What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:22 AM 10/23/2017

by Ray Rahman

What's news: The weekend brought about new sexual-harassment revelations as more than 30 women came out with claims against director James Toback. Yet Hollywood still isn't done reckoning with its role in the Harvey Weinstein story. Plus: Justin Timberlake tapped for 2018's Super Bowl, The Walking Dead returned last night with its 100th episode, and Star Trek: Discovery appears to be prospering so far. — Ray Rahman

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  • Can Hollywood Fix Itself?

    Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage

    It's clear now that Harvey Weinstein was just one part of a much bigger problem. As more and more allegations come to light, against not just Weinstein but a raft of other Hollywood figures, people are chastising themselves for being part of the problem, for taking so long to address what's been in plain view. Writes Stephen Galloway:

    For too long, we’ve accepted misbehavior in many and varied forms. There’s the producer who has a collection of phones at hand, one always ready to hurl at a terrified aide. There’s the executive who berates his staff so badly that they routinely go home in tears. There’s the filmmaker who insists his assistant drop by his home to pick up his underwear and throw it in the wash. There’s the studio head famous for having once said, “If you don’t come into work on Saturday, don’t bother coming in on Sunday.”

    That’s abuse, too, make no mistake about it. And yet we’ve put up with it. An industry that accepts yelling, throwing objects, asking employees to do ridiculous things and work impossible hours is one that creates a perfect petri dish for sexual harassment. Full Galloway column.

    More Weinstein percolations...

    CLOONEY, DAMON SPEAK At the Sunday premiere of his new film Suburbicon, George Clooney once again added his voice to the debate. "What we hope is this is a watershed moment for society where women feel safe enough to talk about this issue, feel believed and where men who are committing these crimes [and] violations don't feel safe," he said. "If we can get to that point then we actually succeeded. This thing won't end up just being Harvey Weinstein jokes in three months."

    + Damon commented on the role social media has played throughout the saga: "Social media has been great in the sense that these really brave women who stepped up first and who took that chance and made their voices heard allowed all of these other women to understand they're not alone. It's turning into this avalanche and that's what's needed." 

    BEN SHERWOOD'S REMARKS Speaking a the USC Entertainment Institute on Saturday, the Disney/ABC Television Group offered his take on the Weinstein fallout, acknowledging that "there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed" regarding the power differential between men and women in Hollywood.

    HARVEY'S FASHION SCAM A damning L.A. Times report outlines how Weinstein "used fashion as a pipeline to models." The story includes first-hand accounts of young models' encounters with the man. "Someone put me there next to him," Zoë Brock recalls." That was on purpose." 

    JAMES TOBACK ACCUSED As Hollywood reckons with its past sins, another industry figure has been hit with multiple harassment allegations: Filmmaker James Toback, the subject of a Los Angeles Times report that contains allegations from 38 women. The 72-year-old director and writer (nominated for an Oscar in 1992 for his script for Bugsy) denied the claims, saying he had never met any of these women, and if he had, "it was for five minutes."

    + Yet the women's claims, 31 of 38 of which were on the record, suggest a pattern of abuse, with Toback luring a young or aspiring actress into a meeting and then proceeding to use very graphic sexual language under the guise of describing a role or film before engaging in some sort of masturbation.

    + There was even a verb for it: “It’s a common thread among many women I know … after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed,’” New York drama teacher, actor and playwright Karen Sklaire told the Times. Sklaire said her 1997 meeting with Toback ended with him grinding against her leg in an office. “The numbers are staggering.” 

    + Not a few people were reminded that Toback's behavior had been outlined decades ago in a Spy magazine article titled "The Pickup Artist."

    + Yesterday, Toback's agent Jeff Berg announced that he no longer represented Toback but declined to say when the relationship ended. Berg still has another high-profile client, though: Roman Polanski. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Weekend box office: If you went out to see a movie this weekend, it was most likely Boo 2! A Madea Halloween — the Tyler Perry film climbed to the top spot with $21.7 million as its competitors had disastrous weekends. Geostorm, the $120 million movie about freak natural disasters on a global scale — a thing most people have already been dealing with in real life or watching on the news — tanked with a $13.3 million domestic tally. The Snowman, starring Michael Fassbender as someone named Harry Hole, fared even worse, with only $3.4 million.

    + What went wrong with Geostorm? Simply put: Everything, from poor timing to creative issues to troubled reshoots. The inside story by Pamela McClintock on how Geostorm bombed is full of fascinating details, starting with a memo from a Warners executive to theaters across the country asking them to pull posters with the tagline "Brave the Storm." 

    + But is timing really the main issue, or is it simply that the movie was not good? The situation calls to mind a similar circumstance in 2014, when Let's Be Cops was released at the height of unrest in Ferguson. That movie, ultimately, was also not good. 

    Jordan Peele on writing Get Out during the Obama Administration. At a DGA event, the writer-director discussed the "post-racial lie" that helped fuel his movie. "When I was writing this, people were saying, 'Racism is done.' But at the same time, [President Obama] was being questioned if he was American."

    ► Sam Shepard in his final movie. The acclaimed actor and playwright died in July, but he can now be seen in his final film, the psychological thriller Never Here. The film, which also stars Mieille Enos, is currently in select theaters and streaming platforms. Watch a clip.

    Renee Zellweger to play Judy Garland. The actress will star in Judy, based on the story of the stage and screen icon's final concerts in London. The project is based on a script by The Crown's Tom Edge and set to be directed by two-time Olivier-winner Rupert Goold. 

    Russia braces for violent protests surrounding controversial film release. Matilda, a movie about an affair between a ballerina and the country's last emperor Nicholas II is due to be released Thursday after months of protests. Russian Orthodox religious extremists, angered by the depiction of a man they consider a saint, have already firebombed the director's offices.

  • 'Star Trek' Prospers

    Jan Thijs/CBS

    It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that Star Trek: Discovery, the CBS series available exclusively on the CBS All Access platform, will be getting a second season. But the road to success wasn't easy, writes Lacey Rose:

    The new incarnation of the storied franchise had a challenging two-year road to the screen. Originally slated to premiere in January 2017, the drama starring The Walking Dead grad Sonequa Martin-Green was delayed to May. And then showrunner Bryan Fuller — who grew up as a Trekkie — exited the series to focus on his Starz show American Gods, with longtime collaborators Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts taking over after the Hannibal creator broke the season one outline. Recognizing the scope of the show, Kurtzman went to CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves with a big ask: to delay the massive undertaking a second time. The drama wound up launching Sept. 24, with its premiere on CBS before moving to CBS All Access in week two.

    While CBS All Access has yet to determine a return date (or episode count) for season two, executive producer Alex Kurtzman — in a nod to the show's challenging path to the screen — told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of its premiere that a sophomore run would "ideally" return "on the early side of 2019." Kurtzman noted that every episode takes three to four months, including production and VFX. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Netflix to raise $1.6 billion in debt to fund new content. The streaming player revealed in a new press release that it was planning to gin up another $1.6 billion in debt "for general corporate purposes," which includes content acquisitions and development. 

    + This comes after news after the company announced last week its plans to release 80 original films next year and up its 2018 content budget to $8 billion. In its third quarter, the service added 5.3 new million subscribers, bring the total number to 104.2 million.

    ► Fox in hot water over new Bill O'Reilly revelations. According to a new report in the New York Times, before O'Reilly signed a $25 million-a-year, four-year contract extension with Fox News, the host struck a $32 million agreement with network analyst Lis Wiehl to settle new sexual harassment allegations — which the company knew about.

    + Wiehl's claims against O'Reilly included "repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her," the Times story said. 

    Justin Timberlake tapped for 2018 Super Bowl halftime show. The entertainer announced that he'll perform during Super Bowl LII, taking place Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. That will be about 14 years after his infamous show with Janet Jackson, which resulted in the wardrobe malfunction seen 'round the world. 

    + In a year where racially charged issues are roiling the NFL — to the point that the president has gotten involved — does the league really want to open itself to renewed examination of how differently Janet Jackson and Timberlake were treated after the incident? (She is still banned from the Super Bowl.) Early social-media reaction has already been iffy

    ^The Walking Dead showrunner goes inside season 8 premiere. Watched last night's episode yet? Showrunner Scott Gimple discusses it all, including all those time jumps. Plus: A breakdown of how the premiere — which doubled as the show's milestone 100th episode — honored its past.

    Cindy Holland honored with Sherry Lansing award. The Netflix VP of Original Content was honored by Lansing, along with Adam Lambert and Kate Mulgrew, at the Big Brothers Big Sisters gala in L.A. Friday night. 

    Rep Sheet Roundup: Ryan Gosling has parted ways with his longtime managers at Anonymous Content and LBI. … Veteran agent Brad Schenck has moved from Paradigm to ICM Partners, bringing a large roster of clients including Scott Caan, Jay Hernandez and Tricia Helfer. … Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring has signed with WME. … The Jim Henson Co. has signed with UTA. More here.

  • European Telcos Go Prestige

    Courtesy of Movistar

    To hold on to subscribers, and fight off Netflix, telephone and cable operators across Europe are pumping money into ambitious — and expensive — original series, writes Scott Roxborough:

    For decades, telecommunications companies, called telcos in industry parlance, were happy to just operate the pipes, providing services — telephone, mobile, cable TV and Internet — while letting others make the content, be it TV series or sports, that got watched on their platforms. But under increasing competition, particularly from Netflix and Amazon Prime, Europe's telco giants — France's SFR and Orange, Spain's Telefonica, BT in the U.K., Germany's Deutsche Telekom among others — are moving from pipes to production, investing in original series to drive subscriptions for their homegrown pay TV and streaming services.

    The telcos have been active as buyers of mostly American TV series for quite some time now — CBS Studios International last month inked a new long-term exclusive licensing deal with Telefonica's Movistar in Spain for its Showtime series, including Billions and the Twin Peaks reboot — but the move into originals is more recent.

    Movistar has pledged more than $80 million a year towards a minimum of 12 originals, mainly Spanish-language series. Orange in France has pledged $118 million over five years towards original series (in addition to the more than $150 million it plans to invest in French and European feature films). Given the companies' size, reach and deep pockets — Deutsche Telekom had 2016 revenues of $73 billion, Telefonica of $52 billion — their shift to original content could be an industry game-changer. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    How Gone With the Wind is being reframed in theaters, in class and on TV. Aisha Harris' feature: "The place where the movie is likely to be viewed with the least historical context is at home, on video, but the way it’s sold on home video is changing, too." [Slate]

    "At BuzzFeed, a pivot to movies and television." Sydney Ember's profile: "Matthew Henick, a onetime teenage ringtone magnate, is leading the company away from popular shorts toward deals with production studios." [The New York Times]

    Harvey Weinstein and the impunity of powerful men. Jia Tolentino writes: "For women speaking up about their experiences with harassment and assault, being heard is one kind of power, and being free is another." [The New Yorker]

    A long-delayed reckoning of the cost of silence on abuse. Jim Rutenberg writes: "Bill O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein may have come from different ends of the political spectrum, but it turns out they have a lot in common." [The New York Times]

    It's time for Hollywood to cast out Roman Polanski. Marlow Stern writes: "He pleaded guilty to 'unlawful sexual intercourse' with a 13-year-old girl, yet puzzlingly remains a member of the Academy and Hollywood actors continue to star in his films." [The Daily Beast]

    An oral history of David Pumpkins. Jesse David Fox writes: "Exactly one year from the debut of 'Haunted Elevator,' and a week away from a new David Pumpkins Halloween special, this is the story of how it came together." [Vulture]

    What's ahead this week....

    Monday: Viceland premieres The Untitled Action Bronson show ... Comic Book Men returns for 7th season on AMC.

    Tuesday: The Princess Grace Awards kick off in L.A. ... TBS premieres new series Drop the Mic ... Game 1 of the World Series airs on Fox ... New Yotk TV Festival: The State of Comedy held in N.Y.

    Wednesday: The Goldbergs airs its 100th episode on ABC. 

    Thursday: Stranger Things 2 premieres in L.A. ... New York TV Festival: A Conversation With The Deuce held in N.Y. 

    Friday: Stranger Things 2 drops on Netflix ... Suburbicon, Jigsaw, and Thank You For Your Service hit theaters in wide release ... The Britannia Awards held in L.A. ... PEN Center's 27th Annual Literary Awards held in L.A. 

    Today's birthdays: Emilia Clarke, 31, Meghan McCain, 33, Cat Deeley, 41, Ryan Reynolds, 41, Sam Raimi, 58, "Weird Al" Yankovic, 58, Dwight Yoakum, 61, Ang Lee, 63. 

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