'm wearing Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford shoes and an o.b. tampon") than Giuliana Rancic did asking the question, "Who are you wearing?" The E! co-host relegated what would — until very recently — have been the very first question asked to a tacked-on afterthought, almost forgetting altogether to query Game of Thrones nominee Emilia Clarke about her gown.
In 2016, the red carpet is undergoing something of a revolution. Two years after #AskHerMore, and at a juncture when body-positive messages are social media manna — from Selena Gomez declaring #TheresMoreToLove to Chrissy Teigen showing off her stretch marks on Instagram — the idea of making the red carpet just about the dresses is under attack as charges of "frivolous" and "anti-feminist" abound. (Related: the climate of an election cycle where talking heads fearing charges of sexism steer clear of any style talk about the eternally pantsuited Hillary Clinton.) Some veteran industry insiders disdain the new conversation as politically correct hypocrisy: "The ridiculous #AskHerMore movement fueled the notion that it's taboo to ask someone what they are wearing on the red carpet," says former E! Fashion Police co-host George Kotsiopoulos. "As we all say, this is the entertainment industry, and we are not curing cancer. People tune in to awards shows to watch their favorite stars dressed to the nines. If you strip away the tinsel from this town, then what's left?"
"I stink terribly of onions," is the first thing Emily Blunt says, right before she leans in for the customary Hollywood air-kiss greeting on a warm September morning. "I've just been cooking at home."
We're meeting in a tiny 10-seater coffee shop in Brooklyn, and Blunt — wearing a breezy cornflower linen dress, her hair tied in a bobbing blond ponytail — looks very much like she just stepped out of a country kitchen. "My baby pulled away from me while nursing because of the smell. 'Ick,' " she jokes, referring to 12-week-old daughter Violet, who's waiting for her at the nearby townhouse Blunt has been sharing with husband John Krasinski for slightly less than a year — long enough for their 2-year-old, Hazel, to begin stretching her vowels. "She's sounding a bit American from what I see. 'Can I have some wah-ta?' " the London-born actress re-enacts, her Queen's English shifting to a nasally New York accent. "I was like, 'Wodder?' And she went, 'No, it's wah-ta.' I was like, 'Oh, for God's sake!' "
Felicity Jones is no art critic, but she knows what she likes when she sees it. During a stroll through the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto on a September afternoon, she pauses for a moment, hand on hip, to admire a modernist painting by Canadian artist Claude Tousignant called Violence lucide. "There's something very clear and honest about it," she says. "I like how unfussy it is. I am drawn to its simplicity."
It's simple, all right — a big black dot inside an empty white square — but then it's easy to imagine why Jones would be drawn to unfussy these days. Her life is about to get a lot more complicated, but in a good way, the way that only happens to a lucky few. For starters, the 32-year-old British actress soon will be starring opposite Tom Hanks in Ron Howard's Inferno, opening Oct. 28, the latest from the blockbuster Da Vinci Code franchise ($1.2 billion worldwide). She'll follow that up over the next two months with two more highly-anticipated roles: playing a single mom with cancer in A Monster Calls, a turn that already is generating Oscar buzz for a second nomination (she got her first in 2014 for playing Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything), and a scrappy Rebel Alliance fighter named Jyn Erso at the center of the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, a part that overnight will make her an internationally recognizable face (even if it did require reshoots — more about that later).
In the early hours of July 11, 1958, a sheriff and two of his deputies burst into the rural Virginia home of a young married couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, and went straight to their bedroom. Shining flashlights in their eyes, the lawmen demanded to know what the Lovings were doing together.
"They asked Richard who was that woman he was sleeping with," Mildred said later. "I said, 'I'm his wife,' and the sheriff said, 'Not here you're not.' "
The couple was charged with defying the state's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and thrown into jail, where Richard remained overnight, while Mildred was kept several days longer before being released to her father. Their crime? One was black, the other white, in an era when miscegenation was illegal in 24 states.
Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, normally doesn't go to the movies. He does, however, make one exception — for his 90-year-old mother. Their trips to the cinema are the rare occasions each year when the notoriously driven chairman of Chinese real estate conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group fully checks out from work.
"I won't be disturbed at all," he says emphatically. "Because the time is to be spent with my mom. Filial piety is an important Chinese virtue."
This may come as a surprise to Hollywood. After all, Wang has aggressively — some might say relentlessly — positioned himself at the forefront of China's unprecedented push into the U.S. entertainment sector. After splashing out $2.6 billion for the acquisition of North American theater chain AMC Entertainment in 2012, Wanda methodically has picked off acquisition targets at various links in the entertainment value chain — from movie houses to a $3.5 billion deal for Burbank-based studio Legendary Entertainment to distribution, theme parks, digital marketing, merchandising and the pending $1 billion acquisition of Dick Clark Productions (owned by THR's parent company) — not to mention building the world's largest film studio, for $8.2 billion, on China's northeast coast.
Answering the door at her Brooklyn apartment, singer-actress Zendaya could easily be mistaken for any other young urbanite. Wearing black sweats, a hoodie and no makeup, the 20-year-old Disney star wrangles her miniature schnauzer, Noon. The only celeb tipoffs are the platinum-set diamond necklace and the Rolex dangling from her wrist. And the sweeping seventh-story view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. "I don't live live here," she explains, gesturing to the sparse furnishings. "I'm just living here for the next five months while I shoot The Greatest Showman." It's a role that finds her playing a risk-taking trapeze artist opposite Hugh Jackman's P.T. Barnum ("I love musicals, and this one's like we're putting on a big Broadway production."). But before that one hits the big screen on Christmas Day 2017 comes her biggest break to date: the female lead in Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming. Whether or not she's Mary Jane Watson, a much-debated point among fanboys, she's remaining coy ("You'll find out. It's funny to watch the guessing game.").
As a kid, Tom Holland was more interested in pursing a career in dance than in acting. But Hollywood, it seems, had other ideas. After a three-year stint onstage as Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theater, the London teen put himself on tape for a part in J.A. Bayona's The Impossible. Bayona liked what he saw and asked for a meeting. It was an unconventional audition, given that the director pushed Holland to write a heartfelt letter to his mother and then recite it. "As I read it, I started crying. He loved the emotion and gave me the part," Holland recalls. The movie about a family caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami became an international breakout hit ($180 million worldwide) and put the young actor on Hollywood's radar, leading to his first studio project, a supporting role Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea. But up to that point, nothing compared to landing the coveted Peter Parker gig for Sony's reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, one of the biggest, most iconic properties in the entire Marvel Universe. Following in the footsteps of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, the 20-year-old actor who still calls London home ("There's not many judgmental people, which I love") hopes to bring the nearly $4 billion franchise back to its former glory come July 7, 2017. The Jon Watts-helmed film wrapped in October, but the press onslaught is just beginning.
"He's scaring the shit out of people," laughs Megyn Kelly. "He's walking up and down the halls, popping in on people unexpectedly. It's great fun. He has brought a new wave of energy into the building."
She is describing Rupert Murdoch, the 85-year-old patriarch of 21st Century Fox and the man who tapped Roger Ailes to create a counterweight to what the two men had perceived as the overwhelmingly liberal bias of the mainstream media — and who, in an extraordinary turn of events, ultimately ousted Ailes and stepped in to replace him in the wake of widespread sexual harassment allegations. (Ailes has denied all allegations of sexual harassment.)
Kelly also can be given her share of credit for bringing new energy to Fox News — and for expanding the tent at the hugely successful ($1 billion in profit last year) but often reviled-by-the-left network. Ever since she challenged Donald Trump on his sexist remarks at the first Republican debate in August 2015 (more than a year before the "grab 'em by the pussy" hot mic conversation with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush leaked), she has burnished her journalistic bona fides and reputation for independence in an era defined by vitriolic partisanship.
A few years back during a THR Actress Roundtable, Taraji P. Henson revealed she had tried acting only after coming to realize that her electrical engineering studies weren't working out. "I failed pre-calc," she told the group in 2008. "Not calculus, pre-calc! The class that preps you for all the math you have to do." It's ironic that the actress (on that roundtable for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) was invited back this year for her performance as a math wiz in Hidden Figures, where she's one of three black women — all based on real-life characters — who helped NASA launch a man-into-space program in the 1960s. Henson, 46, was joined for the Nov. 13 roundtable taping at a Hollywood production studio by Amy Adams, 42, with two films in the awards conversation, Arrival and Nocturnal Animals; Annette Bening, 58, who stars in 20th Century Women; and British actress Naomie Harris, 40, who plays a crack-addicted mother in Moonlight.
Rounding out the group were French legend Isabelle Huppert, 63, who depicts an unusual and provocative rape victim in the Cannes breakout Elle; Natalie Portman, 35 (an Oscar winner for Black Swan), who nails the voice and emotion of Jacqueline Kennedy in the days following her husband's assassination in Jackie; and Emma Stone, 28, who sings, dances and romances Ryan Gosling in La La Land.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," wrote Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina in 1873. Ninety years later, August Wilson said pretty much the same thing with his 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences. Wilson's play, and Denzel Washington's intense and riveting new film adaptation, out Dec. 25, examine the roots of unhappiness in a seemingly happy black family in Pittsburgh during the 1950s. These cultural roots, like Alex Haley's famous novel, extend back through American history, revealing the insidious legacy that modern black families have inherited and how that legacy impacts their hopes, dreams and realities.
There was a certain nervousness in the air as a handful of publicists and managers — along with this reporter and his two digital recorders — gathered at Manhattan's Circo restaurant Nov. 21 to witness the reunion of two comedy giants: Tina Fey and David Letterman.
Letterman was making one of his rare forays out of retirement to conduct an in-depth interview with Fey, the 46-year-old creator and star of 30 Rock and executive producer of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. One of the most iconic women in entertainment, whose films include 2004's Mean Girls and 2010's Date Night, Fey (who has an overall deal with Universal) wrote the best-selling memoir Bossypants, was the first female head writer on Saturday Night Live and may have changed the course of American politics with her deadly impersonation of Sarah Palin.
In 1978, Martin Scorsese nearly died. Years of hard living and drug abuse finally had caught up with the filmmaker, and yet he continued to push himself, until one day, he collapsed. "After finishing New York, New York, I took chances," he says. "[I was] out of time and out of place and also in turmoil in my own life and embracing the other world, so to speak, with a kind of attraction to the dangerous side of existence. Then on Labor Day weekend, I found myself in a hospital, surprised that I was near death."
At age 35, he was fighting for his life. "A number of things had happened," he continues. "Misuse of normal medications in combinations [to which] my body reacted in strange ways. I was down to about 109 pounds. It wasn't only drug-induced — asthma had a lot to do with it. I was kept in a hospital for 10 days and nights, and they took care of me, these doctors, and I became aware of not wanting to die and not wasting [my life]."
For raw and unfiltered insight into the creative process, who better to hear from than four of the most heralded breakout talents of 2016? So THR gathered Damien Chazelle, 31, whose La La Land has reinvented the original musical for a modern audience; Donald Glover, 33, who balances a music career (as Childish Gambino) with his acclaimed FX series, Atlanta; Lin-Manuel Miranda, 36, who brought rapping Founding Fathers to Broadway in the Tony-winning Hamilton and wrote music for Disney's Moana; and Issa Rae, 31, whose HBO series Insecure showcases a fresh comedic voice. And to interview them all, THR recruited Jon Favreau, 50, who experienced breakout success with Swingers 20 years ago and since then has forged one of the most interesting résumés in Hollywood (from Iron Man to Elf to this year's hit awards contender, The Jungle Book). Says Favreau, "To experience the moment that each of them is having, through their eyes, offers such a unique perspective on the creative journey."