What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:14 AM 11/3/2017

by Ray Rahman

silenced_splash_main - THR - H 2017
Illustration by: Guy Shield

What's news: More claims against Kevin Spacey came to light yesterday, this time from the set of House of Cards. Plus: How the post-Harvey awards season looks, Nielsen reveals numbers for Stranger Things 2 and Kathleen Kennedy plans the next ten years of Star Wars films. — Ray Rahman

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  • 'House of Cards' Woes Grow

    The future of Netflix's flagship show is suddenly very much in question thanks to a new report that claims Kevin Spacey has been harassing House of Cards crew members for years. Kate Stanhope writes:

    In a CNN report Thursday, multiple employees of the Netflix series accused the star and executive producer of inappropriate behavior. One production assistant claimed that Spacey put his hands down the assistant's pants without consent while he was driving Spacey to the set. He then alleged that Spacey cornered him and touched him inappropriately.

    Another crewmember on the political drama said Spacey "would put his hands on me in weird ways," including massaging his shoulders and touching his stomach. Six other employees from the show talked with CNN about their experiences with the actor.

    In a statement, House of Cards producer Media Rights Capital responded to the latest allegations and confirmed a previous allegation of sexual harassment by Spacey in 2012. “We are deeply troubled to learn about these new allegations that are being made to the press concerning Kevin Spacey’s interaction with members of the crew of House of Cards. As the producer of the show, creating and maintaining a safe working environment for our cast and crew has always been our top priority," the company said. Full story.

    + MRC also mentioned an incident that occurred during the show's first year of production — a crew member complained of a "specific remark and gesture made by Kevin Spacey," the production company said, adding: "Immediate action was taken." The statement went on to include this semi-mysterious nugget: "Spacey willingly participated in a training process."

    + Spacey was scheduled to arrive to the set for work on Wednesday, but clearly that's off the table for now ... and perhaps forever? "We will continue to work with MRC during this hiatus time to evaluate our path forward as it relates of the production," Netflix said. That leaves the door open for at least two obvious options: scrap the sixth season altogether or carry on without Spacey. It wouldn't be that hard — after all, it's been more or less Robin Wright's show for some time now, and her character is, spoiler alert, already the president anyway. 

    + Spacey has also been dropped by both his talent agency CAA and publicity firm Polaris.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Stranger Things 2 pulled in good "ratings." Nielsen's attempt to quantify the viewership of Netflix shows resulted in some eyebrow-raising (and unofficial) numbers: 15.8 million watched the season 2 premiere. The figures for the rest of the season go down from there — the show's only been out for a week, so not everyone has finished the binge yet — but they look pretty solid, with 4.6 million having viewed the finale already.

    + Keep in mind, the real numbers (which Netflix doesn't report) are most likely much bigger since Nielsen didn't take into account laptop and mobile viewing or international audiences.

    ? CBS: Les Moonves isn't worried about cord-cutters. In fact, he welcomes them. In an earnings call where he boasted of the network's revenue and profit growth, Moonves said that CBS is making even more money thanks to skinny bundles since they result in higher per-subscription revenue for the broadcaster. And he touted the success of CBS All Access, the digital service that carries the new Star Trek series, revealing that its per-user revenue is triple that of traditional over-the-air distributors. 

    + A Twilight Zone reboot is on the way from Jordan Peele. Moonves revealed that CBS All Access is readying a new take on the sci-fi anthology, with sources saying Peele's Monkeypaw banner is attached. 

    + NFL ads still strong. Moonves also added some more fodder to the ongoing debate on whether NFL protests are affecting advertisers. "I don't know of one sponsor that's pulled out of any spot they've had," he said. "I don't think its affecting advertising or their desire one iota." Papa John of Papa John's has gotten a lot of flack this week for saying kneeling players are to blame for low pizza sales, a claim Pizza Hut refuted.

    ? Fox renews The Orville for season 2. The re-up shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: The Seth MacFarlane space dramedy marks the network's most-watched and highest-rated debut since Empire.

    ^Comedy Central sets The Daily Show, Drunk History and The President Show specials. All three series are set for special year-end telecasts, the network announced. First comes Drunk History Christmas Special, airing Nov. 28. Then there’s I Came Up With Christmas: A President Show Christmas on Nov. 30. Finally, The Daily Show's The Yearly Show 2017, an hourlong special (taped live in New York’s Gramercy Theater), will air Dec. 18.

    ? President Trump was deactivated from Twitter for 11 minutes. It was all thanks to a rogue Twitter employee on his or her last day. 

    + That surreal bit of news capped off a very busy week for Twitter, Google and Facebook in the political realm thanks to congressional hearings related to Russian influence on the 2016 campaign, Natalie Jarvey emails:

    Lawmakers this week grilled tech executives from all three companies over the power of their platforms and the role that they should play in monitoring content that users post. All three acknowledged the gravity of the situation and promised to make improvements. They also revealed just how unprepared they had been to prevent Russia from influencing the election. Revelations from each company:

    Facebook – About 126 million Americans may have been exposed to content from Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency posted between January 2015 and August 17.

    Google – Ads totaling $4,700 were purchased by Internet Research Agency and 18 YouTube channels that appeared to be associated with Russia had uploaded over 1,000 videos.

    Twitter – Over 36,700 accounts with tweets receiving 288 million views had been linked to Russia, in addition to 2,750 account connected to Internet Research Agency.

    ? J.K. Simmons goes against himself in Counterpart trailer. The actor stars in a Starz sci-fi spy thriller debuting in January — and the first trailer is pretty riveting.  

    ? ESPN reveals new social-media policy. Following the Jemele Hill controversy, the sports network outlined new Twitter guidelines for its personalities. Among them: no partisan or political commentary (except in special cases), and, interestingly, no news-breaking on social media without putting it on an ESPN platform first. That seems to be at odds with the habits of many of their reporters, who regularly break scoops on Twitter.

  • Post-Harvey Awards Season

    As scandal engulfs Hollywood following sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, female-driven films such as Battle of the Sexes and The ?Post could be the beneficiaries, Gregg Kilday writes: 

    While dozens of movies are waiting to vie for attention, the usual early awards-season buzz has been drowned out by the voices of women (and some men) rising up to protest a status quo that protected Weinstein and others like him. In late October, for example, as George Clooney and Matt Damon made the rounds to promote Suburbicon, the first question they were asked was what exactly they knew about Weinstein's predatory ways.

    "I don't know what it means," admits one awards strategist of the full impact the scandal could have. "How does it affect the awards? I don't know how Jimmy Kimmel jokes about any of this." Observes awards consultant Cynthia Swartz, "For the press, covering the Oscar race is usually a fun pastime. But this year, the attention is elsewhere. Maybe it will put the whole thing in perspective."

    Some pictures, though, may benefit, as the Academy — in response to the rising voices of women both within and outside its ranks challenging long-standing male biases — looks at such films as Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which Frances McDormand plays an aggrieved mother forcing local authorities to solve the murder of her daughter, as well as Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' Battle of the Sexes, with Emma Stone playing feminist icon Billie Jean King. Full story.

    + "I was harassed by an AFI director and kicked out when I reported it." Arriving at the famed filmmaking conservatory in 1980, Ilana Bar-Din Giannini felt she'd received a Golden Ticket, but when her mentor suggested sex was the price for making a film, she was dismissed by the institution. Her guest column.

    + Actress Paz de la Huerta claims Harvey Weinstein raped her twice. The former Boardwalk Empire actress is the latest to come out against the disgraced producer, telling CBS News that Weinstein forced himself on her twice in 2010.  

    + Corey Feldman named his alleged accuser on Dr. Oz. The former child star singled out John Grissom, an actor who appeared in 1988's License to Drive and 1989's Dream a Little Dream with Feldman and fellow child actor Corey Haim, and accused the older man of sexually molesting him. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? The Disaster Artist drops new trailer. The James Franco movie clearly wants some skin in the Oscars game, and now it has a very awards season-friendly trailer to prove it. The hope? Nominations, at the very least, for the film itself as well as for James Franco for Best Actor. The onetime host of the Oscars (remember that?) has only been nominated once before, for 2010's 127 Hours.

    ? Star Wars: Kathleen Kennedy says Rey and Finn will be around for a while. Episode IX isn't going to be the end for Rey, Finn or other characters introduced in The Force Awakens, according to the Lucasfilm president. "We're sitting down now, we're talking about the next 10 years of Star Wars stories, and we're looking at, narratively, where that might go," she said. "Future stories beyond Episode IX with these new characters: Rey, Poe, Finn, BB-8 — but we're also looking at working with people who are interested in coming into the Star Wars world and taking us places we haven't been yet." 

    ? Florida Project breakout Brooklynn Prince signs with UTA. The agency has taken on the 7-year-old star of A24's The Florida Project, which some have speculated might land Prince an award nomination or two. 

    ^Guillermo del Toro confronts his demons. The Mexican filmmaker opens up about how his attempts to put "lucid nightmares" from his youth (and his father's kidnapping) behind him gave way to awards season frontrunner The Shape of Water, Stephen Galloway writes: 

    As a young child lying on a little mattress at the foot of his grandmother's bed in Guadalajara, Mexico, Guillermo del Toro experienced the first of what he calls his "lucid nightmares." He had just watched an episode of The Outer Limits, starring a mutant with a bald head and giant eyes, and that image merged in his mind with the iconography of the Roman Catholic church, stamped on his soul by his deeply religious grandmother.

    "I would wake up in the dream as if it was in my room, and I would literally see creatures," recalls the filmmaker. "There was no difference between that and reality." Full story.

    ? Julian Schnabel, Harmony Korine get film financing at AFM. The Swiss-based SPK Pictures apparently has a taste for the bad boys of arthouse cinema: The firm will help finance Schaebel's upcoming Vincent van Gogh biopic At Eternity's Gate (starring Willem Dafoe and Oscar Isaac) as well as Korine's The Beach Bum (featuring who else but Matthew McConaughey). 

    ? Critic's Picks: A great November for L.A. film buffs. A Robert Altman retrospective? Taiwanese film restorations? Classic war movies? Add them all to your November to-do list, Angelenos.

    ? Mark Strong vying for his second D.C. villain role in Shazam! The Kingsman actor, who some may recall played the baddie Sinestro in 2011's Green Lantern, is in talks to return to the D.C. universe as Shazam's longtime arch-nemesis Doctor Sivana. Zachary Levi is already onboard to play Shazam/Captain Marvel.  

    ? Review: Murder on the Orient Express. “Branagh's Poirot is fearless, penetrating and amusing in his relentlessness,” writes Todd McCarthy. “In the end, it's pretty much a toss-up between Branagh and Finney as to who is more effective, although you could say Branagh's moustache alone gives him the edge by more than a hair.” Read more.

    ? La La Land is still winning awards. A year later, and the movie about Ryan Gosling saving jazz can't stop bringing home trophies: The marketing campaigns for La La, It and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri were all grand winners at last night's Clio Entertainment Awards.  

    Ian McKellen talks gay rights activism, life documentary. The star opened up about the new doc McKellen: Playing the Part, his work in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men franchises and what he wants to be remembered for.


  • Year of Horror

    The blood-soaked fare that was once relegated to the B-movie scrap heap is now one of the most dependable in Hollywood — and that's very good news for the legions of scare merchants at this week’s American Film Market, Scott Roxborough writes:

    In the corridors of the Loews hotel during AFM, sales companies, packed to the gills with slasher, zombie and found-footage pics, are hoping this horror boom will prove to be a boon for their business. "The market for horror is growing,” says Matteo Rolleri, director of sales and marketing at European-based horror specialist Devilworks. “It’s always been a big part of the business, but you’re seeing it across the market, here at AFM, at Cannes, in Berlin — more and more companies are focusing on horror.”

    The appeal of frightening features isn’t hard to understand. For one, they’re cheap. “You can often shoot in one location with a handful of actors,” says Rolleri, whose AFM slate includes Jeremy Lutter’s supernatural horror The Hollow Child and the holiday-themed slasher Red Christmas. “Our movies start from $300,000 up to $1 million on the high end." At that price point, even a film that only appeals to horror fanboys can make its money back selling directly to VOD. Those fanboys are slavishly devoted and, importantly, live all over the world.

    Horror, unlike, say, comedy, translates well across national and linguistic borders. Note the recent success of Jennifer Kent’s Aussie haunted house tale The Babadook or the French cannibal thriller Raw from director Julia Ducournau. Indie filmmakers also can take advantage of the network of international horror and fantasy film fests, like the Fantastic Festival circuit, to raise awareness and build buzz. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    Thor: Ragnarok is quietly the queerest superhero movie yet. Angela Watercutter writes: "There has been talk for quite some time about if and when Marvel would finally introduce an LGBTQ person into the cinematic universe." [Wired]

    — Slay, flop, iconic: What it's like to be a pop music stan. Nolan Feeney writes: "From Little Monsters to the BeyHive, meet the superfans who are shaping your favorite stars’ careers." [EW]

    — 'I only have my chihuahuas': Why The Florida Project's Sean Baker won't sell out. Kyle Buchanan writes: "What does it take to direct an Oscar contender and sustain a career as an independent filmmaker? More sacrifices than you might expect." [Vulture]

    — How Prince invented himself. Over and over. Ekow Eshun writes: "Few recording artists were as acutely conscious of their images as Prince, or as dedicated to presenting themselves with such teasing complexity." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Rosie O'Donnell tells the origin story of her feud with Trump." [Late Night]

    + "Whoopi Goldberg is a gun owner." [Late Show]

    + "The boys of Stranger Things are obsessed with High School Musical." [Tonight Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + Jordan Peele: Interview. [Awards Chatter]

    + Judd Apatow on Hollywood's dark side. [The Frame]

    + The new scandal rocking awards season. [Little Gold Men]

    Today's Birthdays: Hal Hartley, 58, Dolph Lundgren, 60, Gary Ross, 61, Roseanne Barr, 65, Anna Wintour, 68.