What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:06 AM 11/8/2017

by THR Staff

Ruven Afanador

What's news: Hollywood is lawyering up as agencies get scrutinized in a post-Harvey Weinstein landscape. Plus: Universal's "Monsterverse" architects exit the franchise, ABC's Grey's Anatomy team gathers to celebrate 300 episodes and this year's Next Gen list of execs and talent gets unveiled. — Erik Hayden

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On the cover: Drake, a global brand, internet meme and now a producer? Tatiana Siegel visits the Toronto apartment of hip-hop's reigning prince as he unveils a push into film and TV, with Apple and Netflix all wanting a share of the bling:

+ Exclusive: Drake is eager to talk about his ambitious push into film and TV, which includes teaming with Netflix to revive the critically acclaimed but short-lived British crime series Top Boy (think an across-the-pond version of The Wire). Drake and Future along with James' SpringHill Entertainment will executive produce the series, which will go into production early next year for a 2019 debut.

+ Toronto's other notable denizen, Margaret Atwood, recently made a public offer for Drake to cameo in season two of The Handmaid's Tale. Future says Drake got a kick out of the suggestion, but, tellingly, what they'd prefer is to option one of Atwood's available books and shepherd it to the screen. Future perks up when told her dystopic MaddAddam trilogy, currently at HBO, will go back on the market Dec. 1 because Darren Aronofsky couldn't get it off the ground at the network.

+ Although he has been entirely in the music zone for the past decade, Drake still receives a script a week for acting. The studios, knowing his background and looking to tap into his global fan base, have offered up everything from rebooting the Barbershop franchise to superhero sidekicks. So far, he has turned everything down. "We're not looking to drop him into some Battleship," says Future, a reference to Rihanna and her ill-fated stab at the big screen. Full story. 

  • Who Knew What and When?

    Illustration by Skip Sterling

    No agency had stronger ties to Harvey Weinstein than CAA, which repped The Weinstein Co. in its various sale attempts over the past three years, as well as many of the actresses who have won Oscars in recent years in TWC films, Tatiana Siegel and Ashley Cullins write:

    One question being posed to the 90-plus Weinstein accusers is: Did you tell your agent, and what did he or she do?

    Actress Rae Dawn Chong says she was repped by CAA in 1989-90 when she was sent to CAA client Steven Seagal's hotel for a 9:30 p.m. audition that devolved quickly into sexual harassment, with Seagal exposing himself.

    "Kevin Huvane was my agent," she says of the now-CAA managing partner. "Did I call him after and tell him what happened and say how violated and fucked up it was? Yes. And did CAA take the position of, 'We'll protect you'? No. It became, 'Rae Dawn Chong's difficult.' And it did impact my career. Obviously, I left CAA promptly, because it was like a pimp situation."

    Huvane tells THR: "Protecting clients has always been my top priority. I would never knowingly put a client at risk. What Ms. Chong describes having happened sounds horrible, and I have great sympathy for her." Full story. 

    Harvey's "Army of Spies" fallout...

    + The New York Times has terminated its relationship with David Boies' law firm Boies Schiller Flexner after a New Yorker report revealed his role in disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein's attempts to block sexual harassment stories at the same time as representing the newspaper in a libel case.

    + On Tuesday, the Times said in a statement: "We never contemplated that the law firm would contract with an intelligence firm to conduct a secret spying operation aimed at our reporting and our reporters. Such an operation is reprehensible."

    Elsewhere in film...

    ^Universal's "Monsterverse" gets pink slips. Borys Kit and Aaron Couch's scoop: Just five months after Universal released a much-discussed cast photo promising a slew of movies starring the likes of Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe and Javier Bardem — all drawn on characters like the Invisible Man, Wolf Man and Frankenstein in its stable of classic horror films — none of the projects appears to have a pulse.

    + Writer-producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, who were hired as the monster universe architects, have departed the franchise. Kurtzman, whose deal with Universal lapsed in September, is focusing on television, while Morgan has returned to the Fast and Furious franchise.

    + Exec quote: "We've learned many lessons throughout the creative process on Dark Universe so far, and we are viewing these titles as filmmaker-driven vehicles, each with their own distinct vision," says Universal president of production Peter Cramer. "We are not rushing to meet a release date and will move forward with these films when we feel they are the best versions of themselves." Full story. 

    Meanwhile...

    Blade Runner 2049 facing major losses for producer. Alcon and its investors are facing about $80M in losses, insiders close to the project tell THR. As it winds down its run, the movie's global gross through Nov. 5 was $240.6M. Producers had set a worldwide goal of $400M. 

    Paramount loses China's Huahua Media financing deal. It would have financed 25 percent of the studio's film slate through 2019. The studio points to "changes to Chinese foreign investment policies" as the reason for the dissolution of the agreement. Paramount first announced the three-year slate financing agreement, valued at $1 billion, in January.

    Russia eyes improved film anti-piracy measures. The country's culture ministry has prepared a proposal aimed at fighting online movie piracy, but it will only concern local movies, leaving out Hollywood fare. Under the proposal, rights holders will be able to complain to the communications watchdog about illegal copies of their movies.

     Disney retreats from L.A. Times screening ban. After finding itself on the receiving end of a media backlash, Disney reversed its L.A. Times decision. The company released a statement shortly after the N.Y. Times joined a growing number of publications and critics associations vowing to pull coverage and awards consideration until the ban was lifted.

    ^Steven Spielberg's The Post trailer arrives. At a time when journalism is under attack from accusations of "fake news," the timely movie tells the story of Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and its editor Ben Bradlee's (Tom Hanks) attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, a political cover-up about the Vietnam War that spanned three decades and four U.S. presidents. Watch. 

    American Film Market deal wrap: Streamers edge out indies. Scott Roxborough writes: The traditional system of agencies and producers packaging projects for sales companies to pre-sell (with foreign distributors committing when the movies get made) isn't dead yet. 

    + One of the biggest deals at AFM was Netflix's global (outside of China) buy of the Maika Monroe- and Ed Skrein-starring A.I. flick Tau from Ken Kao and Alex Walton's film sales company Bloom, which itself became part of a novel paradigm of making and distributing indie movies when it was acquired by Endeavor in August.

    Endeavor Content also brokered the other major AFM deal: Paramount's $10 million pickup of North American, U.K. and French rights to June Pictures' comedy Book Club, whose all-star cast will include Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen. Full deals wrap

    Open Road marketing president exits. Loren Schwartz is departing as marketing president of the indie film studio. The move comes days after Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg announced he is leaving the company amid an ownership change.

    Ashley Judd to star in canine drama A Dog's Way Home. The actress is set to topline Sony’s adaptation of the best-selling book by W. Bruce Cameron, the author of A Dog’s Purpose. The film is currently in production.

    ► New! Oscar standings right now. In the wake of BAFTA's Britannia Awards and the Hollywood Film Awards, and just ahead of the AFI Fest in Hollywood, Scott Feinberg offers his latest read of 16 key categories. Full Feinberg Forecast.

     

  • Snapchat Sinks, Tries Redesign

    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

    As the company's stock takes a beating over its user growth stalling, Snapchat is getting an overhaul. CEO Evan Spiegel revealed Tuesday that the platform will be redesigned to make it easier for a broader base of people to use, Natalie Jarvey writes: 

    + As part of the redesign, Snapchat will make it easier to discover the content that it and its partners produce for the Discover platform. Spiegel said that there "is a big opportunity to surface some of this content in a personalized and more relevant way." That will include tailoring Snapchat Stories for each of the app's 178 million users.

    + The Snap CEO also acknowledged that Snapchat has done little to boost the creator community that has built up on its platform and said that the company will build distribution and monetization opportunities for those creators in 2018. The changes teased on Tuesday would represent the largest redesign for Snapchat in its history.

    + What about those glasses? Another area where Snap struggled during the third quarter was in its sales of Spectacles, the smart glasses that allow people to take video and upload it to Snapchat. Snap has recorded a $39.9M write-down on the product.

    Meanwhile, in TV...

    Sky News says it could shutter without 21st Century Fox buyout. Regulators "should not simply assume the continued provision of Sky News and its current contribution to plurality, absent the transaction," the news organization said.

    CBS drops Kevin Spacey from Carol Burnett special. After multiple sexual assault and harassment allegations emerged, the two-time Oscar winner was cut from the networks upcoming Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special, airing in December.

    Fox plans Mary J. Blige-produced drama. The network is looking to Blige and choreographer Laurieann Gibson for its next music drama. Fox has put 8 Count, inspired by Gibson's life, into development.

    NBC developing Vin Diesel boxing drama. The actor is teaming with Mudbound scribe Virgil Williams Crushers Club. The hourlong project revolves around a struggling boxing gym in one of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods.

    ^Grey's Anatomy team celebrates 300 episodes. Creator Shonda Rhimes and partner Betsy Beers reveal their favorites and frustrations over 14 seasons. "I can't believe that this little show that we wrote and thought was a lot of fun in the beginning has turned out to be this thing that has really taught people," Rhimes says. Full feature.

    BBC, Netflix's Wanderlust enlists Toni Collette. The actress has signed on to star in the six-part drama, with Netflix coming on board as a co-producer. The BBC will premiere the show, which doesn't have a launch date. 

    AMC's Dietland sets Julianna Margulies to star. The multiple-Emmy winner has been tapped to star in the adaptation of Sarai Walker's 2015 best-seller. Erin Darke has also joined the cast.

    ABC plans hotel workplace comedy. The network is teaming with Justin Noble (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) to adapt Anna Drezen and Todd Dakotah Briscoe's 2016 book and subsequent blog How May We Hate You as a half-hour scripted comedy.

    ► Bunim-Murray co-president exits. Jeff Jenkins, who played a key role in launching Keeping Up With the Kardashians, had spent 16 years with the production company. Staff memo.

    ► SAG-AFTRA members approve new video game actor agreement. Members on Tuesday voted to approve the successor to the Interactive Media Video Game Agreement by a vote of 90 percent to 10 percent. The terms of the tentative agreement include a new bonus structure that provides additional payments to performers. Details.

     

  • Next Gen '17 Unveiled

    Christopher Patey

    Meet Hollywood's future leaders, whose résumés already include $100 million movies, Emmy-winning TV shows and, in at least a few cases, a CEO title, Lacey Rose writes: 

    And now, at age 35 or younger, these 35 standouts — a mix of agents, managers, publicists, lawyers, digital, film and TV executives — add to their collective pedigree a spot on the 24th annual Next Gen list, which in generations past has recognized, among others, Fox's Stacey Snider, Showtime's David Nevins, NBCUniversal's Jeff Shell and Endeavor's Ari Emanuel long before they were who they are today. Execs 35 and Under list I Rising Stars 35 and Under list

    What else we're reading...

     Uma Thurman, ready to be tested. Alexis Soloski writes: "Hollywood’s 'contempt and dismissiveness' toward women has led her to Broadway. In The Parisian Woman, she’ll be onstage for every minute of every scene." [The New York Times]

    — Vice plots expansion across Asia for TV shows, web videos. Lucas Shaw writes: "Under pressure to keep growing ahead of a potential initial public offering, Vice is striking deals with some of the largest media companies in Asia." [Bloomberg]

    — The pitfalls of Taylor Swift's anti-PR campaign. Spencer Kornhaber writes: "A cease-and-desist letter to a blogger earned rebuke from the ACLU and attention to the star’s white-supremacist following." [The Atlantic]

    — Now that the Thor: Ragnarok director has conquered the world, what's next? Michael Cavna writes: "Taika Waititi's winning brand of deadpan comedy should become an attractive commodity in Hollywood." [Washington Post]

    — Get to know Lady Bird's best friend, Beanie Feldstein. Sara Vilkomerson writes: "With an effervescent smile and easy laugh, Feldstein still can’t seem to believe her own fortune." [EW]

    — Will Mel Gibson tank Daddy's Home 2? Chris Lee writes: "At a moment when accusations of harassment and assault by powerful men are roiling Hollywood on an almost daily basis, it begs the question: To what extent will Gibson’s involvement in a family film - in any film - keep people away from theaters?" [Vulture

    What else we're seeing...

    "Jason Segel escaped LA for an Orange Grove." [Late Show]

    + "Carey Mulligan failed driving test five times." [Jimmy Kimmel Live]

    + "Rainn Wilson is a terrible tennis umpire." [Late Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + David Simon talks The Deuce. [The Treatment / KCRW]

    + Sam Rockwell, from Three Billboards to George W. Bush. [The Frame / KPCC]

    + Photographer Pete Souza reflects on 8 years (and 1.9 million photos) of Obama. [Fresh Air / NPR

    Today's birthdays: Tara Reid, 42, Matthew Rhys, 43, David Muir, 44, Gretchen Mol, 45, A.D. Miles, 46, Parker Posey, 49, Gordon Ramsay, 51, Alfre Woodard, 65. 

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