What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:15 AM 9/13/2017

by THR Staff

Miller Mobley

What's news: In the lead up to Emmys Sunday, NBC's megahit This Is Us team previews season two. Plus: Former cable news king Bill O'Reilly opens up about his post-Fox News career, a close look at Amazon's quest for a global hit and a brutally honest TV Academy voter reveals his Emmy ballot. — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

[Note: To sign up to receive this Today in Entertainment briefing by email each day, click here.]

On the cover: A huge family drama on a broadcast network? Not possible, until NBC's top-rated series arrived to break records, mint stars, score 10 Emmy noms and set high expectations (try $750K for a Sept. 26 premiere ad). Lacey Rose's feature begins like this: 

"Just curious, who got [the part of] Kate?” That question, posed in an email to This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman by his producing partner, hangs framed in Chrissy Metz's Los Angeles home, a reminder of the trajectory her life could have continued on. When the actress first auditioned for NBC's family drama in 2015, she only had 81 cents in her bank account.

She had been living off ramen noodles from a nearby Dollar Store, scraping together gas money with a résumé on which the biggest credit was "the fat lady" on American Horror Story: Freak Show. Fogelman's script, loosely based on his own sister's weight-loss journey, tapped into something that Metz had rarely seen, and she was desperate to be a part of it.

"Here was this woman who was actually dealing with weight. Not like, 'Oh my God, I gained a pound,'" she says on a break this summer from filming the second season on the Paramount lot. "She was a real woman who was really struggling, and all I could think was, 'Oh my God, I'm Kate.'" Full cover story. 

  • Bill O'Reilly, Unrepentant

    Wesley Mann

    The former king of cable news has scores to settle — with his accusers, the media and the "far-left precincts" that have "viciously attacked" and plotted to "destroy" him. A few excerpts from his new interview with Marisa Guthrie: 

    You mentioned on a recent podcast that you've had offers to return to TV. Are you near a decision? "I haven't decided. There are some interesting projects in development, as they say in Hollywood, but it has to be the right situation. I'm waiting to see very specific details of the projects that people have pitched to us. And there have been many. I think by early October, we should have a pretty good vision of what we're going to do."

    Did you pass on One America News? After publicly pursuing you, the head of that company tweeted in June that he was "pulling" his offer. "Yeah. I didn't make any yes or no one that. He was a very nice guy, and I thought I treated him very respectfully. But at that point, you know, we weren't going to make any decisions about long-term projects. So they, I guess, lost patience."

    Your 20-year career at Fox News was gone in two weeks. How did that make you feel? "That wasn't what was bothering me. I've had a terrific career, and I'm a lucky guy, and I'm not, you know, one of these guys that wants to hang on to the cliffs. You don't want me working for you, that's fine. They made a decision. It was purely a business decision. But the way it was done, I'm over in Rome [on vacation]. My [legal] team was caught by surprise because we had an amazing amount of exculpatory stuff that we had presented. And it just — it was sad. That's the word, sad." Full Q&A. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Amazon's TV reset: can it finally launch a global hit? The streaming giant is said to be taking a hard look at its original scripted programming choices amid a lack of buzz and a mere 15 Emmy nominations, far less than the 91 garnered by rival Netflix.

    + Lesley Goldberg reports: Amazon is said to be reallocating its considerable financial resources in an effort to generate a worldwide hit that can redefine its brand. (It also chose not to host a post-Emmys party this year.) Reps for Amazon insist the budget for scripted originals will increase beyond the estimated $4.5 billion the company is spending in 2017; the money will just be allocated differently.

    Apple redesigns TV box with 4K streaming. The company on Tuesday unveiled a new Apple TV that features an improved picture quality with 4K for higher resolution videos and high dynamic range for a wider range of colors. 

    + Natalie Jarvey writes: Also, Apple senior vp Eddy Cue said that the company has struck deals with the Hollywood studios and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to bring their library of 4K movies and TV shows to iTunes. Titles in 4K will cost the same price as titles sold in HD. 

    ► TV Land, Paramount Network merge operations, layoffs hit Viacom. As part of the effort, about 20 employees from Spike (which is being rebranded as Paramount Network in January), TV Land and CMT are being trimmed from Viacom's workforce.

    + Lesley Goldberg notes: Spike exec vp programming Tom Zappala will exit as will CMT's executive vp development Jayson Dinsmore. The decision to unify development and marketing teams comes as fellow Viacom cable networks MTV, VH1 and Logo did the same earlier this year.

    HBO renews Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The series will stay on the air through 2020, bringing it to season seven. The renewal comes after two early Emmy wins at the Creative Arts Emmy awards (the series is up for three more). 

    History renews Vikings for sixth season. The A&E Networks-owned cabler has handed out an early renewal for the drama from showrunner and creator Michael Hirst. Production is set to begin in the fall in Ireland.

    ^Netflix's Alias Grace, reviewed. Writer Sarah Polley, director Mary Harron and star Sarah Gadon deliver a twisty tale of murder and transgressive femininity in Netflix's Margaret Atwood adaptation. Takeaway: "A very Canadian look at crime and female storytelling." Full reviewTrailer.

    + FX's Better Things season 2, reviewed. Pamela Adlon's series gets even better in its season two exploration of mothers, daughters and making a life. Takeaway: "Wonderfully nuanced, wonderfully real."

    Netflix greenlights first Polish-language series. Oscar-nominee Agnieszka Holland and daughter Kasia Adamik will direct the alternative history series, set in a Poland where the Cold War never ended.

    Amazon plans football reality series. The streaming giant has ordered a University of Michigan football series that follows coach Jim Harbaugh team. The untitled series is produced by BTN Originals, The Montag Group and Jim Jorden Productions.

     ABC's Grey's Anatomy spinoff adds to cast. Jason George is set to join the upcoming firefighter-focused spinoff as a series regular, joining an ensemble cast that includes the previously announced Jaina Lee Ortiz as the offshoot's leading lady. 

    Fox, Jim Parsons team on medical drama. The Big Bang Theory star will produce The Family Gene, based on the memoir by Joselin Linder, which follows Dr. Gwendolyn Langer as she saves lives in a cutting-edge clinic. Greg Spottiswood will pen the script.

    ESPN distances itself from Jemele Hill's "Trump is a white supremacist" comments. The network said it was not happy with the Sportscenter host's posts. Statement: "We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

    In THR, Esq: Olivia de Havilland's age (101) could present difficulty in Feud lawsuit. Eriq Gardner writes: An attorney for FX has suggested that January would give both sides more time to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, but there's not any real opposition to the aging actress' demand for an expedited trial. But the lack of drama over the trial date belies a looming procedural conundrum.

  • Horror Box Office Showdown

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures; Courtesy of Photofest

    Last weekend, It terrorized the North American box office with a record-shattering $123.1M debut, the biggest showing ever for a horror film. And now comes Darren Aronofsky's prestige psychological horror-thriller pic mother! Pamela McClintock surveys the landscape: 

    The question isn't which film will win the weekend — It is the certain victor with a sophomore outing of $50M or more — rather, can mother! perform in line with prerelease tracking and clear $12M-$15M in its domestic launch, or will it be dinged by It

    Originally, mother!, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, wasn't supposed to hit the big screen until Oct. 13, but Paramount recently moved up its release to take advantage of publicity surrounding the movie's world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, followed by last week's screening at the Toronto Film Festival.

    Aronofsky's $30M movie has received generally strong reviews and, like Black Swan, is likely to be a point of conversation, if not polarizing. Tracking for mother! has improved since Venice and Toronto, and Paramount's final marketing push. Last weekend, the studio created an unusual, exclusive in-theater trailer that played before It. As scenes from mother! play, a voice intones, "in one week, in this theater, one movie will mess you up for life." Full story. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Lucasfilm enlists J.J. Abrams for Star Wars: Episode IX. The Force Awakens director is replacing the fired Colin Trevorrow and the company has pushed the film to December 20 of that year. 

    + Aaron Couch writes: It always felt like it'd be Abrams or The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson to get the role. The more surprising news is that Chris Terrio — of Argo, Batman v. Superman and Justice League fame — has joined to write alongside Abrams. He seems like he's following in the footsteps of oft-Abrams collaborators like Alex Kurtzman as the screenwriter who is getting every big job now.

    Disney's latest release date shuffle. Episode IX is swapping places with the live-action adaptation of Aladdin, which will now hit theaters May 24, 2019.

    + Noted: The studio also pulled Steve Martin's family comedy Magic Camp from the calendar from April 6, 2018. Disney also dated its untitled Christopher Robin movie (Aug, 3, 2018), Artemis Fowl (Aug. 9, 2019) and Nicole (Nov. 8, 2019), starring Anna Kendrick as a female Santa Claus.

    ^American Assassin, reviewed. Michael Cuesta directs the first feature based on a thriller by novelist Vince Flynn, with Dylan O’Brien as a counterterrorism operative and Michael Keaton as his trainer. The takeaway: "Well executed, but there’s less here than meets the eye." 

    + Early takes: Empire: "The film never settles on a tone." The Telegraph: "about as much fun as an angry wasp." Radio Times: "trots out cliché after cliché."

    Nicolas Cage to star in action film Primal. The film, directed by veteran stunt coordinator Nick Powell, marks the first project from financier Wonderfilm. The project is set to begin shooting Oct. 23 in Puerto Rico.

    Imax CEO sees no "secular shift" in moviegoing. Richard Gelfond sees little doom and gloom around moviegoing as Hollywood experienced a rough summer at the box office. But he conceded: "This was a very disappointing year for content."

    Drafthouse CEO says he'll give blogger "second chance" after sex-assault claims. Film blogger Devin Faraci, who stepped down last October as top editor of film site Birth.Movies.Death amid allegations of sexual assault, is once again working for the site's owner — movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse.

    "Rebel Wilson awarded $3.6M in Australia defamation case." "A Supreme Court jury in Australia's Victoria state had decided in June the articles claiming she lied about her age, origins of her first name and her upbringing in Sydney were defamatory ... Bauer Media .... said it was considering the judgment," the Associated Press reports.

    New podcast: Kumail Nanjiani opens up about his breakout year. The comedian, writer and actor (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley) reflects on coming to America at 18 and making the most emotionally vulnerable period in his life the center of a movie that became the second best-reviewed release of 2017 so far. Listen

  • Emmy Voter's Brutally Honest Ballot

    Illustration by Andrew Colin Beck

    It's that time of year: An anonymous member of the TV Academy makes his case for Fargo and Silicon Valley, and explains why Atlanta just "isn't funny, at least to an old white guy like me." Full brutally honest Emmy ballot.

    What else we're reading...

    "Angelina Jolie, unbroken." Cara Buckley's profile: "The actress-director suggests her new film, set against the backdrop of Cambodian genocide, affected her view of her family and relationship with Brad Pitt." [The New York Times]

    "Robert Redford on Trump: 'He's our fault.'" Michael Hainey's conversation: "The legendary actor-activist isn't going to spend time overanalyzing the president. He'd rather America look in the mirror." [Esquire]

    "Directors were once the kings of Hollywood." Josh Rottenberg and Daniel Miller's close look: "There was a time when the replacement of someone like [Colin] Trevorrow ... would have been earth-shattering news." [The Los Angeles Times]

    "There's blood in the water in Silicon Valley." Ben Smith writes: "The new corporate leviathans that used to be seen as bright new avatars of American innovation are increasingly portrayed as sinister new centers of unaccountable power." [BuzzFeed]

    "ESPN can't win in Trump's rowdy America." Ian Crouch writes: "Largely against its will, the beleaguered network has become a central player in the country’s pervasive culture war." [The New Yorker]

    Today's birthdays: Ben Savage, 37, Fiona Apple, 40, Colin Trevorrow, 41, Jean Smart, 66, Frank Marshall, 71, Jacqueline Bisset, 73.