What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:13 AM 9/6/2017

by THR Staff

Miller Mobley

It's magazine day! George Clooney covers the Toronto issue and reveals his off-camera life at home in Italy. Plus: Apple and Amazon join the race for James Bond rights, Wanda takes action over "malicious rumors" and Lucasfilm parts ways with another Star Wars director. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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On the cover: George Clooney invited Stephen Galloway to his Lake Como home for a brutally honest conversation about marriage, fatherhood, racism and his $200M tequila payday. The lead: 

George Clooney strides across the lush lawn of his Lake Como home and points toward a cluster of trees, the only barrier that separates him and this 18th century Italian villa from an increasingly invasive world. "That's where he got in," he says, more matter-of-fact than angry. "The guy climbed the fence and got up into the trees there."

The "he" in question is a paparazzo. Less than 24 hours earlier, news was tearing across the internet that a photographer — one of hordes that swarm around Clooney like the mosquitoes on the nearby lake — had slipped past the guardhouse, crept through the bushes, crawled up a tree and snapped pictures of the star and his wife, Amal, cradling their 7-week-old twins. Clooney vowed to sue.

The fact that a stranger could penetrate his sanctum sanctorum — the one place where, for a few brief weeks each summer, he can flee the pressures of his almost unparalleled celebrity — infuriated him.

"Every single day there's some crazy sort of infringement," he says. "And you go, 'OK, we'll eat it. That's what we have to do.' But when someone breaks the law, that's beyond what we bargained for, beyond the pact I made: that when you're famous, you're going to be followed." Full cover story. 

  • Apple, Amazon Join Bond Race

    Illustration by Guy Shield

    While Warner Bros. remains in the lead to land film distribution rights to the James Bond megafranchise, a couple of unlikely suitors have emerged that also are in hot pursuit, Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit report: 

    Apple and Amazon are willing to spend in the same ballpark as Warners, if not much more, for the rights to James Bond, sources tell THR. MGM has been looking for a deal for more than two years, and Sony, Universal and Fox also had been pursuing the property, with Warners and Sony the most aggressive.

    But the emergence of Apple and Amazon shows that the digital giants consider Bond one of the last untapped brands (like a Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm) that could act as a game-changer in the content space. Apple’s and Amazon’s inclusion in the chase would indicate that more is on the table than film rights, including the future of the franchise if MGM will sell or license out for the right price.

    Sources say newly arrived executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht are spearheading the effort on Apple’s behalf. Given their background, this would suggest that Apple is interested in cutting a larger rights deal or acquiring full ownership to exploit Bond’s largely unmined TV potential. Valuation of the franchise may be anywhere between $2B and $5B, says an insider.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    E! head of programming to exit. Jeff Olde, who has served as exec vp programming and development since March 2013, is exiting the network to pursue what he called his "next adventure." A replacement has not yet been determined. Memo to staff. 

    CBS, Greg Garcia plan immigration comedy. Tentatively titled Welcome to Maine, the multicam centers on a Maine family and a recent immigrant and his daughter who share a workplace in a small rural town. Austen Earl (The Carmichael Show) will write the half-hour. 

    ► Showtime sets mass shooting docuseriesActive Shooter: American Under Fire is an eight-part docuseries premiering Sept. 29 that will explore mass shootings and their consequences. Each episode focuses on one shooting incident that have occurred in the U.S.

    ► TNT cancels Will after one season. The Turner-owned cable network has opted to cancel the series after one low-rated season. The William Shakespeare drama averaged a 0.2 among the adults 18-49 demo.

    ^"Netflix is a Joke" billboards revealed as inside job. The mysterious campaign in L.A. and N.Y. is said to be expanding and will soon feature Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, among others, all together to promote Netflix's comedic offerings.

    Hulu, Chris Pine team for Robert F. Kennedy limited series. Pine would play the late politician in the untitled project, which hails from The Good Wife grad Todd E. Kessler. The drama is based on Larry Tye's 2016 biography Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon.

    The Daily Show adds new correspondent. As correspondent Jordan Klepper prepares to exit for his own Comedy Central series The Opposition, comedian Dulce Sloan has been tapped as a new correspondent, making her debut this week. 

    ABC pilot watch: Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. Jason Ritter is "likable, but perhaps miscast, in this inconsistent genre- and tone-bending spiritual dramedy," writes critic Daniel Fienberg. 

  • Toronto Hot List Arrives

    Courtesy of TIFF; Photo Illustration by Kelsey Stefanson

    Unlike Berlin, Cannes or AFM, Toronto never was designed to be a presales market. As such, the vast majority of films up for grabs this year are finished. And even among finished films, domestic buyers will find relatively slim pickings, Tatiana Siegel and Rebecca Ford write:

    "We're in a moment in time where an awful lot of films have already been sold before the fest," says Sony Pictures Classics' Michael Barker, who is taking nine films to Toronto but doesn't expect to be on a buying spree.

    Even the festival's hottest available titles saw distributors try to swoop in and take them off the market with aggressive offers in August, including CBS Films for I, Tonya and Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios for Chappaquiddick. Similarly, the James McAvoy-Alicia Vikander starrer Submergence has multiple bids lined up. In all three cases, the sales agents decided to wait to see how the films would be received in Toronto.

    Noted: Privately, domestic sellers say they don't anticipate any of the titles to hit the eight-figure range. Still, a robust market is expected. 

    THE LIST: Bodied, Chappaquiddick, The Children Act, Disobedience, Hostiles, I, Tonya, Kodachrome, Mary Shelley, Replicas, Submergence, Unicorn Store. Full breakdown.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Wanda takes legal action over "malicious rumors." Demanding public apologies and millions in compensation, the company has issued an aggressive response to the local media outlets that alleged the company's billionaire boss had been detained. 

    + Patrick Brzeski notes: The decision to sue is understood to have come straight from the top, with chairman Wang Jianlin said to be incensed over the rumors and their damage to his company's reputation.

    Colin Trevorrow out as Star Wars: Episode IX director. Lucasfilm's statement said that "our visions for the project differ." And, sources say, script issues have continued to be a sore spot throughout the film's development, with Trevorrow having repeated stabs at multiple drafts.

    + Borys Kit writes: Sources say that the working relationship between Trevorrow and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy became unmanageable. Kennedy, who had already been through one director firing/replacement on the Han Solo spinoff movie, was not eager for a sequel and tried to avoid this decision.

    ► Summer box-office officially hits 25-year low. According to final numbers from comScore, summer box office revenue plummeted 14.6 percent year-over-year to $3.83B, tying with summer 2014 to mark the worst decline in modern history.

    Megan Ellison's Annapurna secures $350M credit line. The new funding will be put toward production and new projects, including Annapurna's expanding Hollywood ambitions, which now include television and video games.

    ► Casey Affleck, Joe Wright to adapt Stoner novel. Blumhouse Productions, Cohen Media Group (CMG) and Film4 are backing the feature adaptation of the 1965 novel about William Stoner, a farmer turned academic "who emerges as an unlikely existential hero."

    ► Alex Gibney to direct Vietnam drama American Hero. The Oscar-winning documentarian is tackling a narrative feature about U.S. Captain Hugh Thompson, who saved lives amid the My Lai massacre. Anthony McCarten is writing the original screenplay. 

    ^It, reviewed. The second big Stephen King adaptation of the summer, out this weekend, tries to replace Tim Curry as the scary-clown monster of fans' nightmares. The takeaway: "Satisfying, if not quite terrifying."

    + Early takes: EW: "delivers the scares, despite too much clowning around." USA Today: "does justice to freaky horror and youthful zest." The Guardian: "a feast of scary Stephen King, plus the haunted kitchen sink." Screen Daily: "a chilling central performance from Bill Skarsgård."

    Home Again, reviewed. Reese Witherspoon stars as a newly single mother who gets involved with a younger man in the first film by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers. The takeaway: "A feature-length sitcom, sans laughs."

    Disney's live-action Aladdin casts Billy Magnussen. The actor will play Prince Anders, a new role created for the Guy Ritchie-directed movie, also starring Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott as the leads with Will Smith taking on the role of Genie.

    Gary Oldman to star in supernatural thriller. Michael Goi will direct Mary from a script by Anthony Jaswinski for Tucker Tooley Entertainment and Entertainment One. The film is set to begin production in Alabama in late September.

    ► Faith-based Unbroken sequel in the works. Dubbed Unbroken: Path to Redemption, will explore the difficulty the Olympian-turned-POW had in his private life after coming home. The film will be produced by Matt Baer, who produced Angelina Jolie's Unbroken in 2014. 

    Rosamund Pike thriller gets distributorThree Seconds, picked up by Aviron Pictures in North America ahead of TIFF, was adapted from a Swedish novel by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström. The film was directed by Andrea Di Stefano.

    R.I.P., Harry Gittes. The producer behind Jack Nicholson films Drive, He Said, Goin' South and About Schmidt and was the namesake for the actor's gumshoe character in Chinatown, has died. He was 81. Full obit.

    ► Avi Lerner says Millennium sale to China not dead yet. The Chinese conglomerate Recon aborted its $100 million plan to acquire 51 percent of Lerner's Millennium Films, which received a payment that now becomes a breakup fee: "The company's richer by $20 million."

     

  • Whitewashing Tipping Point

    Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images (Skrein); Darkhorse Comics (Daimio)

    British actor Ed Skrein's Aug. 28 decision to quit Lionsgate and Millennium's Hellboy reboot has many in the industry wondering whether the unprecedented move is a tipping point for Hollywood's practice of "whitewashing" roles, Rebecca Sun reports: 

    Some see Skrein as caving to pressure from a social media-fueled mob of PC police. "No one knows where the line is," says a studio publicity head, "and every movie now is controversial for any reason." In addition, there are concerns that an overcorrective backlash against whitewashing will cause filmmakers to decide against making movies about diverse characters altogether.

    Already, Sony's adaptation of Michael Lewis' 2014 best-seller Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt is effectively dead because it no longer would be the default to cast real-life protagonist Bradley Katsuyama with a white actor. "A decade ago they would have just done that," Lewis said Sept. 2 at the National Book Festival. "There were emails back and forth about how impossible it was to make a movie with an Asian lead."

    But that conventional wisdom, and the assumption that there aren't enough qualified nonwhite actors to cast big-budget projects in a culturally accurate way, is misguided, says Russell Boast, vp at the Casting Society of America. "They do exist, but because our focus has been on star power, which in the past has very often been a white male actor, there hasn't been the need to have that list of the top 10 or 100 Asian actors that mean something financially to the studios," he says. "It's our duty to stop using that as an excuse. Ed's move is making our jobs easier."

    What else we're reading...

    "The thankless task of being Michael Moore." Jessica Pressler's profile: "He’s been right about everything before, and he really thinks you are living in a bubble." [New York]

    "Life after cool." Carl Wilson notes: "On LCD Soundsystem’s new album, James Murphy’s mock midlife crisis becomes a genuine subdued panic - and makes for some of his most mature music yet." [Slate[

    "Fear and loathing on social media." Angela Watercutter writes: "Social media, Twitter especially, started as a way to bring people together - then it brought out the best and worst in them." [Wired]

    "At CNN, retracted story leaves an elite reporting team bruised." Sydney Ember, Michael M. Grynbaum report: "CNN’s investigative unit was reshaped and its focus narrowed in the wake of a story that led to a retraction and an apology." [The New York Times

    "Quincy Jones reflects on his career." Tim Greiving's profile after "Jones won a lawsuit against Jackson’s estate for $9.4 million in damages for unpaid royalties, largely from the concert film This Is It.” [The Los Angeles Times]

    Today's birthdays: Naomie Harris, 41, Idris Elba, 45, Rosie Perez, 53, Elizabeth Vargas, 55, Roger Waters, 74.

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