What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:03 AM 7/19/2017

by THR Staff

Photographed by Olivia Bee

It's magazine day! Elisabeth Moss covers the new issue, reflecting on her role as an accidental activist as political parallels are drawn about The Handmaid's Tale. Plus: New details in the investigation of a stuntman's death on-set of The Walking Dead, Netflix's new stock high prompts another valuation debate and why Putin was cut from two new movies. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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On the cover: With her Hulu breakout scoring 13 Emmy noms, including best actress, television's reigning (and surprisingly foul-mouthed) star Elisabeth Moss opens up about her political awakening. Lacey Rose writes: 

Elisabeth Moss' latest Emmy nom isn't new territory for the 34-year-old actress, whose pileup of critical hits — The West Wing, Mad Men, Top of the Lake and now The Handmaid's Tale — has led to her media moniker: the "Queen of Peak TV."

She earned six nominations for what was once her career-defining role as copywriter turned feminist heroine Peggy Olson on AMC's long-running Mad Men and a seventh for her star turn as a cop in Jane Campion's 2013 Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake. But for reasons that still confound a large contingent of TV critics, Moss has never won an Emmy.

What makes this round of recognition different is not simply that her odds of taking home a statuette are greater than they've ever been but also that the universally lauded Hulu series has redefined Moss' career — as an actress, a producer and, at first reluctantly, an activist for women's rights. "What I've learned is, now is not really a time to stand in the middle," she says. "You've got to pick a side."

"It's lucky number eight," Moss says: "But if you've been nominated seven times and lost seven times, you learn to be pretty excited about being nominated. You feel this sense of, 'Well, at least I seem to be doing well consistently.'" Full story | Video | Handmaid's Tale details.

  • New Details in Stuntman's Death

    Gene Page/AMC

    In the aftermath of the tragic death of 33-year-old stuntman John Bernecker, questions abound about how a seemingly simple 22-foot fall (“the ABC of stunts,” in the words of one veteran stunt coordinator) could go so horribly wrong, Jonathan Handel reports: 

    The case has now been assigned to Capt. John Kennedy, an officer within the Coweta (Georgia) County Sheriff’s Office, which, after initially being open about its investigation, has since refused to give materials to the media. The Coweta probe will proceed in tandem with two others, led by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and SAG-AFTRA, though the latter does not hire independent investigators.

    Right after the incident, local law enforcement faced problems that might complicate further discovery. Deputy Sheriff J.P. Traylor, the first officer on the scene, filled out a four-page report that day but was unable to interview stunt coordinator Monty L. Simons as most crewmembers had been sent away within minutes of the accident, according to Traylor’s report. It’s unclear who asked them to leave the set. 

    Bernecker, who had accumulated 93 stunt credits in less than a decade of work, was experienced enough that eight of those credits were as a stunt coordinator. In that more senior role, he would have been responsible for designing and prepping stunts and would be a key player responsible for the safety of other stuntmen. Full story. 

    Elsewhere in TV... 

    Discovery-Scripps deal talk heats up again. One analyst calls it the "most logical" deal in media, citing scale, cost cutting and international upside as opportunities, while another one argues that it wouldn't "fundamentally alter" things for the companies.

    ► MTV president unveils scripted slate, explains new approach. In addition to hopes for reviving Teen Wolf, Chris McCarthy is turning Scream into an anthology, greenlit a Faith Evans miniseries and is developing comedic drama Calabasas, from exec producer Queen Latifah.

    Amazon plans series from Like Crazy director. Drake Doremus is the latest auteur filmmaker headed to TV with White Fur, a love story that follows a young couple who battles class divide in 1980s New York. Jardine Libaire will pen the script.

    ► Comedy Central's @Midnight to end after four seasons. Chris Hardwick and Comedy Central have mutually decided to end the game show, @midnight, after 600 episodes on the network. It will air its series finale Aug. 4 . 

    HBO's Room 104, reviewed. Mark and Jay Duplass' new anthology series, debuting July 28, tells a variety of stories all set in a single hotel room. The takeaway: "A gimmick well-exploited.

    Syfy developing The Raven Cycle, Sand adaptations. Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, World War Z helmer Marc Forster and Dan Harmon are just some of the names attached to the studio's latest genre slate.

    ► Fox News, one year after ousting Roger Ailes. Michael Wolff's latest column: a legacy is revealed in Trump's anti-media venom, Rupert Murdoch's unrest and a vision that has jumped cable news to become the dominant historical current. 

    ^Netflix's latest stock high reignites valuation debate. At what point does debt and negative free cash flow outweigh subscriber growth and Emmy nominations? Analysts weigh in on the streaming giant's quarterly numbers and stock high. Details.

    + Netflix spends big, but critics ignore the bigger picture. As CEO Reed Hastings hits 104M subscribers and 91 Emmy noms, top analyst Ben Weiss defends the $7B investment in A-list content: "It will pay dividends for years."

    ► CBS pilot watch: Wisdom of the Crowd. Critic Daniel Fienberg writes: The new Jeremy Piven procedural is not for fans of due process or quality procedurals and looks down its nose at people who desire those things. Close look. 

    ► Oxygen unveils crime-focused redesign. Ahead of moving full-time to solely crime programming, the NBCUniversal cable channel is showing off its rebranding and some of its new plans. The logo and concept.

    CBS' Young Sheldon taps Annie Potts for key role. The Big Bang Theory prequel is poised to introduce one of the franchise's most iconic roles of Meemaw, young Sheldon's (Iain Armitage) foul-mouthed Texas grandmother, who is referenced often in the original series.

    OWN orders Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil drama series. The husband-and-wife team are partnering with Oprah Winfrey's network for Love Is___, an hourlong light drama centering on a love story of a modern-day power couple.

    CBC's Burden of Truth gets new showrunner. Adam Pettle has joined the legal drama after Noelle Carbone and Adriana Maggs stepped down as showrunners on the indie drama that has Kristen Kreuk playing a big-city lawyer.

    Also: Jim Henson's son on why Kermit actor was replaced. After actor Steve Whitmire was fired after 27 years, Brian Henson explains what happened from his perspective, including Whitmire's "outrageous demands" and "appalling" communications with colleagues. Full interview.

  • Putin Cut From Movies

    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Hollywood isn't ready to give screen time to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who's been excised from two upcoming studio features, Tatiana Siegel finds: 

    One example: Fox's Red Sparrow tells the story of a Russian spy (Jennifer Lawrence) wooed by the CIA to be a double agent. It's based on former CIA officer Jason Matthews' novel, which drew raves for its insights into current spy craft. When Fox exec Emma Watts optioned the book in 2013, she shifted the story from modern-day Russia to 1970s Budapest, nominally to give it a more "timeless" feel — and though Putin has a key role in the book, he was dropped.

    Then, after Frances Lawrence came aboard as director, Watts shifted the story back to the present day. As Red Sparrow raced toward a January production start in total secrecy, the studio "has been scrambling to reflect what is playing out 24/7 in the news," says a production source. Despite the explosion of interest in the Kremlin following the U.S. election, Putin's character was not restored.

    Insiders describe the moves as "creative choices," but by avoiding Putin, Fox also is steering clear of any Russian hackers who might protest. 

    Elsewhere in film... 

    Wanda ups price for theme park sale. Patrick Brzeski writes: Wang Jianlin's surprise move to sell off his Chinese theme parks and hotel holdings takes another twist as R&F Properties joins the transaction, and the terms change dramatically.

    ► Felicity Jones to star as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in biopicOn the Basis of Sex will be directed by Mimi Leder and follows Ginsburg as she fights for equal rights throughout her law career. The feature was written by Daniel Stiepleman and was placed on the 2014 Black List.

    Wrinkle in Time star Storm Reid joins Blumhouse thriller. The breakout actress will star opposite David Oyelowo in Only You, written by Jacob Estes who is also directing the feature, which began production Monday in Los Angeles.

    ^Star Wars' young Lando Calrissian teased. Director Ron Howard's latest cryptic post from the set includes a picture of what is clearly a young Lando (Donald Glover) in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon for the Han Solo movie. Photos. 

    ► Universal inks first-look deal with Girls Trip director. Writer, director and producer Malcolm D. Lee has made five of his nine films with the studio, including Girls Trip, which will be released in North America on July 21.

    Ant-Man and the Wasp adds Walton Goggins. The Ant-Man sequel, with Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly returning, is beginning production soon in Atlanta and is set for a July 6, 2018, release. Peyton Reed will return to direct. 

    R.I.P, Harvey Atkin. The actor best known for playing staff sergeant captain Ronald Coleman on Cagney and Lacey and Judge Ridenour on the NBC crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, has died. He was 74. Full obit.

    Also: Stan Lee honored with handprint ceremony. The comic book writer was honored Tuesday morning with a hand and footprint ceremony, the first ever held at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theater. Lee: "I thank you from the bottom from my heart, and I've always wondered about that expression..."

  • Full Comic-Con Preview

    Courtesy of HBO; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Warner Bros.

    With hundreds of panels coming to San Diego Comic-Con, it can be a challenge to narrow down which ones are likely to make the biggest splashes. Here's a quick guide to the must-know panels going into the convention, kicking off tonight with the press preview. Cheat sheetFull movie lineup | TV lineup | Party guide.

    What else we're reading...

    "A Wrinkle in Time defies Disney’s sequel-filled future." David Sims notes: "Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s book is one of the studio’s only upcoming movies that’s not a follow-up or a remake." [The Atlantic]

    "How do you make a responsible movie about anorexia?" Jia Tolentino writes: "Marti Noxon’s film To the Bone gets at the obscure, immovable contradiction at the center of anorexia, portraying the afflicted as both the oppressor and the oppressed." [The New Yorker]

    "Box-office woes: Is the industry aiming too narrowly at men?" Steven Zeitchik writes: "There are simply too many men and not enough women on screen to earn back the money these big-budget films demand." [The Los Angeles Times]

    "Watching Fox & Friends, Trump sees a two-way mirror." James Poniewozik writes: "Sometimes the president’s tweets program his go-to cable morning show. And sometimes the show programs him." [The New York Times]

    "Can CNN survive Trump?" Sarah Ellison reports: "Inside CNN, the attacks from Trump are consuming, especially for the anchors who are tasked with inserting skepticism into the panels that pit Trump surrogates against Democratic operatives." [Vanity Fair]

    "It’s probably not a good idea to underestimate Kid Rock." Frank Guan cautions: "his run can be taken as proof that Trump-style barnstorming is a viable election strategy that may well outlast candidate Trump himself." [New York]

    What else we're seeing...

    + Stephen Colbert tours Moscow's infamous Trump hotel suite. [Late Show]

    + "Jimmy Kimmel asks Caitlyn Jenner if she regrets voting for Trump." [Live]

    + "Jada Pinkett Smith took a Groupon swamp tour with Will Smith." [Tonight Show]

    + "Patrick Stewart has beef with James McAvoy's Professor X." [Late Night]

    Today's Birthdays: Jared Padalecki, 35, Benedict Cumberbatch, 41, Nancy Carell, 51, Campbell Scott, 56, Atom Egoyan, 57, Abel Ferrara, 66.