What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:03 AM 11/15/2017

by Ray Rahman

Photographed By Ruven Afanador

What's news: Hollywood's leading actresses sit down to talk about their craft, sexism and a changing industry. Plus: Weinstein's legal hell, Ashton Kutcher's medical startup and Amazon's (probably) hefty Lord of the Rings price tag. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Six top actresses — Mary J. Blige, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Jennifer Lawrence, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Stone — join THR's annual Actress Roundtable to discuss risky roles and how the industry's culture of abuse might finally be on the verge of change. Matthew Belloni writes: 

Jennifer Lawrence had some advice for recent New York transplant Mary J. Blige on acclimating to life in Los Angeles. "Just make friends with your neighbors, like I did," Lawrence said to Blige.

The mother! and Mudbound stars were meeting for the first time, but Lawrence is already good friends with fellow Oscar winner Emma Stone. Three of the participants — Stone (Battle of the Sexes), Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game); and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) — worked together on 2011's The Help. And all seemed endlessly fascinated by the thick Irish accent of Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), so much so that nearly everyone attempted their own Ronan impression before the hourlong conversation was over.

Of course, it wasn't all laughs, especially not this year with the horrors of sexual harassment in the headlines. The actresses came with strong opinions on the subject, which quickly segued into a frank debate on how sexism and harassment are intertwined with the issue of pay inequality in Hollywood. Depressing? Yes, but given the attention on this subject, Janney noted, "It's exciting to think of our culture changing." Full Actress Roundtable.

  • Weinstein's Legal Hell

    Illustration by: James Fosdike

    Whether the disgraced mogul ends up broke or behind bars, one thing is certain: His judicial woes have just begun, writes Eriq Gardner:

    After a breathtaking number of women (84 and counting) have spoken loudly and powerfully in recent weeks to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, the producer's empire almost undoubtedly will crumble. But how? To paraphrase Robert Frost, some say it will end in fire. Some say in ice. A fiery conclusion means prison sentences, a harried sale of assets and restitution for victims. But even if The Weinstein Co. and those associated with it avoid those fates, they still confront a war between brothers that will have nearly everyone in Hollywood freezing them out.

    "I've never seen anything like this," says Larry Hutcher, co-managing partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, who has decades of experience dealing with intracorporate issues. Harvey Weinstein's legal future is a messy endeavor, touching on many different areas of law that soon will intertwine. Full story.

    + Did Weinstein's Israeli spies break the law? Hiring ex-intelligence agents to pose as victims to discredit accusers like Rose McGowan is a dirty trick, but it may not be foul play.

    + What would a Weinstein jail sentence even look like? While many claims against the disgraced mogul are criminal, whether he ends up behind bars depends on the laws and prosecutorial zeal of the cities where the crimes allegedly took place — and, of course, the truth of the matters.

    + Tina Brown talks. After being lured from The New Yorker, the legendary editor helped Weinstein found Talk, experiencing his charm and rage firsthand: "He had the thinnest skin of anyone." Q&A.

    + Top talent agencies face possible legal exposure for enabling harassment. As star clients fall, WME, CAA and the rest may be caught in the crosshairs of unreported misconduct and financial incentives.  

    Elsewhere in film...

    Justice League, reviewed. "With all the characters that need to be introduced, the virtually humor-free script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon less resembles deft narrative scene-setting than it does the work of a bored casino dealer rotely distributing cards around a table," writes Todd McCarthy. Read more.

    + Rotten Tomatoes won't reveal Justice League's score until opening day. It's all related to the site's new video strategy, though the move could also end up helping the film if the reviews end up being bad. 

    + Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot largely avoided the press during the movie's Hollywood premiere. The stars ignored the press line, possibly as a way of avoid having to answer potentially controversial questions. 

    Titanic lands anniversary re-release in theaters. The classic Oscar-winning film will be shown in select AMC Theatres equipped with Dolby Cinema to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of that time Rose let Jack die.

    ^Ashton Kutcher-backed medical startup brings A.I.-assisted body scans to L.A. High-tech, membership-only health facility Forward, whose investors also include Bono and Matthew McConaughey, opens today at Westfield Century City, offering speedy care for time-is-money Hollywood VIPs. Full story.

    Tiffany Haddish lines up her next couple movies. The breakout has booked roles in two upcoming features: an Irish-mobster feature called The Kitchen and a female-fronted comedy called The Temp from Girls Trip director Will Packer.

    + In the works: Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, a gender-swapped version of the Nancy Meyers movie What Women Want, at Paramount ... Universal, Illumination near deal for Super Mario Bros. animated feature ... Plan B, Annapurna will adapt the YA novel Landscape With Invisible Hand, a sci-fi story that takes place on Earth after an alien species crashes the planet's job market.

    Steven Soderbergh's thriller Unsane gets March 2018 release date. The reportedly iPhone-shot horror film — which stars Claire Foy, Jay Pharoah and Juno Temple — will hit theaters March 23. 

    Nick Kroll, John Mulaney return as co-hosts of 2018 Spirit Awards. The Oh, Hello duo will once again emcee the Film Independent ceremony, which will be broadcast live on IFC on March 3.

    ► Seth MacFarlane signs with CAA. He was previously with WME ... Mary-Louise Parker signs with UTA and Untitled. She was also previously with WME.

  • Bling 'Rings'

    New Line Cinema/Photofest

    Will Amazon's Lord of the Rings series become TV's most expensive show of all time? It very well could, writes Lesley Goldberg: 

    Have Amazon and Disney both found their Game of Thrones? Amazon's megadeal for The Lord of the Rings is believed to be for five seasons — plus a potential spinoff — with insiders putting the price tag for global rights at around $250 million.

    Once production budgets, casting, writers, producers and visual effects are factored in, the total for the Rings series — which will be set in Middle-earth and explore storylines preceding The Fellowship of the Ring — could hit $1 billion. Yes, $1 billion for a TV show.

    "This is a unique opportunity to tell new stories in a magical world that is a global phenomenon," Amazon head of scripted Sharon Tal Yguado tells THR in justifying the deal. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Blake Shelton: sexiest man alive? The Voice star got the annual People magazine cover honor, following up last year's pick Dwayne Johnson.

    Difficult People canceled. Hulu has ended Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner's snarky streaming comedy after three seasons. 

    Time Warner shares dropping as Wall Street worries about merger. Wall Street apparently has its doubts about AT&T closing its acquisition of Time Warner, shares of which have fallen 15 percent in less than a month as the U.S. Justice Department has signaled that it objects to aspects of the merger.

    The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story releases new trailer. The long-titled Ryan Murphy series, set for a January premiere on FX, dropped an official trailer starring Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez, Max Greenfield and, of course, a creepy Darren Criss. 

    ^Mindy Kaling on that surprise Mindy Project ending. How did the show manage to pull off that romantic reconciliation? Will it last? And what about a possible Mindy Project revival? Kate Stanhope spoke with Kaling about all that and more. Q&A.

    Japan's anime industry grows to record $17.7 billion. A lot of that total was boosted by the hit Your Name as well as growing exports and revenue from mobile game licensing.  

    Role Players: Coldplay's Chris Martin will guest-star as himself in the upcoming Nov. 29 episode of Modern Family ... Jay Baruchel will star in the Canadian streaming comedy Letterkenny ... Eve is taking over for Aisha Tyler as co-host of CBS' The Talk ... Scott Van Pelt has signed a new multiyear deal with ESPN; his show and general controversy-free personality has been a ratings bright spot for the lately-beleaguered network.

    In Development: NBC is teaming with Albert Kim on an untitled family drama featuring an all-Asian cast ... USA has given a straight-to-series order to an adaptation of the novel American Rust, with David Gordon Green attached to direct and exec-produce the pilot ... Director Luc Besson and (Oscar-winning) actor Jean Dujardin are teaming up for  The French Detective, a potential ABC adaptation of James Patterson's Luc Moncrief books. The project is being described as "light" and "sexy."

  • The Cranston 'Network'

    Courtesy of Jan Versweyveld

    Bryan Cranston makes his London stage debut as "mad prophet of the airwaves" Howard Beale, in this adaptation of the Oscar-winning media satire, from director Ivo van Hove and playwright Lee Hall, writes Demetrios Matheou:

    Speaking about his screenplay for the 1976 film Network, the writer Paddy Chayefsky once observed: "People say to me, 'Jesus, you moved into some pretty surreal stuff.' And I say, 'No, I still write realistic stuff. It's the world that's turned into a satire.'" Imagine what he would have made of the world 40 years later. In fact, a work that was brilliantly perceptive in the 1970s, particularly about the corrupting influence of television, now seems searingly prescient.

    Network could have been written for the age of Trump and Twitter, reality TV and fake news; even its title could be custom tweaked, for a time when the obsession with networking has driven real communication between people into the dust. The piece, then, is ripe for revisiting. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Famous dicks are just the tip of the problem." Eliza Skinner writes: "I don’t want to write another story about a famous dick. I want to write about the women who you should know." [Refinery 29]

    — "Revisiting Louis C.K.'s I Love You, Daddy after the revelations." Jada Yuan writes: "I’ve gone through my old write-up and reexamined it through the lens of what we know about C.K. now. I hope you find it as instructive as I have." [Vulture]

    — "TV's best new talk show hosts are two drag queens." Kevin Fallon writes: "The wigs come off but the heels stay on as Drag Race fan favorites Katya and Trixie Mattel untuck the secret to their chemistry on their new Viceland talk show." [Daily Beast]

    — "The Lion King effect: How a Broadway smash changed South African lives." Michael Paulsen writes: "Over 20 years, hundreds of performers have joined the show in cities around the globe. These are some of their stories — laced with hope, tragedy, homesickness and triumph." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Michael Strahan sliced off his pinky in a car lift." [Tonight Show]

    + "Owen Wilson reveals what kind of parent he is." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Tig Notaro gives the best advice." [2 Dope Queens / WNYC]

    Today's Birthdays: Emma Dumont, 23, Shailene Woodley, 26, Asia Kate Dillon, 33, Sean Murray, 40, Johnny Lee Miller, 45, Sam Waterston, 77.