What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:09 AM 11/21/2017

by Ray Rahman

Illustration by: Laemeur

What's news: Charlie Rose gets a thumping on his own show. Plus: Justice Department vs. AT&T heats up, Coco looks to win the holiday weekend box office and scribes let loose during THR's annual writer roundtable. — Ray Rahman

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  • Deal or No Deal

    Now that the Justice Department has sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, the stage is set for some serious fireworks. Eriq Gardner emails:

    There's absolutely no possible way to overestimate the magnitude of the coming battle in USA v. AT&T et al. Assuming neither side backs down and this doesn't settle, it's primed to influence decades of M&A in Corporate America, may reveal all sorts of confidential finances for anyone with a competitive stake (heads up, Facebook!), and explore the relationship between the White House and Justice Department at the most sensitive time in the Trump Administration.

    The case will start out addressing questions like:

    + Might AT&T hamper competition by withholding or raising the price on an asset such as HBO?

    + What's AT&T's plan to take down Facebook and Google?

    But obviously it could go in provocative directions including what sort of marching orders may have been given by Trump in reaction to harsh assessments of his leadership on CNN. Buckle up for the ride.

    In other news...

    Charlie Rose joined the growing list of influential media figures who've been accused of harassment after The Washington Post — as well as Business Insider and The New York Times — all published accounts of harassment yesterday. He was promptly suspended from his perch at CBS This Morning, and today, his colleagues had a lot to say about it. Marisa Guthrie writes: 

    After more than two months of cascading harassment stories, CBS This Morning anchors Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King reported on one of their own Tuesday morning.

    "Let me be very clear. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive and I've been doing a lot of listening and I'm going to continue to do that," said O'Donnell. "I'm really proud to work at CBS News. There are so many incredible people here especially on this show. All of you here. This will be investigated. This has to end. This behavior is wrong." 

    King echoed O'Donnell's point, but was visibly disturbed. "I really am still reeling. I got an hour and 42 minutes of sleep last night, both my son and my daughter called me. Oprah called me and said, are you okay?" said King. "I am not okay. After reading that article in the Post, it was deeply disturbing, troubling and painful for me to read. The women that have spoken up, the women who have not spoken up because they're afraid. I’m, hoping now they will take the step to speak up, too." Full story.

    + In addition to his suspension from CBS, Rose's eponymous talk show has been yanked by PBS and Bloomberg, which both aired the program. Now the question is: In what world does Rose return to the air?

    + Yet Rose wasn't the only media man who faced claims yesterday: star New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended after an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct came to light in a Vox exposé.

    + Relativity producer Adam Fields also accused of sexual harassment. "He came to me and basically told me if I went to his house and had sex with him, I could be moved up high at Relativity," said one of the women.

    + Gavin Polone column: More empathy is needed to prevent harassment. "The goal should not be to catch predators after they have serially preyed but also stop them from preying at all," Polone writes. Read more.

    + Kareem Abdul-Jabbar column: Hollywood, sports and learning from a culture of ingrained sexism. "Nature may have created a physical imbalance, but society's job is to not allow those with advantages to exploit others," the NBA legend writes. Read more.

    + Fox News establishes workplace council to address sexual harassment. The move is part of a settlement agreement with shareholders who believed the company's board and executives failed to prevent sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    CBS network and stations go dark on Dish. The reason: a carriage dispute, naturally. The timing demonstrates how both sides are playing hardball — with Thanksgiving imminent, it's safe to say a lot of customers will notice not being able to watch the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday and college football throughout the weekend.

    ► Blumhouse drama Run For Your Life lands USA/Syfy pilot order. The NBCUniversal-owned cablers, already working on Blum's The Purge TV series, have issued a pilot order to another supernatural thriller from the horror master. Josh Segarra (Arrow) and Andrew Jacobs (Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones) will star. They'll figure out which network the show will call home after the pilot is filmed.

    Seth Meyers set to host 2018 Golden Globe Awards. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association will get "a closer look" at Meyers when he helms the live ceremony on Jan. 7. The Late Night host is jumping in quite late in the process, as a host-less Globes was close to becoming a real possibility. 

    + The International Emmy Awards were last night. Among the winners: Kenneth Branagh, Steve Coogan and Anna Friel — as well as some non-British people. See the full list

    ^DC's streaming service sets up Harley Quinn animated series. The Warner Bros. digital platform handed out a straight-to-series order for a Harley Quinn animated comedy, which will also feature Poison Ivy and other heroes and villains from the DC universe. The 26-episode half-hour project hails from Powerless trio Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Dean Lorey.

    + More DC talk: Why Aquaman has heavy lifting to do after Justice League. What was all of that Atlantis sequence about, anyway?  Has Justice League killed the superhero origin story? It could be the final nail in the coffin

    ► In the works: Showtime's The L Word revival landed playwright and screenwriter Marja-Lewis Ryan to serve as showrunner ... LeBron James' production company sets a high-school basketball docuseries called Best Shot at YouTube ... Ben Silverman nabs ripped-from-headlines book Poison for a scripted TV series.

    Della Reese dies at 86. The singer and Touched by an Angel star passed away at her home in California. 

  • Writer Roundtable

    Photographed by Mike Rosenthal

    Scribes behind six of the season's most unusual scripts — including Faith Akin, Darren Aronofsky, Emily V. Gordon, Anthony McCarten, Jordan Peele and Aaron Sorkin — spoke with Stephen Galloway about the struggles and satisfactions of bringing their words to the screen ("Rule number one: Don't bore an audience") and say nothing is off limits (even porn): 

    AARON SORKIN After 9/11, I felt for a while like I had the dumbest job in the world. I felt useless in the face of everything that was going on and all the heroes that there were. And I don't feel that way today. I feel that the best delivery system ever invented for an idea is a story.

    JORDAN PEELE The power of story is that it is one of the few ways we can really feel empathy and encourage empathy. [With] all the disasters going on in the world today, the worst on a social level seems to be this lack of empathy, this lack of being able to understand each other. We become enemies, we push each other away. Built into the idea of story is the idea that you have a protagonist. When you have a protagonist, the whole trick that all of us are trying to do is bring the audience into that protagonist's eyes, and a good story is one of the few ways we can really [make] somebody feel for somebody else because they're experiencing it through entertainment. Full story.

    + Get Out and Dunkirk are fighting to get voter attention after their early releases. Both of the critically acclaimed movies hit theaters months ago, forcing directors Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele to stump that much harder

    Elsewhere in film...

    Murder on the Orient express sequel in the works. Fox is staying in the Agatha Christie business by putting into development Death on the Nile, its next Hercule Poirot mystery. Michael Green, who adapted the screenplay for Orient Express, is penning the script, and while there is no deal currently in place, five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh is expected to return as director and reprise his role as Poirot.

    ► Sacha Baron Cohen is paying off fines for six mankini-wearing Borat tourists in Kazakhstan. Six Czechs were arrested in the country's capital for wearing nothing but the revealing swimsuit made famous in the 2006 comedy Borat. "I'll pay your fine," Baron Cohen wrote on his Facebook page, where he also offered a special hotline for the matter: arrestedforwearingyourmankini@gmail.com.

    ^Holiday box-office preview: Coco is set to rule Thanksgiving with a $55-60 million take, writes Pamela McClintock:

    Pixar/Disney's critically acclaimed Coco, about the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, parades into theaters everywhere Wednesday, following Tuesday-night previews. Disney and Pixar, along with the major tracking services, are projecting a five-day domestic debut of $55 million-$60 million, but there's plenty of room for upside.

    Between them, Disney Animation Studios and Pixar claim the top six five-day Thanksgiving openings of all time, not accounting for inflation. Frozen (2013) is the record-holder with $93.6 million, while last year's Moana sang its way to $82.1 million. When adjusting for inflation, the 1999 Toy Story 2 supplants Frozen with nearly $141 million (unadjusted, Toy Story's five-day debut was $80.1 million.)

    Coco — which has already become the top-grossing film of all time in Mexico, grossing nearly $50 million to date — will play in nearly 4,000 theaters in North America, including 268 locations that will show the film in Spanish. Full story.

    The Producers Guild of America revealed its list of the documentary feature nominees. They are: Jane, Chasing Coral, Earth: One Amazing Day, Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, and The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee. Read more.

    ► In development: Lizzy Caplan is in talks to star opposite Channing Tatum in the X-Men spinoff Gambit ... Alexandra Shipp in talks to join Samuel L. Jackson in Shaft reboot ... New Regency acquires film rights to the Emma Berquist YA book Devils Unto Dust.

  • Digital Media's Bursting Bubble

    Will Mashable's likely sale help deflate the digital media bubble? In addition to that site, Quartz and Mic have both been floated as possible sale candidates, though both companies say they're not for sale, writes Jeremy Barr:

    Normally, news about the pending sale of a digital media company is cause for celebration in the industry. Henry Blodget, the co-founder of Business Insider, is still getting congratulated on media panels for his role in the company's 2015 sale to German publisher Axel Springer.

    Instead, reports that Mashable has either agreed to sell the company or is close to selling the company to trade publisher Ziff Davis were met with industry-wide sadness.

    Sources who know and have worked with Mashable founder Pete Cashmore bet that he's disappointed by the sale of his once-innovative company, which was valued at $250 million last year. His employees, who had noticed a Ziff Davis presence in the office over the last few weeks, are still in the dark about the what and when of a potential transaction. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "'I feel so close to you all': Harvey Weinstein's accusers, in conversation for the first time." Julie Turner writes: "In many cases, these women describe having spent decades feeling isolated, alone, and ashamed of their brushes with Weinstein." [Slate]

    — "PR post-Weinstein: 'Everybody's worried their client might be next.'" Joe Berkowitz writes: "Publicist and crisis management expert Hunter Frederick opens up about how the climate has changed for publicists in the last six weeks." [Fast Company]

    — "Robert Reich, a multiplatform gadfly, comes to Netflix." David Gelles writes: "Where the French economist Thomas Piketty brings an academic distance to his writing on inequality and Senator Bernie Sanders channels a righteous indignation in the political realm, Mr. Reich comes across as exactly what he is - a frumpy, sometimes pedantic professor from the University of California at Berkeley, eager to lecture anyone who will listen about our broken financial world." [New York Times]

    — "How Justice League's Ray Fisher took on fan-favorite Cyborg as his first major movie role." David Betancourt writes: "Before filming his first movie, Fisher was a theater actor, performing as the Duke of Burgundy in an Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of King Lear." [Washington Post]

    — "Coco makes moviegoers proud to be Mexican." Mandalit del Barco writes: "Some reviewers have called Coco rebellious, even subversive, for celebrating Mexican culture in the current political climate." [NPR]

    — "Meet the new boss: Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo aims to shake things up in The Last Jedi." Anthony Breznican writes: "Fans aren't supposed to know whether they should trust her." [EW]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Greta Gerwig wrote a letter to Justin Timberlake asking to use his music in Lady Bird." [Late Night]

    + "Steph Curry is the official taste tester for his wife." [Tonight Show]

    + "Senator Elizabeth Warren reacts to sexual harassment on Capitol Hill." [Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "How Charles Manson left his mark on pop culture." [All Things Considered / NPR]

    + "Transparent woes; Zoe Kazan on Hollywood harassment." [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "Jennifer Lawrence: Interview." [Awards Chatter / THR]

    Today's Birthdays: Carly Rae Jepsen, 32, Jena Malone, 33, Michael Strahan, 46, Björk, 52, Tina Brown, 64, Goldie Hawn, 72.