What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:21 AM 8/15/2017

by THR Staff

By Kristian Dowling/Getty Images.

What's news: John Bailey, the Academy's chief, appears to be embracing the diversity policies of his predecessor. Plus: A new Walking Dead lawsuit may be complicating AMC's exec search, a death of a stuntperson on the Deadpool 2 set is under investigation and U.S. box office revenue this summer is pacing well behind last year. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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  • Academy Chief Defends Diversity Push

    John Bailey, the 75-year-old lensman elected president of the Academy, is stepping into what might be the toughest assignment of his life, Gregg Kilday writes. Some highlights from the full interview:

    + Bailey: "The fact of the matter is, I have been engaged personally on the issue of diversity and inclusion before it became a buzzword. Yes, I’m a 75-year-old white heterosexual male; that defines me, but it doesn’t limit me."

    + Asked if the 2016 goal of doubling the number of women and minorities by 2020 was realistic, Bailey said he’s “not really in the weeds on that.” But, he said, “there is so much untapped talent out there, and there is always new talent coming on line. It’s just a question of where do we consider the base line of artistic eligibility to be. Each of the branches is starting to define that for itself.”

    + One immediate goal, he said, is to see the Academy’s screening programs expand even further — both for members and the general public — especially when the Academy Museum opens, since it will contain a 1,000-seat theater.

    + His particular interest lies in international cinema: he recently served on the foreign-language film executive committee for four years, and since 2009 has published a blog on the American Cinematographer website, where he regularly sings the praises of foreign filmmakers.

    Meanwhile... 

    ^Box office: August Death March begins. Pamela McClintock writes: To date, revenue for the season is pacing 12.4 percent behind last year — and it’s only going to get worse. Studio insiders who have crunched the numbers believe it will finish up at between $3.76B-$3.85B, the lowest showing since 2006 ($3.749B) and a 13-15 percent drop over summer 2016. If it falls more than 15 percent, that would be the worst decline in at least 11 years, worse than the 14.5 percent dip in 2014.

    + Early tracking: The Hitman’s Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, is tracking to open to $18M or more over the Aug. 18-20 weekend, double the tracking for Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, around $8M. The forecast is bleak for the final three wide releases of summer, which open the following weekend. Tracking has The Weinstein Co.'s Leap! launching in the $5M range, while BH Tilt’s genre film Birth of a Dragon could do around $2M. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Deadpool 2 stunt person dies on set. Eyewitnesses told local news that a stuntwoman appeared to lose control of a motorcycle on set while filming and ran into a nearby building. Vancouver police and SAG-AFTRA both are investigating.

    + Ryan Reynolds statement: "Today, we tragically lost a member of the crew while filming Deadpool. We're heartbroken, devastated… but recognize nothing can come close to the grief and inexplicable pain her family and loved ones must feel in this moment. My heart pours out to them — along with each and every person she touched in this world."

    ► Toronto film fest adds Aaron Sorkin, Brie Larson projects to lineup. TIFF added another 32 titles to its special presentations sidebar, including world bows for Larson's Unicorn Store and Sorkin's Molly's Game.

    Brad Pitt sci-fi epic Ad Astra casts Jamie Kennedy. The actor joins the project that also stars Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga and Donald Sutherland. The film, directed by James Gray, is about a man’s ourney across a lawless solar system.

    Dennis Quaid faith-based drama gets distributor. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have picked up the North American rights to I Can Only Imagine, about the lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe. Quaid and Cloris Leachman star.

    Doc about anti-vaccination figure gets distributor. The Film Arcade and Gravitas Ventures have acquired Miranda Bailey’s doc The Pathological Optimist, about the controversial Dr. Andrew Wakefield. The film will be released theatrically on Sept. 29.

    ► Paul Allen's Vulcan Prods. to produce human trafficking doc. Directed by Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron, Ghost Fleet delves into Thailand's fishing industry and its nearly 4,000 slaves who are starved and held in cages at sea.

    Column: "Why the doc category suffers from 'meaninglessness.'" Tom Roston writes: The film and TV academies have different ideas about what constitutes an eligible title, and Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America is the latest to capitalize.

  • Lawsuit Clouds AMC's Exec Search

    Courtesy of AMC

    A new lawsuit from The Walking Dead producers — which may see AMC on the hook for an estimated $1B in potential damages — may be partially to blame for the delay in landing a top executive, Lesley Goldberg reports:

    The cable network home to the biggest drama on television may be facing hurdles finding a new head of programming to replace Joel Stillerman, who departed in May to become chief content officer at Hulu. Sources say that top candidates for the post Matt Cherniss (formerly of WGN America) and Katherine Pope (of Studio 8) have both passed on the position. 

    Robert Kirkman as well as exec producers Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert and former showrunner Glen Mazzara filed a new lawsuit against AMC, claiming they’ve been cheated out of millions for years.

    In the interim, sources say CAA — which reps Darabont, Kirkman and Mazzara — won't sell to AMC unless their clients insist, while AMC has responded that it will not pay package fees to the agency during litigation. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    HBO's Game of Thrones leak leads to arrests in India. Four men have been arrested over the leak that led to the release of Aug. 6 episode before its premiere. The breach was unrelated to a major hack that HBO has been dealing with for weeks.

    NBC plots political drama with Blindspot duo. Greg Berlanti and Martin Gero have scored a hefty put-pilot commitment for drama Republic, described as a drama that follows the female chief of staff to a moderate Republican president. 

    Netflix's Chuck Lorre comedy finds stars. The streamer is reteaming with Lorre for The Kominsky Method, with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin attached to the project about Hollywood acting coach Sandy Kominsky. Lorre will pen the script. 

    Lifetime's Greg Berlanti drama casts lead. The 10-episode You is described as a 21st century love story that will star Shay Mitchell and Penn Badgley. Mitchell has also formed a production company.

    ^ABC's Bachelor in Paradise premieres after controversy. Jackie Strause notes: The biggest question heading into the fourth-season premiere was how ABC would handle footage of the pair before the production shutdown. What actually aired.

    CBS pilot watch: S.W.A.T. Critic Daniel Fienberg takes an early look at a pilot that, "at least for an hour, feels like it's trying to do more than just be another TV/movie remake."

    ► Paramount Network's American Woman changes showrunners. John Riggi has exited the Alicia Silverstone '70s-set series at the network that has yet to launch. Exec producer John Wells will be taking over showrunner duties. 

    ► Netflix's Haunting of Hill House series adds to cast. Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser and Kate Siegel have joined the drama, which was ordered straight to series as a modern re-imagining of Shirley Jackson's classic 1959 novel. 

    WGN America looks abroad for programming. To replace its high-end scripted originals, the Tribune-owned cabler picked up three low-cost dramas. The shift to foreign imports, especially from Canada, aims to cut programming costs.

    TV Critics Debate: Summer 2017's highs and lows. Tim Goodman and Daniel Fienberg talk Twin Peaks and Game of Thrones, analyze Netflix's recent stumbles and rejoice in good new shows from unexpected places (Audience Network, anyone?).

  • Mooch Hits Late-Night

    Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

    In an interview in which Stephen Colbert repeatedly referred to his guest as "The Mooch," the host asked Anthony Scaramucci if he was "brought in just to get rid of" Reince Priebus, who was also ousted from the White House. Watch here. 

    What else we're reading...

    "Laura Ingraham is in line for a talk show on Fox News." Brian Stelter reports: "The addition of an Ingraham talk show could be part of a bigger-picture reshuffling of Fox News Channel's highly rated schedule." [CNN]

    "Books coverage after Michiko Kakutani." Boris Kachka's profile: "Why the world's most powerful book critic left the Times and what she's doing next." [New York]

    "How A.I. is creating building blocks to reshape music." Cade Metz reports: "Project Magenta, a team at Google, is crossbreeding sounds from different instruments based on neural networks." [The New York Times]

    "Can The Hitman’s Bodyguard win the title of titles?" Michael Salfino notes: "The Ryan Reynolds-Samuel L. Jackson movie follows a long line of ‘The Someone’s Something’ films." [The Wall Street Journal]

    "Mike Judge: Trump makes Idiocracy look 'optimistic." Matt Wilstein notes: "The writer/director didn’t think things would get this bad for another 500 years." [The Daily Beast]

    Today's birthdays: Jennifer Lawrence, 27, Ben Affleck, 45, Anthony Anderson, 47, Debra Messing, 49, Peter Hermann, 50, Alejandro González Iñárritu, 54.

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