What Matters in Hollywood Today

8:44 AM 11/22/2017

by Ray Rahman

Star Wars The Last Jedi -Rey - Daisy Ridley - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of David James/Lucasfilm Ltd.

What's news: Disney/Pixar's John Lasseter takes a leave of absense due to admitted "missteps." Plus: The FCC targets net neutrality, Trump comments on the AT&T-Time Warner merger, Star Wars' otherworldly early tracking and a close reading of the Independent Spirit Award nominations. — Ray Rahman

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  • Lasseter Steps Aside

    Yesterday, the enormously influential Disney animation head John Lassetter took a leave of absence from Pixar after acknowledging "painful" conversations and unspecified "missteps" in a memo to staff. What wasn't mentioned in the memo: a long pattern of alleged misconduct, Kim Masters writes:

    Multiple sources at Pixar and in the animation community spoke with THR about Lasseter's alleged behavior. One longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes." Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.

    A longtime insider says he saw a woman seated next to Lasseter in a meeting that occurred more than 15 years ago. "She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh," he says. "The best I can describe it is as a defensive posture ... John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around." After that encounter, this person asked the woman about what he had seen. "She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn't have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have traveled."

    The same source said he once noticed an oddly cropped photo of Lasseter standing between two women at a company function. When he mentioned that to a colleague, he was told, "We had to crop it. Do you know where his hands were?" Full story.

    In other news...

    ? CBS fired Charlie Rose. His termination from CBS came at around the same time that PBS cut ties with Rose and his program.

    + Three new accusers within CBS: Gayle King reported on new allegations against her former co-anchor during the Wednesday broadcast of CBS This Morning. The three women were unnamed but identified as CBS employees. 

    + King to Colbert: Gayle King also discussed the Rose saga with Stephen Colbert last night. "What I am is raw," she said, adding: "We need men to join this conversation." Watch the interview.

    + Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffrey tweeted: "Which woman should be given Charlie Rose's show?"

    ? Bob Weinstein's payment of Harvey's secret settlements come to light. The report from Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker details Harvey's pervasive use of lifetime nondisclosure agreements.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Star Wars: The Last Jedi tracking for massive $200 million-plus bow. Disney insiders anticipate that The Last Jedi will surpass fellow Disney title Beauty and the Beast ($174.8 million) to land the top opening of the year to date. Pamela McClintock has the details.

    + There's a new teaser for the movie. And it has a lot of Rey in it.

    ? Tom Hollander joins Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan in A Private War. The biopic, about American-born British war reporter Marie Colvin, is based on Marie Brenner’s 2012 Vanity Fair story "Marie Colvin’s Private War."

    ^Independent Spirit Awards nominees announced. Call Me By Your Name leads the way with six nominations, including for Best Feature, while Get Out, Good Time and Lady Bird also fared well. See the full list.

    + Who's missing — and why? THR awards columnist Scott Feinberg attempts to get to the bottom of the exclusion of certain films from the best feature category: 

    When the Film Independent Spirit Award nominees were announced this morning, the five nominees for best feature did not include a water monster movie (The Shape of Water), a dramedy starring Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) and movies from streaming titans Netflix (Mudbound) and Amazon (The Big Sick).

    Admirers of those films shouldn't be reacting with as much surprise and concern as they are. Nominations were determined by a few dozen people who served on one of four nominating committees, which, according to Film Independent, "typically include a mix of film critics, film programmers, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, actors, past nominees and winners and members of Film Independent’s Board of Directors." Full story.

    A new Oscars rule could shake up the animation contenders. As 26 films vie for Oscar's attention in the animated feature category, changes in the nominating committee could make it tougher for little films like The Breadwinner to fend off such studio fare as Coco and Despicable? Me ?3. Details.

  • Net Loss

    The Republican-led FCC finally revealed its plan to repeal net neutrality rules, with a vote to undo the Obama-era internet regulations set for Dec. 14, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, on Tuesday morning unveiled a broad plan to repeal the net neutrality rules previously put in place to create equal access to the internet.

    Under Pai's new plan, rules first introduced in 2015 to prevent internet service providers from blocking or throttling online traffic would be undone, and ISPs like AT&T and Verizon would be given substantial authority to prioritize traffic from certain websites.

    The dismantling of net neutrality rules would be seen as a win for the cable companies and wireless firms that control internet service for most American homes. These companies would now be able to charge companies like Netflix or Google that take up significant bandwidth for faster internet speeds. The ISPs would also be able to prioritize internet traffic from their owned-and-operated sites and apps. Read more.

    + Verizon and Netflix, predictably, have very different responses to the move. The proposed repeal would be a "much-needed return to the approach that fostered so many years of internet openness and innovation,” Verizon VP Kathy Grillo said. Netflix’s stance: "Failing to protect the internet's openness is the equivalent of shutting down Main Street, Wall Street and the public square, all rolled into one.” And Google: "The FCC's net neutrality rules are working well for consumers and we're disappointed in the proposal announced today."

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? The Good Place renewed for a third season. NBC has given the third installment of the Mike Schur series another 13 episodes. 

    ? Fred Armisen's Spanish-language pilot set at HBO. Armisen will write, exec-produce, and star in the show, titled Mexico City: Only Good Things Happen, which follows a group of friends obsessed with horror films. 

    ? Alexander Skarsgard tapped to star in AMC's The Little Drummer Girl miniseries. The six-part John le Carre adaptation (which follows the Emmy-winning Night Manager, also a le Carre work) will be directed by Park Chan-wook of Old Boy fame.

    ^Fox sale talks clouded by AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit. Multiple suitors are interested in purchasing some of Fox’s assets, but the DOJ lawsuit against the AT&T-Time Warner merger seems like a clear signal that each of those could have a rough time as well, writes Paul Bond:

    Insiders say that Sony is interested in acquiring roughly the same assets that Disney first expressed an interest in, which include the film studio and some of Fox’s non-news cable channels. But Sony could also acquire Fox’s broadcast network, home to The Simpsons and Empire, while Disney legally could not, since it already owns ABC.

    Regulators might also find it problematic for Disney and Fox to strike any deal that would combine the two movie studios, since it would give one company a nearly unprecedented share of the domestic box office. 

    "One has to question if AT&T has issues with a vertical merger then it may call into question many other vertical mergers possibly being considered,” said Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche. “This would clearly include — but is not limited to — other telecom and content deals.” Full story.

    + After a turkey pardoning yesterday, Donald Trump weighed in on the AT&T ordeal: "Personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country. I think your pricing is going to go up," he told reporters, adding: "But I'm not going to get involved. It's litigation." 

    + The Wall Street Journal editorial board begs to differ: "The assault on AT&T-Time Warner seems to be more about politics than anti-trust law," reads a WSJ op-ed titled "Trump's dubious trust-busting."

    + Crossed wires: So Trump's DOJ is opposed to telecoms gaining too much influence via mergers while Trump's FCC is okay with telecoms gaining too much influence via net neutrality repeals? That's the head-scratcher David Gelles points out in The New York Times.

    ? Fox News gives conservative radio host Mark Levin a weekly show. The show, colorfully titled Life, Liberty & Levin, will air at 10 p.m. on the East Coast and will replace a re-airing of Fox News Sunday.

    ? Rosie O'Donnell beats slander suit after blaming View producer for media leaks. A New York judge decided that O'Donnell was offering an opinion rather than implying an undisclosed fact.

  • Stage Left

    Is Broadway's Trump obsession good for business? Michael Moore's Terms of Surrender may not be profitable (yet), but a slew of new high-profile plays like Beau Willimon's The Parisian Woman are looking to capitalize on Trump's electoral win. Ashley Lee writes: 

    Does politics play on Broadway? Donald Trump is top of mind in New York theater circles, with a glut of Broadway plays aiming to capture the political zeitgeist. But whether his electoral victory translates to a win at the box office remains to be seen.

    The latest production to try on Trump is The Parisian Woman, opening Nov. 30. Written by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon and starring Uma Thurman and Josh Lucas, the 90-minute dark comedy originally debuted in 2013 but has since been updated to be set after the 2016 election. Trump’s frequent tweeting and legislative inaction are topics of discussion, and phrases like “locker room talk” and “fake news” are crowd-pleasing punchlines. John F. Kelley, Jim Mattis and Steve Bannon are offscreen characters — the latter gets very drunk at a cocktail party and vomits all over the sofa. 

    "It’s just astonishing what’s going on — every day it’s another circus, it’s literally dizzying — so it’s a time when a little positive catharsis goes a long way,” says Tom Viertel, who is producing the play. He believes it’ll appeals to a bipartisan audience: “It turns out there are a lot of Republicans who have either deep misgivings or serious dislike of what’s going on in this administration. And for a lot of them, I don’t know that they’ll be all that offended by this, if at all.” Full story.

    In Memoriam...

    ? David Cassidy dies at 67. The former teen idol and Partridge Family star emerged from the 1970s ABC show as a music sensation, singing on hits like "I Think I Love You" and "Get Happy." He reportedly died of multiple organ failure. Full obit.

    + Cassidy's most memorable television roles. From Bonanza to Malcolm in the Middle (and, yes, The Celebrity Apprentice), Cassidy's pop-culture footprint extended far beyond the Partridges. The list.

    What else we're reading...

    — "The glaring blindspot of the 'Me Too' movement." Gillian B. White writes: "Lena Dunham’s defense of a Girls writer accused of sexual assault highlights how frequently allegations from women of color are dismissed." [The Atlantic

    — "Gossip and news: strange bedfellows." Danielle Tcholakian writes: "Old media is understandably reluctant to embrace rumor. It’s scary to think about dismantling standards, and the protections they are meant to afford, especially after the Gawker lawsuit." [Longreads]

    — "How Denzel Washington and Dan Gilroy created an unforgettable idealist for Roman J. Israel, Esq." Mark Olsen writes: "Nightcrawler earned Gilroy an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay and a sense that for his next film he could capitalize on its acclaim and success to do what he wanted. And what he wanted was to write a script for Denzel Washington." [Washington Post]

    — "Your TV would cost more if NAFTA ends." Robbie Whelan and Santiago Perez write: "One of the biggest potential casualties of the trade scuffle under way between Mexico and the U.S. is also one of America’s favorite consumer products: cheap, high-definition, flat-panel televisions." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "CEO of HQ, the hottest app going: If you run this profile, we'll fire our host." Taylor Lorenz writes: "The trivia app has become a sensation on the app store and a darling for media prognosticators. Its CEO threatened to fire its star host for talking to us about salad." [Daily Beast]

    — "Comedy is booming right now. I can't wait for the bust." Jason Zinoman writes: "There’s already been some contraction online: NBC’s comedy streaming service Seeso folded; the pioneering site Funny or Die has made cutbacks. And even before the sudden downfall of Louis C.K. inspired a necessary reckoning, a sense of anxiety filled clubs about the possibility of a second bust." [New York Times]

    — "What do we do with the art of monstrous men?" Claire Dederer writes: "They did or said something awful, and made something great. The awful thing disrupts the great work; we can’t watch or listen to or read the great work without remembering the awful thing. Flooded with knowledge of the maker’s monstrousness, we turn away, overcome by disgust. Or … we don’t." [Paris Review]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Charlie Rose and 'The Crusty Paw.'" [Late Show]

    + "Trump pardons a turkey." [Late Night]

    + "Justin Hartley was busted for pretending to be Ryan Reynolds for a fan." [Tonight Show]

    What else we're hearing... 

    + "Mr. Robot's Sam Esmail: Interview." [The Treatment / KCRW]

    + "Chuck Klosterman on monoculture and Tom Petty's passing." [Bill Simmons Podcast / The Ringer]

    + "Confronting Apu." [Brian Lehrer Show / WNYC]

    Today's Birthdays: Alden Ehrenreich, 28, Scarlett Johansson, 33, Mark Ruffalo, 50, Michael Kenneth Williams, 51, Mads Mikkelsen, 52, Richard Kind, 61, Steven Van Zandt, 67, Terry Gilliam, 77.