What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:13 AM 11/20/2017

by Ray Rahman

THR - Armie Hammer - Photographed by Brian Bowen Smith - H -2017
Photographed By Brian Bowen Smith

What's news: After being hit with multiple harassment allegations, Jeffrey Tambor says he's leaving Transparent. Plus: New accusations surface against Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner, Justice League disappoints at box office and Armie Hammer covers our new issue.  — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Call Me By Your Name's Armie Hammer gets candid on his failed star vehicles (including a scrapped Batman movie), a Twitter war with James Woods and why Birth of a Nation's Nate Parker was treated differently than Casey Affleck: "It's like there are two standards." Seth Abramovitch writes:

As irksomely perfect as his existence may seem, Hammer's journey from the "fucking paradise" of the Cayman Islands to movie star (a label that makes him bristle) has faced its fair share of false starts. After his breakthrough playing the Winklevoss twins in 2010's The Social Network, Hammer has struggled to emerge as a bankable leading man. There was his starring role in 2013's The Lone Ranger, for which Disney lost $200 million. Two years later, he co-starred with Henry Cavill in the underperforming The Man From U.N.C.L.E. And his performance in 2016's The Birth of a Nation, a role some thought could earn him a best supporting actor Oscar, was overshadowed by a rape scandal involving its director and star, Nate Parker.

But 2017 could turn out to be Hammer's perfect year. He currently stars in Call Me by Your Name, a sultry art house film set mostly within a 17th century Italian villa. The movie, directed by Luca Guadagnino, was rapturously received at Sundance and Toronto, with Hammer garnering early awards buzz. Full story. 

  • Tambor Out

    What is Transparent without its trans parent? Looks like we'll be finding out soon: After being hit with multiple harassment allegations, series star Jeffrey Tambor said he would leave the show, which was currently in production for its fifth season. Lesley Goldberg and Jackie Strause write: 

    The news caught Amazon Studios as well as Transparent creator and showrunner Jill Soloway by surprise, as his departure was not run through either of them.

    That Tambor would exit his award-winning show and role comes as little surprise. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter last week that Soloway was mulling writing Tambor out of the drama — and potentially killing off his character, Maura Pfefferman.

    "Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life," Tambor said Sunday in a statement. "What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago. I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue. Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent." Full story.

    + The show's future: How should Transparent proceed creatively without its star? There were plenty of suggestions on Twitter. Among the most popular: Center the show on trans characters played by trans actors. Which makes sense — casting Jeffrey Tambor was, in part, a way of hooking a broader audience to a relatively niche series, using a recognizable face to talk about issues viewers might not have thought much about before. Now that the series has been successful and has fleshed out its own world, it might have more room for creative freedom.

    ? Separate art from its artists? Critics Tim Goodman, Inkoo Kang and Todd McCarthy discuss the challenges of thinking and writing about art in this new age of accountability. 

    ? One Tree Hill alum details 'frat house' vibe in 'misogynistic' writers room. Amid sexual harassment and assault claims circling creator Mark Schwahn, Stacy Rukeyser, now the showrunner of UnREAL, pens a guest column in which she remembers being called names, pleading to stop the installation of a hot tub and lunch trips to Hooters while she was the only female writer for the show.  

    ? Lena Dunham apologizes for defending accused Girls writer. "I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry," Dunham said after receiving a flood of criticism for her defense of Murray Miller, the former Girls writer accused of sexual assaulting an actress. 

    ? Al Franken cut from PBS' David Letterman tribute amid groping claim. "PBS and WETA, the producing station, felt that the inclusion of Sen. Franken in the broadcast at this time would distract from the show's purpose as a celebration of American humor," read the statement

    ? Damon Lindelof and Mike Schur talk harassment in Hollywood: 'No one didn't know.' The two showrunners addressed the scandals surrounding Hollywood in a wide-ranging panel at Vulture Fest.  

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Viacom's TV strategy emerges: fewer scripted series as networks rebrand. With a focus on six core brands — Paramount Network (launching Jan. 18), BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. — niche networks CMT, VH1 and, to a lesser extent, TV Land are hitting pause on scripted, as evidenced by the imminent end of Nashville on CMT.

    ? Italy's Gomorrah season 3 breaks country's ratings records. The mafia series nabbed over a million viewers on Friday, which even bested the seventh season premiere of Game of Thrones in the country.  

    ^MSNBC's Ari Melber is proving up to the challenge: During a recent three-month period, his new show The Beat outpaced the second hour of Wolf Blitzer's show in the ratings but trailed Fox News' Bret Baier. "It's a stupid amount of fun being on this show," Melber says. Profile.

    Canada's cord-cutting fail. Here's a cautionary tale for Hollywood: The same cord-cutting forces driving U.S. pay-TV viewers to Netflix and other digital insurgents triggered Canada's failed attempt at a great cable unbundling in 2017. Full story.

    ? How Walking Dead gave life to its nastiest nightmare(s). Did you watch last night's Negan-heavy episode? Then you'll want to read this

    ? David Cassidy hospitalized for multiple organ failure. The actor and singer, best known for his role as Keith on The Partridge Family, is in critical condition. It's reported that he has kidney failure and is also in need of a liver transplant. 

  • Spacey's Collateral Damage

    When the likes of Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. behave badly and endanger projects, cast, crews and reps get caught in the financial crossfire. Economic reverberations are being felt as claims of sexual misdeeds sweep through the industry, writes Tatiana Siegel:

    It's a race against time for Sony Pictures as it begins eight days of reshoots on Nov. 21 for its drama All the Money in the World, having taken the step of removing star Kevin Spacey and replacing him with Christopher Plummer. Co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams will work through the Thanksgiving holiday on the Rome set to ensure the Ridley Scott-helmed film meets its Dec. 22 release date. The cost: $10 million, which will be incurred entirely by producers Imperative Entertainment.

    "Hundreds of people poured their hearts and souls into making All the Money in the World and we wanted to do everything possible to give the audience a chance to see it without being distracted by the recent allegations," Imperative partner Dan Friedkin says.

    Sources say Netflix likely will be on the hook for Spacey's entire season-six House of Cards salary given that he did not have a morality clause in his contract. Netflix can shoulder the burden of a pricey scandal, but that's not the case for the below-the-line Baltimore crew and others who count on income from the series. The show contributed $129 million to Maryland's economy last season, according to a state audit. Full story.

    In other news...

    ? Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner accused of teaming up to engage in sexual misconduct. The L.A. Times reveals new allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the producer-director and music mogul, who are longtime friends. 

    + Keri Claussen Khalighi claims that when she was a 17-year-old fashion model she met Ratner and Simmons at a casting call. After dinner one night in 1991, they took her back to Simmons' apartment, where Simmons quickly began making aggressive sexual advances, tore off her clothes, coerced her to perform oral sex and penetrated her without consent, Khalighi told the Times

    “I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I'll never forget the look on his face,” she told the newspaper. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”

    + Simmons denies the accusation: “Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way, shape or form violates the very core of my being,” he said in a statement. “I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.” Ratner, through his attorney, said he has “no recollection” of Khaligi asking him for help and didn’t see her “protest.” Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Michael Bloomberg discusses his near-presidential run, a call to Trump and his War on Coal movie. The former NYC mayor also discussed an awards campaign for From the Ashes and his thoughts on Bob Iger running for president. Read the Q&A.

    ? Former Obama official wants to buy The Weinstein Co., install majority-female board. Maria Contreras-Sweet, who ran the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017, made the offer via a letter sent to the TWC board. She's backed by silent partners, many of them women, and top finance attorney Mickey Mayerson of Loeb & Loeb.

    StudioCanal to adapt Enid Blyton's Magic Fairway Tree. The studio has teamed with Neal Street Productions and Paddington 2 co-writer Simon Farnaby to bring the children's classic to the big screen.  

    ? New A Wrinkle in Time trailer released. A new extended trailer for Ava DuVernay's ambitious 2018 film — which features Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis and Mindy Kaling — explores a bunch of trippy new words. 

    ^Justice League box office: Another setback for DC's superhero universe. The big-budget film posted the lowest domestic opening of any DC superhero pic since Green Lantern in 2011, and the lowest for the DC Extended Universe, writes Pamela McClintock:  

    In most cases, a box-office debut approaching $100 million in North America would be cause for celebration. But at Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, no one was popping open the champagne to toast Justice League, which opened domestically to a sobering $96 million after once having grand ambitions of matching rival Marvel's The Avengers series. 

    "While Marvel movies are now considered family entertainment, mostly because of their abundance of humor, DC films, outside of Wonder Woman, haven’t found the magical formula yet,” says box-office analyst Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. “Nothing erodes a franchise or a brand faster than negative word of mouth."

    "Justice League and the entire DC universe, outside of Wonder Woman, has an identity crisis," he continued. Full story.

    + Justice League postmortem: Why can't anyone get Superman right? The film reflects the long-established Batman-ification of the superhero, Simon Abrams writes.

    Did Justice League learn anything from The Avengers? "Perhaps because the DC Extended Universe had set a darker tone in Batman v Superman and even Suicide Squad, Justice League feels less like a smoothly crafted, massive-sized superhero film and more like a Frankenstein’s Monsterm," Josh Wigler writes.

    + Confused by the villain? This will help.

    + Want a lighter superhero movie? No worries: The first Incredibles 2 trailer was released over the weekend, and there it contains minimal scowling.

  • Katy Perry's Holy War

    Katy Perry’s dispute over an L.A. convent is neaded to the Vatican. After three years of courtroom tussles over the property and its rightful buyer, a jury has ordered Dana Hollister to pay the singer and the L.A. Archdiocese millions in legal fees — but the developer, who has the nuns on her side, is taking her $30 million offer to a higher authority, writes Peter Kiefer:

    Dana Hollister has been attacked by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, cross-examined by lawyers for Katy Perry, and been on the wrong end of several court rulings — including a jury’s decision on Nov. 17 that slapped her with a $5 million fine — all of which have conspired to deny her the thing she covets most: a stunning convent on 8 acres in the hills of Los Feliz. But now, the doyenne of Silver Lake real estate is appealing to a higher authority: the Vicar of Christ.

    Hollister tells THR that she has been using back channels in Rome to appeal to the Vatican and Pope Francis with her $30 million offer for the Bernard Maybeck-designed convent (also known as the Earle C. Anthony house), which she plans to convert into a boutique hotel. That figure more than doubles the $14.5 million that Perry agreed to pay the L.A. Archdiocese in 2014 for the property, which has been at the center of a three-year legal dispute with no resolution in sight. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "How a handful of billionaires kept their friend Harvey Weinstein in power." Shawn Tully writes: "It features an all-star cast that included James Dolan and Dirk Ziff — and later, in cameo appearances, Paul Tudor Jones and Marc Lasry — who oversaw an almost unimaginably toxic corporate culture built and led by their friend, according to two directors who long opposed Harvey Weinstein." [Fortune]

    — "Diana Ross on longevity and life off the stage." Gerrick D. Kennedy writes "The pop diva is nearly six decades into her career and  has zero intention of slowing down." [Los Angeles Times]

    — "Adam Driver is a force to be reckoned with." Wyatt Mason writes: "On a summery afternoon in late September, I arranged to meet Adam Driver near his home in Brooklyn Heights. He beat me to the restaurant and, for a second or two, as I stood on the sidewalk looking through the large plate-glass windows, I gawked at him unobserved." [Esquire

    — "How ABC found a surprise hit in The Good Doctor." John Koblin writes: "Daniel Dae Kim was wide awake and scrolling through Twitter at 4 a.m. when he realized The Good Doctor was going to be a hit." [New York Times]

    — "Why actors love to play Winston Churchill." Anthony Lane writes: "Britain’s wartime leader instinctively understood that statecraft is partly stagecraft." [The New Yorker]

    — "In Justice League, the men are finally the eye candy." Ira Madison III writes: "Maybe if the staff of People saw Justice League before they chose their Sexiest Man Alive, we could’ve been spared Blake Shelton." [Daily Beast]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Saoirse Ronan on accents, acne, and the compassionate filmmaking behind Lady Bird." [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "Inside the first Oscars event of the season." [Little Gold Men / Vanity Fair]

    + "Comedian Hari Kondabolu: Interview." [Slate Represent

    What's ahead this week...

    Tuesday: Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations ... Marvel's Runaways debuts on Hulu ... Chicago Med season 3 premieres on NBC.

    Wednesday: Coco hits theaters in wide release ... Darkest Hour hits theaters in limited release.

    Thursday: She's Gotta Have It debuts on Netflix ... Thanksgiving!

    Friday: Call Me By Your Name hits theaters in limited release. 

    Today's birthdays: Jeremy Jordan, 33, Joel McHale, 46, Ming-Na Wen, 54, Sean Young, 58, Bo Derek, 61, Jody Woodruff, 71, Joe Biden, 75, Don DeLillo, 81.