What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:18 AM 10/24/2017

by Ray Rahman

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What's news: Hollywood's harassment problem continues to weigh on the industry's minds, as Tom Hanks and others speak out about the widespread problem. Meanwhile, Amazon loses another top executive. Plus: Stranger Things 2 gets reviewed, Rob Reiner tells all, and ESPN makes moves.  — Ray Rahman

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  • Tom Hanks on Weinstein

    At this point, everyone in Hollywood — regardless of their relationship to Harvey Weinstein — is feeling compelled to comment on the scandal roiling their industry. During an interview with NPR about his new book, Tom Hanks joined the fray, saying he did not feel complicit but offered his frank assessment of show business' sexual harassment problems. Abid Rahman and Tara Bitran write:

    Describing how these predatory men think, Hanks said: "They think, somehow, this is how it works. 'Don't you understand, this is how it works, I'm your boss and you will have to please me.'"

    Hanks added that sexual harassment was a problem across society and not just Hollywood, and he hoped there will be better days ahead. "I think those days are close to [over]-- I don't know if they'll ever be over." He hoped that now people could come forward with their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace without fear.

    Hanks also said that he had heard of "shenanigans" on the movie sets he had worked on but never something as serious as a sexual predator. He added that it was OK to find love, to flirt in the industry and that "you can be a jerk and an asshole in a lot of ways, but you can't be a sexual predator."

    When Greene asked Hanks if he personally and Hollywood generally felt complicit in enabling sexual harassment, he responded firmly that he didn't himself but added that he was "sure there were people who knew exactly what was going on." Hanks said these people have to ask themselves: "Did you aid it? Did you abet it? Did you warn people against it?" Full story.

    More Weinstein developments...

    + N.Y. Attorney General gets involved. State A.G. Eric Schneiderman announced a civil rights investigation into The Weinstein Co. to determine whether any civil rights and anti-discrimination laws were broken. 

    + Clooney, Damon reveal more. As the pair continues to promote their upcoming film Suburbicon, they're finding themselves having to comment on the Weinstein saga at nearly every turn. During a Good Morning Amerca interview with Michael Strahan, the duo shed more light on their experiences with Weinstein.

    "You had to spend about five minutes with him to know that he was a bully," said Damon, later adding, "But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on." Clooney chimed in as well: "Harvey would talk to me about women that he'd had affairs with. I didn't necessarily believe him quite honestly, because to believe him would be to believe the worst of some actresses who were friends of mine."   

    + Former Harvey assistant breaks NDA, talks. Zelda Perkins, who worked as Weinstein's assistant in Miramax's London office, claims in a new interview with the Financial Times that her boss sexually harassed her and assaulted her female colleague, leading them to a settlement and strict NDA. She becomes the first staffer to come forward and publicly denounce the NDA.

    + New alleged victim coming forward. Gloria Allred announced in a press release that a new Weinstein accuser will come forward at a press conference for 2:30p.m. ET in New York today.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Trailer: Phantom Thread, Daniel Day-Lewis' final film. The venerable English actor announced back in June that he would retire from acting after the release of P.T. Anderson's period piece, out Dec. 25. And while the movie is not titled There Will Be Thread, the trailer has all the intensity of the duo's prior collaboration. 

    Drew Goddard tackling children's fantasy Nevermoor. The Oscar-nominated scribe behind The Martian and Cabin the Woods will write and produce Twentieth Century Fox's big-screen adaptation of Jessica Townsend's fantasy book Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, which hits shelves on Halloween.  

    + The 32-year-old Townsend is already being compared in her native Australia to J.K. Rowling. Translation rights for the book have sold in 27 countries, and her publisher has declared Nevermoor "the biggest Australian publishing story in a decade." 

    ^Spinoff, awards in the cards for Logan? The X-Men film's long tail continues, Aaron Couch emails:

    Seven months after Logan hit theaters, director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman are still processing the response to their film. It defied expectations with its R-rating and its lack of interest in franchise building, and ended up becoming the most successful Wolverine movie yet. 

    Now the Logan team is sharing new thoughts on a spinoff centering on the young mutant Laura, weighing in on the prospect of awards season recognition, and expressing hope that the X-Men title could (just maybe) earn Patrick Stewart his first Oscar nomination.  Says producer Hutch Parker: "The fact that Patrick has not received those kinds of acknowledgements is astounding." Full story.

    Michael Bay to produce live-action Dora the Explorer film. Just like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before it, beloved cartoon Dora the Explorer is getting the Bay treatment, with Nick Stoller (Neighbors, The Muppets) attached to write. 

    + Details are being kept under wraps, but the Paramount production is said to imagine Dora as a teenager who moves to the city to live with her cousin Diego. The studio is eyeing a 2019 release. 

    ► Hunting Ground filmmakers announce Hollywood sexual-assault documentary. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, whose last doc focused on sexual assault on college campuses, are working on a new project that examines sexual predation, abuse and cover-ups within the entertaiment industry. 

    + The Weinstein Effect: Ziering said they've been developing the project for some time but had trouble securing distributors or financiers. "Then the Weinstein stories broke," she said, "and it's like an invisible dam collapsed."

    + Dick and Ziering's previous work The Hunting Ground was distributed by The Weinstein Co.; in a recent guest column for THR, the filmmakers called for Weinstein's expulsion from the Academy.

    Uber sexual harassment movie in the works. Susan Fowler, the woman who exposed Uber's rampant sexual harassment issues with a viral blog post, is partnering with Good Universe for a movie about her experience at the ride share company, with Hidden Figures scripter Allison Schroeder attached to write. The film, titled Disruptors, is being described as Erin Brockovich meets The Social Network.

    Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges to star in Ben Is Back. The drama will be written and directed by Paul Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy) and will feature his son Lucas (Manchester By the Sea) as the charming-but-troubled Ben, who returns home to his unsuspecting family one fateful Christmas Eve. Roberts will play Ben's mother.

    Noted: Believe it or not, today marks the 10-year anniversary of the THR, ESQ. blog. Eriq Gardner emails a couple of his favorite moments from the decade:  Ten years of breaking major news (Charlie Sheen vs. Warner Bros over Two and a Half Men; The "Blurred Lines" copyright dispute; Bill Cosby's deposition, the federal investigation into Fox News, etc.). // All the times ESQ stories appeared in court filings by lawyers complaining that their adversaries were leaking. Some by lawyers who themselves leaked.

  • Amazon Studios' Fallout

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    Amazon Studios has been producing a whole lot of drama recently, just not the kind it wants. Following the recent fall of programming chief Roy Price after sexual harassment allegations came to light, another top executive is parting ways with the company: Joe Lewis, head of comedy and drama development. Writes Lesley Goldberg:

    Lewis' departure follows news that he faced conflict of interest allegations at Amazon, where he cast his girlfriend, actress Yara Martinez, in the streamer's scripted drama The Tick. The role, originally designed as a guest star in the pilot and conceived as a male character, was reworked after Martinez was cast and The Tick was picked up to series. She was elevated to series regular with the character retooled to a more prominent role. (It's also worth noting that Martinez, who is engaged to Lewis, has had roles in Amazon originals Alpha House and I Love Dick.) 

    Lewis was also working with Price developing a series based on the latter's idea called Shanghai Snow. Previous writers who were attached to the script at various points said that they found the material, which follows a young woman named Cindy who is sold into sex slavery, misogynistic.

    While Amazon found critical success with Jill Soloway's Transparent, Price and his top lieutenant Lewis more recently had come under fire for their programming choices as the streamer has yet to produce a breakout hit in the same way rival Netflix did with Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why and Orange Is the New Black. (And it was Hulu that became the first streamer to take home a best drama series Emmy, for The Handmaid's Tale, while Amazon walked away from the primetime awards show empty-handed.) Full story.

    + WHAT'S NEXT AT THE "GONG SHOW" Lewis, who is the third top executive to leave the company this month, will be replaced by Sharon Tal Yguado, a former Fox International exec who was hired in January to oversee event series. She will report to Albert Cheng, Price's replacement. 

    + The company has already set its fall season with three pilots that will begin streaming on Prime Video on Nov. 10. They are:

    The half-hour Sea Oaks, a genre-bending half-hour comedy starring Glenn Close and based on a George Saunders short story; Atlanta director Hiro Murai exec-produces and helms the pilot.

    The Climb, creator-star Diarra Kilpatrick's Detroit-set comedy about an office assistant seeking fame.

    Bridget Everett and Michael Patrick King's Love You More, featuring Everett as "a big girl with a big personality and a big love of chardonnay, which occasionally causes her to make big mistakes with men."

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Fired Nickelodeon showrunner apologizes after multiple sexual harassment allegations surface. The Loud House creator Chris Savino issued a statement on his personal Facebook page, saying he was "deeply sorry" and "ashamed" of his behavior. 

    ESPN cancels Barstool Sports series after one episode. Network president John Skipper axed Barstool Van Talk, a show created in partnership with the controversial Barstool Sports site, citing concerns over the upstart brand's past and present behavior. "While we had approval over the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content," Skipper said. 

    + ESPN reporter Sam Ponder was among those who expressed displeasure with her network's partnership with Barstool due to sexist remarks made in the past. 

    + Barstool hit back: "ESPN needed us more than we needed them," president Daivd Portnoy said. Full story.

    + In other ESPN news: Jemele Hill returned to her post at SC6 on Monday after serving her two-week suspension. While she didn't directly address the season for her absence, she did tell her co-host Michael Smith, "I love you. You're my brother, thank you for holding this down while I was gone." 

    ^Stranger Things 2, reviewed. Daniel Fienberg writes: "The Duffer brothers avoid sequel bloat as Eleven and the Upside Down return for a satisfying second season." Full review.

    + What others are saying: "It's not perfect, but I bet you watch the whole thing." — Linda Holmes, NPR. "Not all sequels live up to the original; this one does better than I ever would have imagined." — Alan Sepinwall, Uproxx.  "Last season, Stranger Things ripped of the greats. This season, it's ripping off Stranger Things." — Darren Franich, EW. "The new season is darker - it's a genuine horror show - but it still has the same emotional power." — Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone.

    Zoo canceled. The campy CBS summer drama about animals gone wild was terminated by the network after three seasons. The show averaged 2.65 million viewers in its third season, down nearly 2 million from season two. 

    CNN launches new "Facts First" ad campaign. President Jeff Zucker unveiled a new marketing campaign and advertisement designed to defend the network's principles against President Trump and Co.'s "fake news" claims. The move follows The New York Times' "The Truth Is Hard" ad, which ran during the Oscars, and The Washington Post's dramatic new slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

    Ray Donovan renewed (and relocating). The current season, which has been averaging nearly 5 million viewers across platforms, will conclude on Sunday. But Showtime is already giving away that the next run will be a big departure from the previous five and will move to New York City. 

    ► Another casting vet pleads no contest in pay-to-play audition scandal. Peter Pappas, who has worked on Mom and Two and a Half Men, agreed to community service as part of his deal with the L.A. Attorney's Office. 

    Amy Poehler, New Girl producer team up for NBC family comedy. Poehler and Kim Rosenstock are developing the untitled comedy, which revolves around a newly single mother who is forced to rely on the last people she wants help from: her family. The project has received a sizable put-pilot commitment from the network.

    + Projects galore: In other development news, Insecure star Issa Rae is working on an untitled '90s set family drama for HBO; Late Night With Seth Meyers standout Amber Ruffin is developing Going Dutch, a new comedy for NBC; Larry Wilmore and comedian Bassem Youssef are developing a comedy about a Middle Eastern-American family of superheroes titled Super Challenged Heroes for ABC; and Big Bang Theory star Simon Helberg sold a multicamera CIA comedy to CBS. 

  • Rob Reiner on 'LBJ', Iger

    Photographed By Emily Berl

    It's no secret that Rob Reiner has been outspoken in the Trump era so far. On the heels of his new film LBJ's theatrical release, he let us in on what's been on his mind lately, Ashley Lee writes:

    Rob Reiner first unveiled LBJ in September 2016, when Barack Obama was still in the White House and the next presidential election was still weeks away. Yet a year later, the exact same cut of the biopic — which stars Woody Harrelson as Lyndon B. Johnson and hits limited theaters on Nov. 3 — somehow screens differently to the director.

    "It’s the weirdest thing — I was stunned watching it after Trump became president, sitting there with the audience like, 'Oh my god, oh my god,'" he said during a breakfast at the Whitby Hotel in New York City. "You don’t usually think about a film's success based on who is in the White House. And to me, what's more important is our country is not going to go down the tubes."

    Reiner spoke candidly with THR about what today's leaders could learn from LBJ, who he's backing on the California ballot and what it's like to share an office floor with Steve Bannon. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — Harvey Weinstein and the economics of consent. Brit Marling writes: "The blunt power of the gatekeeper is the ability to enforce not just artistic, but also financial, exile." [The Atlantic]

    How these two women finally exposed Harvey Weinstein. Rose Minutaglio writes: "Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's New York Times report led to the powerful Hollywood producer's fall — and ignited a national conversation on sexual assault." [Marie Claire]

    — The Oscars in a post-Harvey Weinstein world. Sean Fennessey writes: "An industry rocked by the Weinstein saga, changes to the academy, and a Moonlight effect could make for an unusual, unpredictable Oscar race." [The Ringer]

    — Colin Farrell and the art of the small comeback. Cara Buckley writes: "Hitting bottom after a string of macho roles in major movies, the actor has found fulfillment — and the best reviews of his life — in oddball films." [The New York Times]

    — What John Grisham gets right about lawyers and the law in his latest novel. Carrie Dunsmore writes: "This is a legal book that lawyers can read. (It's also pretty great for non-lawyers, too.)" [The Washington Post]

    — Where JB Smoove ends and Curb Your Enthusiasm's Leon begins. Matt Miller writes: "It's not a character devised in some writers' room — Leon Black comes right out of Smoove's mind." [Esquire]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "George Clooney was robbed at a liquor store." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Anna Faris gives Stephen a relationship quiz." [Late Show]

    + "Jimmy's pickle obsession almost got Clive Owen's daughter arrested." [Tonight Show]

    Today's Birthdays: Eliza Taylor, 28, Drake, 31, Casey Wilson, 37, BD Wong, 57, Kevin Kline, 70, Martin Campbell, 74, F. Murray Abraham, 78.