What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:41 AM 1/11/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

What's news: Is the #MeToo movement impacting Hollywood writers rooms? Plus: The Post goes national, the Peak TV boom is getting bigger and Hulu's chief eyes international expansion in the (near?) future. — Ray Rahman

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New: James Franco accused of sexual misconduct by five women. Jackie Strause writes:

One of the women who spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Disaster Artist star and director is Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at the film school Franco founded, Studio 4 in North Hollywood, and one of the women who accused the movie and TV star of sexual misconduct on Twitter amid his Golden Globes win Sunday night.

The Times also spoke to two of his former students at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, where he taught acting classes, who recalled a "hostile" shoot at a strip club. "I don't think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process," said one of the students, Hilary Dusome. The other student, Natalie Chmiel, said Franco grew "visibly angry" when the women declined to remove their tops. Full story.

+ Seth Meyers grills Franco: Just last night, one day after Franco faced Stephen Colbert, the actor responded to a similar line of questioning from Seth Meyers. "I did read them, I haven't responded. I think the ones I read were not accurate, but one of the things that I've learned is that this is a conversation that needs to be had," Franco said.

  • 'The Post' Goes Wide

    Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Paraount Pictures

    The Post, in need of some awards-season momentum, has a chance to make some noise this weekend when it goes wide. But it won't be the only new release, Gregg Kilday writes: 

    The Post will be aiming for adult audiences interested in its politically relevant story this weekend. Previously, the $50 million film had grossed $4.2 million since its Dec. 22 limited release. Now the production moves into 2,820 theaters, and could take in about $18 million to $20 million.

    It will be rubbing elbows, though, with a trio of new films jostling for attention: Paddington 2 could be looking at a $20 million bow in the states, although studio estimates peg it at a few million dollars lower; the Taraji P. Henson-starring Proud Mary could also could climb to top the $20 million mark; and Liam Neeson's The Commuter is projected to open in the low-to-mid-teen million range. Full preview.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ► How Mark Wahlberg did it: The New York Times has the goods on how Wahlberg ending up making $1.5 million to Michelle Williams' $1000 on the All the Money in the World reshoots: "Wahlberg was already not thrilled to have worked for roughly 80 percent less than his standard fee ... Because Williams had already committed to return, Wahlberg had leverage over the production team: He was the only major missing piece, and the clock was ticking." The production company eventually relented to his million-dollar demands. 

    + SAG-AFTRA is investigating to see if any contract rules were broken, though the Times story would make it appear that Wahlberg's negotiating was all above board.  

    Harvey Weinstein gets slapped: The disgraced movie mogul was at Elements restaurant at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Scottsdale when an unidentified man approached, began berating Weinstein before slapping him twice with the back of his hand. And yes, there's video.

    Marvel's Black Panther is already breaking records: Fandango is reporting that Ryan Coogler’s superhero movie is the best-selling Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in terms of presales after its first 24 hours.

    Call Me By Your Name leads Dorian Awards: The film scored nine nominations from the Society of LGBQT Entertainment Critics, including a nod for film of the year and two for each of its stars. The Shape of Water and Get Out followed in film, while Big Little Lies, The Handmaid's Tale and The Crown fared well in the TV categories. See the full list.

    ^Kareem: The Big Sick and Hollywood's Muslim-American renaissance. The NBA Hall of Famer and THR columnist, a practitioner of Islam since college, is hopeful that the Kumail Nanjiani starrer and Aziz Ansari's Master of None are bringing an end to portrayals of the devoted as "rabid, merciless terrorists" onscreen. Read more.

    What was Colin Trevorrow going to do to Rey? According to Bobby Moynihan, the ousted Star Wars director was asked by Daisy Ridley what would happen to Rey at the end of the trilogy. His answer, Moynihan says, resulted in her crying. (Trevorrow, of course, was cut from Episode IX following creative differences with Lucasfilm). 

    In development: Marvel has tapped Jac Schaeffer (Nasty Woman) to pen the script for its Black Widow solo film, which would star Scarlett Johanssson in the title role ...  Luke Wilson joins Ansel Elgort in The Goldfinch ... A biopic about Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American actress to win an Oscar, is in the works.  

    Jean-Marc Vallee's new venture: The Big Little Lies filmmaker and his longtime producing partner Nathan Ross have launched Crazyrose, described as a full-service production company dedicated to developing, financing and producing original content (including film, TV and documentary projects).

    UTA names Blair Kohan to board of directors. The agency partner — who represents top comedy talent including Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Sarah Silverman and Paul Rudd — becomes the second woman, after Tracey Jacobs, to join the board.

    Paramount shake-up: David Waldman has been promoted to executive vp domestic publicity and Irene Trachtenberg has been appointed to head of worldwide marketing partnerships. Other moves include the promotions of Beth Pinker to senior vp field publicity and targeted marketing; Michelle Rydberg to vp national publicity; and Susannah Steinberg to vp field publicity and targeted marketing.

    R.I.P., John Thompson. The longtime head of production at Millennium Films who helped shepherd the Expendables movies passed away Tuesday at the age of 71. Full obit. 

    ► Sundance kids: Festival 'play space' gives Hollywood parents a break. Moms-in-Film is setting up a playhouse for the little ones complete with a book nook, nap spaces, wellness room, costume wardrobe and, yes, a miniature red carpet area so tykes can practice their step-and-repeat at this's year Sundance. Full story.

     

  • Hulu's Future: International?

    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Hulu

    At CES, Hulu CEO Randy Freer signaled that the company could be interested in expanding internationally as it awaits the outcome of the Disney-Fox merger, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    Freer — who joined the streamer in late October — said he's focused on building an even bigger Hulu. The company on Tuesday announced that it now has 17 million subscribers, up from 12 million in May 2016. "We're becoming very aggressive in our investment, very aggressive in our marketing and very focused on adding subscribers," he said.

    Freer also signaled that Hulu could look to expand internationally in the years to come. The service once had a Japanese product that was sold off, but otherwise has stayed out of the international race while competitors Netflix and Amazon have made significant investments into original programming for local regions. "One of the best things that may come out of this merger is the global footprint," the exec said. "We'll have real opportunities." Full story.

    + Fox previews Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs in VR. Before Isle of Dogs Behind the Scenes (in Virtual Reality) premieres at Sundance, Fox’s FoxNext unit showed a two-minute clip to CES guests Wednesday night.

    + CES blackout: Brands find an opportunity. The lights went out at the conference yesterday, and the likes of Sony and Lenovo seized the chance for some impromptu brand-building. 

    + Oprah talk hits conference: Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav was asked whether he would let Oprah out of her OWN Channel contract in order to run for president. Zaslav's response: "Oprah is in charge of her own destiny." 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ► Peak TV gets peak-ier: Scripted originals are set to top 520 in 2018. That would mark 7 percent growth from last year's 487 and a new record high. "Virtually all the growth is and will be coming out of streaming services," FX chief John Landgraf says. "Everybody is going to try to maintain their investment posture as much as they can, but the traditional channels and brands are being held to a different standard of accountability than the streamers in terms of the cost of and return on capital."

    Discovery boss on scripted TV boom: "Good luck with that." Zaslav, speaking at yet another Las Vegas conference yesterday, had this to say about his network's reticence to enter the prestige arena: "Everybody is moving toward that, and the investors are saying, ‘Boy, does that look sexy.’ But that’s a very difficult game ... It's so crowded, it's $5 million an hour or more for scripted television ... We're in the business of nonfiction. Our average cost of content is $400,000 to $450,000 an hour."

    Apple's latest TV order: The tech giant has handed out a straight-to-series order to See, a drama series from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence. The show is being described as a world-building drama set in the future.

    + Roll call: Apple's full roster of original TV projects so far include: a morning-show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon; Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller's Amazing Stories anthology reboot; a Ronald D. Moore space drama; a real-estate docuseries called Home; and, now, See.

    Paramount TV president Amy Powell interview: Among the many topics she discusses is Clooney's price per episode. "Clooney is co-directing, producing and acting, so his combined number is significant. Clooney is in the $1 million ballpark." Q&A.

     Fox's Sinclair station bid: Sports over politics. 21st Century Fox could agree as early as this week to purchase up to 10 local TV stations from Sinclair. The primary motivation? Football: Fox's NFL rights could be better monetized with more stations in NFL-heavy markets like Seattle and Denver.

    YouTube distances itself from Logan Paul. The video platform says it will not feature Paul, who's been in hot water since uploading a video showing a dead body, in the fourth season of YouTube Red original comedy Foursome. On top of that, the sequel to his Thinning film is also being put on hold.

    ^#MeToo's impact on Hollywood's writers rooms. The entertainment industry's newly cautious climate is changing the tone of typically candid and often raunchy conversations — and not every scribe thinks that's so terrible, Michael O'Connell writes:

    Writers rooms, Hollywood's corporate-sanctioned haven for sex talk and self-indulgent stories about horrible dates, are suffering from some unexpected growing pains. The era of #MeToo and Time's Up hasn't just shifted daily conversations, it stands to change their tone forever as many writers second-guess their candor and showrunners strive to foster healthy environments that don't forsake creativity.

    "The room has always been, theoretically, a safe space for people to discuss their most twisted thoughts," says Liz Meriwether, creator of Fox's New Girl. "This is a place where you're supposed to be able to occasionally cross a line or two, if it's done with respect, but now you think to yourself, 'Maybe that's a joke that I can't say.'" Full story.

    Gillian Anderson exits X-Files for good: "It's time for me to hang up Scully's hat," Anderson told reporters, ruling out any potential return in the future. "I'm finished, and that's the end of that." She also announced that she was done with Starz's American Gods now that showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have quit the series.

    + The end of The X-Files? Chris Carter has already gone on record saying there is no show without Anderson, a sentiment most fans will surely agree with. 

    Silicon Valley, post-T.J. Miller: HBO has released the trailer for the comedy's upcoming fifth season — its first without T.J. Miller, who left the series last May. 

    + Kumail Nanjiani's next move: The Silicon Valley and Big Sick star is developing a TV series based on the beloved 1985 film My Beautiful Launderette, with himself set to star. 

    Jay Leno opens up about the "depressing" nature of late-night today: "The only trouble is now everyone has the same topic," he says. "It's all depressing Trump stuff. He added: "They all do a great job ... God bless all the late-night hosts, they make it funny, but ultimately, it's depressing. You don't really watch late-night TV to get away from reality anymore; now it's more in your face." Full Q&A.

    Gym chain bans cable news: The national fitness chain Life Time will shield its patrons from the horrors of cable news by banning CNN, Fox News and MSNBC from its big-screen TVs. The move, the company says, is "in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy and commitment to provide family-oriented environments free of polarizing or politically charged content."

    Grammys lineup updated: Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Kesha and SZA were among the names added to the list of performers at the Jan. 28 ceremony. 

    ► Fox Sports names Mark Silverman to lead national networks. As competition with ESPN heats up, Silverman moves to the TV sports media brand's head office after heading up the Big Ten Network division.

     

  • Cuomo Hits Primetime (Again)

    Courtesy of Turner Broadcasting

    CNN host Chris Cuomo has returned to primetime in a bid to, in his words, "test power" the one-on-one interview format he loves — even if that means more testy arguments a la his infamous Kellyanne Conway interviews, Cuomo tells Jeremy Barr. Full Q&A.

    + MSNBC's Joe Scarborough says the media is "reflexively anti-Trump." Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, regular Trump critics on Morning Joe, said on a new episode of Katie Couric's podcast that the media has gone too far: "We're over our skis and it's going to hurt us."

    + Couric on harassment: "I think there haven't been strict guidelines, or at least communicated guidelines, to employees at these media organizations for decades," Couric, who has yet to publicly address the Matt Lauer scandal, said on the podcast. "At least as long I've worked in television. I don't think there were any clear sort of — a code of conduct, for example." Full story

    What else we're reading...

    — "Will Three Billboards get swept to victory on a wave of righteous anger or drown in its backlash?" A.A. Down writes: "Three Billboards is this year’s Birdman or La La Land: a critical darling whose strong Oscar prospects have amplified the ire of its very vocal detractors." [A.V. Club]

    — "Is it time for the Oscars to get rid of the Best Director category?" David Ehrlich writes: "If Greta Gerwig can't even get a Golden Globe nomination for directing Lady Bird then what the hell are we even doing here?" [IndieWire]

    — "Disney could use an outlet for prestige TV. Enter FX." Todd VanDerWerff writes: "The Disney-Fox deal could result in FX becoming Disney’s answer to HBO. Maybe." [Vox]

    — "Michelle Williams is ready to lead." Kyle Buchanan profiles the All the Money in the World star: "Williams is an acclaimed young actress, but she is rarely given the chance to headline the blockbuster films that come so often to her contemporaries." [Vulture]

    — "How Barry Cole captured the sound of a city on Showtime's The Chi." August Brown writes: "The aesthetic decisions made by Lena Waithe, executive producer and Chicago rapper Common, director Rick Famuyiwa and Cole make it inviting even as the narrative kicks off with some unsettling crimes. The colors are warm and vibrant, and the urban grid is familiar and resilient." [L.A. Times]

    — "Fake News jeans: Travesty or sign of our era?" Vanessa Friedman connects the dots between the Top Shop jeans and "Nasty Woman" t-shirts: "While we can whine all we want about the superficiality of addressing these issues via style, none of this is going away any time soon, and it will probably get more … well, trendy." [New York Times]

    — "The other Fire and Fury: Decade-old book becomes unexpected bestseller." Ashifa Kassam writes: "A tome about allied bombing of Germany during the second world war that has the same title as Michael Wolff’s Trump exposé has received a bump in sales." [The Guardian]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Saoirse Ronan's mom skipped the Golden Globes to watch her cute new pup." [Tonight Show]

    + "Judd Apatow is a master of the neighborhood pop-in." [Late Late Show]

    + "Sarah Jessica Parker finally gets asked to prom." [Late Show]

    + "Elisabeth Moss on Handmaid's Tale rape scenes: 'She would probably try not to be there." [THR]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Richard Jenkins." Marc Maron interviews the great character actor. [WTF With Marc Maron]

    + "Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal on the beauty of self-discipline." Todd VanDerWerff interviews the producer on his past (and future) work. [I Think You're Interesting / Vox]

    + "Digital media companies are headed for a crash." Peter Kafka interviews Hearst Magazines president David Carey. [Recode Media]

    Today's Birthdays: Amanda Peet, 46, Mary J. Blige, 47, Naomi Judd, 72.