What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:09 AM 5/2/2018

by Ray Rahman

THR - Spike Lee - Photographed by Austin? Hargrave - EMBED 1- 2018
Photographed by Austin? Hargrave

“You’ve got to be able to improvise,” says Lee. “That’s the trick. If you just have one set plan, that’s gonna be hard because shit goes astray.”

What's news: The Weinstein Co. finally finds a buyer. Plus: Parsing Comcast's Disney-Fox strategy, inside NBC's Tom Brokaw defense and a wide-ranging conversation with Spike Lee. — Ray Rahman

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The Cannes Issue: Spike Lee unleashes BlacKkKlansman. The director talks to Tatiana Siegel about race, Trump and being "robbed" of Cannes' Palme d'Or

On Trump and Charlottesville: "I just think that his dog whistle stuff has given these people that 'Come out.' They get the signal. That's what happened in Charlottesville. ... Agent Orange refused to repudiate the Klan, the alt-right and the Nazis. 'There's good people on both sides.' That's going to be on his gravestone. He's on the wrong side of history."

Jordan Peele on the BlacKkKlansman story: "I was just blown away. I couldn't believe I had never heard about it. It's one of these pieces of reality that almost plays like social satire. So, I was immediately obsessed with this story."

Spike on casting Topher Grace as David Duke: "The real David Duke wasn't going play him, so we had to get an actor who understands the part. We never even discussed how he was going to approach it, but I had confidence in him. It's fantastic when you see people do something they're not known for."

On Do the Right Thing losing the Palme d'Or to Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape: "Look, me and Steven are cool, have always been cool. But that thing was commandeered by Wim Wenders," Lee says. "He said Mookie [played by Lee himself] was not a heroic character."

Wim Wenders' response: "He said he'd be waiting for me in an alley with a baseball bat. Well, he should have been waiting for the whole jury because it wasn't my decision. The film simply didn't have the support of the jury. ... He just had the bad luck to be in such a great year." Full cover story.

  • Comcast's Sneak Attack?

    A war over pay TV giant Sky (and the AT&T-Time Warner trial outcome) could lead to a late Fox bid from Brian Roberts. Paul Bond and Georg Szalai write:

    In what could kick off a bidding war, Comcast on April 25 made official its $31 billion bid for Sky, even though the European pay TV company had previously agreed to let Fox, a 39 percent shareholder, purchase the portion it doesn't already own.

    That could be a prelude to Comcast launching a rival, and possibly hostile, bid for the same Fox assets that Disney in December agreed to buy, thus setting up a battle for size and leverage that, even by Hollywood standards, would be ferocious.

    Looking at AT&T-Time Warner for clues: "If AT&T-Time Warner is ruled legal and closes, we expect a new Comcast bid for Fox immediately," says BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield. "If Disney acquires the Fox assets they are trying to buy, it will give Disney unprecedented control of the legacy media landscape."

    How it could go down: A Comcast hostile bid for the Rupert Murdoch-controlled assets could also be an option, which might play out like this: Roberts could unveil a competing offer at a premium to Disney's bid, since the cable giant had in December signaled to Fox it was willing to pay a 16 percent higher price than Disney.

    At the time, the Murdochs preferred Disney in part because of the regulatory risks of the Comcast offer amid the government's challenge to AT&T-Time Warner.... Full story.

    Bob Greenblatt talks Sky bid...

    Comcast's process: "We will go through the Sky process very collegially," the NBC Entertainment chairman said of Comcast's bid to acquire Sky, saying his company "needs to grow its international footprint."

    He continued: "It's a global world. We are probably the most domestic of the companies here. In the next few years, you are going to see that change. You are going to see an enormous outreach." Read more.

    NBCUniversal's Canada play...

    Streaming service: NBCUniversal International unveiled plans to launch Hayu, a subscription VOD service focused on reality TV shows, in Canada by the end of the year. The streaming service will feature series like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and spinoffs, along with The Real Housewives and Million Dollar Listing.

    NBC's Tom Brokaw defense... 

    Rolling the dice? On April 30, NBC News management circulated a memo with guidance about covering the Tom Brokaw accusations that advised NBC News anchors and producers to “include relevant portions of Brokaw’s denial, his email and the email in support of him.”

    One signee of NBC News' letter of support says, "Everyone is afraid to say that this is not black and white. My hope is this is the moment that defuses #MeToo. And the silver lining is that it took someone like Tom."

    "We all signed the letter knowing that more women could come forward," says another insider. "If more women come forward we’re going to revisit this." Full story.

    Earnings reports...

    Snap plunges: The parent company of the popular messaging app Snapchat saw shares fall by 17 percent after posting first-quarter earnings with user growth and revenues that fell well short of an analyst forecast following a redesign and user backlash.

    Apple beats expectations: The company posted $61.1 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter and earnings per share of $2.73, saying the March quarter was the best fiscal second-quarter in its history. Apple also said it has authorized a share buy-back plan worth $100 billion and will increase its dividend by about 16 percent.

    Average salary report...

    Tech tops traditional media: In terms of recent median employee pay disclosures, of a list of companies THR analyzed, Facebook leads the charge with $240,430, followed by Alphabet ($197,274), Netflix ($183,304) and CBS Corp. ($116,654). Read more.

    HBO's Golden State Killer series...

    True crime: Just a week after an arrest finally came in the decades-long hunt for the Golden State Killer, HBO and Liz Garbus are moving forward with a documentary about the alleged murderer.

    The true-crime series will be based on late writer and journalist Michelle McNamara's best-selling book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, widely credited with the capture of the alleged killer.

    E!'s new slate...

    Including a late-night show: The cable network is teaming with actress and social media favorite Busy Phillips to host a late-night talk show called Busy Tonight. The show, to premiere this year, will feature comedic commentary, interviews and segments that go behind Phillips' most popular Instagram stories. See the rest of the new shows.

    They're back...

    Will Ferrell's and Molly Shannon's next gig: The pair, as their parody broadcaster personas Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan, will host a live commentary on HBO of Prince Harry's and Meghan Markle's wedding. The Royal Wedding Live With Cord and Tish! comes after the comedians, in character as Cord and Tish, hosted the Rose Parade in January on Amazon 

    Hulu upfronts...

    The Handmaid's Tale renewed: The Emmy-winning hit will be back for a third season.

    Mindy Kaling's Four Weddings and a Funeral anthology a go: Her adaptation has been given a series order at the streamer, marking a reunion between Hulu and Kaling.

    So is a new comedy from the Carmichael Show team: The streamer has ordered Ramy Youssef vehicle Ramy from producers Jerrod Carmichael and Ari Katcher.

    HBO's big renewal...

    More WestworldHBO's water-cooler hit will be back for a third season, though it's unclear how long the Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan drama will take off between seasons.

    Decoding the new normal for TV series renewal...

    Critic's notebook: "It's difficult to track when, exactly, good educated guesses about whether a series would be canceled or not stopped being accurate or relevant," writes Tim Goodman. "Networks are giving a lot of shows two seasons in order to gauge longer-term viability — which makes the series canceled after one season stand out as utter failures, while those renewed for a third get the sheen of success." Read more.

  • TWC's Winning Bidder

    The war to win The Weinstein Co. seems to be over, writes Eriq Gardner:

    Lantern Capital is the winning bidder to acquire The Weinstein Co., the once prestigious studio behind The King's Speech, The Artist, Project Runway and various other films and television shows, the embattled company said Tuesday.

    "Lantern’s bid clearly achieves the highest and best value for the estate and its creditors,” said Ivona Smith, a member of The Weinstein Co. board. “We look forward to working with Lantern to close the transaction and consummate the going concern sale...." Read more.

    Hasbro's big deal...

    Acquisition: The toy maker has inked a deal with Saban Properties to acquire Power Rangers and a host of other entertainment brands as part of a cash and stock deal valued at $522 million. Hasbro also picked up the My Pet Monster, Popples, Julius Jr., Luna Petunia and Treehouse Detectives properties, among others. Details.

    Provincetown Film Festival news...

    Lineup: Madeleine Olnek’s Wild Nights With Emily, starring Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson, will open Cape Cod's June festival, while Ondi Timoner’s Mapplethorpe, starring Matt Smith as the influential photographer, will serve as the closing-night film. See the rest.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Jessica Chastain, Marion Cotillard and Lupita Nyong'o join spy thriller: The actresses, along with Penelope Cruz and Fan Bingbing, are set to star in 355, a female-driven spy thriller, with Simon Kinberg set to direct based on a script by Theresa Rebeck and an original idea by Chastain.

    ? Jake Gyllenhaal's next role: The actor will play legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in The American from director Cary Fukunaga, set to begin production in the fall. Details.

    ? Helen Mirren and Danny DeVito board Angelina Jolie's movie: They have joined the cast of The One and Only Ivan, Disney's Jolie-starring adaptation of the Newbery Medal-winning book.

    ? Paul Rudd's Catcher Was a Spy goes to IFC Films: IFC has set a June 22 theatrical release date for the film, which also stars Sienna Miller and Jeff Daniels and debuted at Sundance.

    ? Sarah Hyland's rom-com: The Modern Family actress will star in The Wedding Year, about a marriage-resistant L.A. photographer (Hyland) who gets invited to 15 weddings in the same year with her new, ready-to-settle-down boyfriend.

    ? Sam Raimi's next horror thriller: Alexandre Aja, the filmmaker behind Piranha 3D, is on board to helm the self-contained thriller Crawl, which Raimi will produce. The film is already in preproduction at Paramount.

    ? Jackie Weaver, Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu join forces: The trio has signed on to star in Stage Mother, the new feature from Canadian director Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden).

    ? Tim Blake Nelson and Michael C. Hall team with Annette Benning: The actors will round out the cast for the Benning-starring film The Torture Report, along with Gotham star Ben McKenzie, The Americans actor Matthew Rhys and Ted Levine.

    ? Cannes: John Travolta's Gotti will screen out of competition at the festival May 15; Ryan Coogler and Gary Oldman, among others, will be offering master classes; and a Harvey Weinstein doc called Citizen Harvey from the Searching for Sugar Man producers will be introduced at the market.. 

    ? Half the Picture trailer: Ava DuVernay, Catherine Hardwicke, Lena Dunham, Jill Soloway and more speak about their struggles as female directors. Watch.

  • Playmate to Politico

    How did Pamela Anderson become an international woman of mystery? Tatiana Siegel writes:

    The onetime poster girl for Malibu (and red swimsuits) has decamped to the South of France, where for the past year or so she has transformed herself into a bombshell Zelig, forming an unlikely, even surreal, network of friendships with a shocking range of influential — and sometimes infamous — world figures. If politics makes for strange bedfellows, Anderson is running an orgy.

    Social network: She's become pals with everyone from GOP billionaire activist Sheldon Adelson (an old Malibu neighbor) to Bill Clinton (they partied together at the Vienna AIDS Ball) to kosher sex guru and former congressional candidate Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (they wrote a book) and a slew of movers and shakers from various corners of international culture (punk designer Vivienne Westwood, pop artist Jeff Koons).

    And then there's Julian Assange: "We talk about everything," Anderson says of her friendship with the WikiLeaks founder. "We talk about the Bible, we talk about what's happening with my kids, what's happening with his family. It's not just about politics, even though I do take a lot of notes and it's so overwhelming, the information he gives me." Full story.

    In other news...

    Bill Cosby is shedding tens of millions in L.A. real estate: Staring down years of legal woes, the disgraced comedian has been quietly selling off his Los Angeles real estate portfolio including a number of top-tier commercial properties in downtown Santa Monica. Read more.

    Royal wedding: Who in Hollywood scored invites? Meghan Markle's Suits co-stars and showrunner, along with pals Priyanka Chopra and Serena Williams and mentor Bonnie Hammer, are among those believed to be on the guest list for the May 19 ceremony. See the rest.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Hi, it's Amazon calling. Here's what we don't like in your city." Shayndi Raice and Laura Stevens write: "After the retail giant told cities why they didn’t become finalists for its second headquarters, some started making changes." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Dear movie industry, we have thoughts." Critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis "fire off a number of thoughtful memos to the movie industry and the industry-adjacent." [The New York Times]

    — "Saudi Arabia cinema finds the limelight." Ahmed Al Omran writes: "Companies from home and abroad are jostling for opportunities in newly unlocked sectors such as tourism and leisure." [Financial Times]

    — "Inside Kanye West's disturbing on-air meltdown: 'Tell the world you love me.'" Amy Zimmerman writes: "A pair of interviews with the musician and entrepreneur hit the internet on Tuesday, revealing an artist at odds with himself — and society." [Daily Beast]

    — "Baz Luhrmann: 'I've never waited for permission to do anything.'" Ryan Gilbey interviews the director about his Elvis movie, resurrecting Strictly Ballroom for the stage and more. [The Guardian]

    — "Can Barbie really have it all?" Sophie Gilbert writes: "What does a plastic doll have to say about feminism?" [The Atlantic]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "How Kevin Smith stayed calm during a heart attack." [Late Show]

    + "Brad Pitt returns as depressed weatherman." [Jim Jefferies Show]

    + "Kathy Griffin addresses the severed Trump head photo controversy." [Late Night]

    Today's Birthdays: Ellie Kemper, 38, David Beckham, 43, Dwayne Johnson, 46, Donatella Versace, 63, Christine Baranski, 66.