What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:11 AM 1/17/2018

by Ray Rahman

Grey's Anatomy Still Ellen Pompeo - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of ABC

What's news: Ellen Pompeo reveals all about her journey to become TV's highest paid actress on a primetime drama. Plus: Facebook and YouTube update their content strategies, Ann Curry opens up about Matt Lauer and a complete preview of the post-Weinstein Sundance Festival. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Ellen Pompeo, TV's $20 million woman. The Grey's Anatomy star recalls the personal struggles and advice from Shonda Rhimes that led to a milestone, Lacey Rose writes:

In late 2017, Pompeo signed a new deal that will make her dramatic television's highest-earning actress. The expansive pact covers the current Grey's  season and a 15th and 16th after that. Pompeo credits her boss and mentor — who recently signed a nine-figure deal of her own at Netflix — with empowering her to overcome any doubts she may have about her own worth and to demand the best possible deal.

Actors typically hate discussing their paychecks in the press, but Pompeo, a married mother of three, has chosen to do so with THR now in the hope of setting an example for others as women in Hollywood seize a new moment of empowerment and opportunity. Full cover story.

+ New: "I'm a Paul Haggis sex assault accuser, and I'm anonymous. Here's why." One of three women detailing sexual misconduct claims against the Crash screenwriter explains the timing of speaking out, why Leah Remini is "shameful" and what it means that she isn't using her name. Full guest column.

Hollywood's pay gap... 

+ Why the pay gap for women of color is wider: Persistent perceptions that there's less of an audience for stories featuring people of color — that "black projects" don't play overseas, and Asian- and other minority-led projects don't perform domestically — contribute to sustained lowballing. Read more.

+ The hard truth about Hollywood's pay gap: optics vs. reality. Rallying cries aside, it's not only misogyny that is responsible for Hollywood's salary disparity — it's greed. But talent reps are "abso-f—ing-lutely" using the new optics to female clients' advantage. Report.

  • Sundance 2018 Preview

    Sundance in the Post-Weinstein Age: Harvey's gone — and with him, the formerly freewheeling party scene as insiders hope a more sober and serious festival won't throw cold water on last year's hot sales market, writes Tatiana Siegel:

    The indie film world continues to soul search in the wake of revelations that its most visible figure allegedly raped and sexually harassed women at the festival itself. Weinstein's football-viewing party on the fest's first Sunday was always a must for sellers and talent; he presided over it like the Mayor of Park City — which, at least for 10 days in January, he essentially was.

    This year, gone the way of the disgraced mogul will be the bacchanalian behavior of fests as recent as 2014's, when jury president Bryan Singer seemed to spend more time on Grindr than at screenings, or 2013's, when CAA party guests were shocked to see female burlesque dancers performing simulated sex acts. "I don't think you'll see those massive parties that we all remember from 10, 15 years ago," says Verve's Amy Beecroft. "People are much more aware, which, let's face it, obviously needed to happen." Full story.

    + The Sundance hot list: A "f—ed up" thriller, spies and Shakespeare are among the topics in the 17 market titles poised to make waves in Park City. See the list.

    + 5 breakout stars: Valter Skarsgard, the younger brother of Alexander and Bill Skarsgard, and The Deuce star Dominique Fishback are among the fresh faces winning pre-festival buzz. See them all.

    + Respect Rally: Jane Fonda, Gloria Allred and Common will honor the one-year anniversary of the National Women's March with a rally this Saturday in Park City.

    + Francis Ford Coppola winery renews partnership: The family winery will have a strong presence at the Sundance Film Festival this year with a lounge space. Read more.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Matt Damon apologizes: “I really wish I'd listened a lot more before I weighed in on this,” Damon said on the Today show yesterday, referring to his much-panned remarks about the "spectrum" of sexual misconduct. “I don’t want to further anybody’s pain with anything that I do or say. So for that I am really sorry.” He added: "I should get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while."

    ? Dylan Farrow on Woody Allen: "Why shouldn't I want to bring him down?" In a sitdown with CBS set to air on Thursday, Farrow speaks out in her first televised interview about the sexual abuse allegations she has leveled against her famous father: "Why shouldn't I be angry? Why shouldn't I be hurt? Why shouldn't I feel some sort of outrage that after all these years, being ignored and disbelieved and tossed aside?"

    + Baldwin defends Allen: "Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed," Alec Baldwin tweeted. "The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me. I worked with WA 3 times and it was one of the privileges of my career."

    ? Star Wars in China: Why it's not working. "A large part of Star Wars' struggles in China stem from the fact that the original three films never received a wide release in the country," Patrick Brzeski writes. "How Disney has chosen to address this unfamiliarity is perhaps even more relevant than the original unfamiliarity itself, insiders say." Read more.

    + Solo intel: The Han Solo standalone film will feature the backstory to how he and Chewbacca first met, a new Disney press kit reveals — marking a first for the official Star Wars canon. 

    ? Film and TV jobs increase, says MPAA: The U.S. film and television industry supports 2.1 million jobs (up from 2 million year-over-year), with total wages paid out rising $4 billion to reach a total of $139 billion, the trade group announced. On top of that: Higher salaries than the national average and big impacts on local businesses. Read more.

    ? MoviePass hires first-ever chief marketing officer. In a sign of the company's big ambitions, MoviePass has hired Natasha Mulla, formerly senior vp marketing at Mashable, to be their first marketing chief. 

    ^12 Strong, reviewed: "The script by Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town) is tight and elemental," writes Todd McCarthy, "full of orders, logistics and a full complement of good ol' boy cracks." The takeaway: "Jerry Bruckheimer has achieved the impossible: a feel-good movie about the war in Afghanistan." Full review.

    ? D.C.'s Flash solo movie finds its directors: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the screenwriting duo behind Sony and Marvel's Spider-Man: Homecoming, are in talks to direct Warner Bros.' Flash: Flashpoint movie, with Ezra Miller reprising his Justice League role.

    + The duo's previous directorial works: 2015's National Lampoon reboot Vacation and next month's Game Night, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. 

    ? Mary Elizabeth Winstead to star opposite Will Smith in Gemini Man. Winstead beat out Tatiana Maslany for the role in the Ang Lee action thriller. Clive Owen is currently in talks to play one of the movie's villains. 

    ? Finn Wolfhard joins The Goldfinch. The Stranger Things star is just the latest of many names announced for the film; the cast also includes lead Ansel Elgort as well as Sarah Paulson, Jeffrey Wright and Luke Wilson. 

    ? Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lungdren reunite: The action stars will work together for the fifth time on the thriller Black Water, which has been picked up by Saban Films. 

    ? Maze Runner actor Aml Ameen sets directorial debut: The actor will helm A Night Worth Living, a coming-of-age drama (The Breakfast Club is named as an influence) from QC Entertainment, one of the companies behind Get Out

    ? STX shake-up: President Sophie Watts is stepping down, but she'll continue to be a significant STX shareholder and will act as an advisor to the company. All divisions previously reporting to Watts will now report directly to CEO Robert Simonds or to COO Thomas B. McGrath.

    + Jason Statham developing action with STX: The actor will produce and star in the project, which is expected to be set up as an official China co-production. Details of the film's story and concept are still under development.

    ? Horror master John Carpenter is not dead. He promises

  • YouTube, Facebook Status Updates

    Coming under fire after the Logan Paul controversy, YouTube unveiled its plan to vet content and channel partners, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    The Google-owned company is targeting problems at multiple levels within its platform, starting with its homegrown stars.  Beginning Tuesday, YouTube is tightening its control over who can join the Partner Program; new creators applying will need to accrue at least 4,000 hours of watch time within the last 12 months and have at least 1,000 subscribers. Existing channels will become subject to the same new set of Partner Program requirements on Feb. 20. Full YouTube update.

    Facebook Watch: "We're not going to win with prestige dramas." Creative chief Ricky Van Veen gets in bed with Blumhouse and explains why it made sense to license Lithuanian basketball, writes Michael O'Connell:

    Basketball reality show Ball in the Family has been the breakout thus far. The show, lead by Lavar Ball, is among the most popular on the platform, and its fan base also inspired Facebook to secure the U.S. rights to Lithuanian basketball. "Yes, it's core to our strategy," said Van Veen.

    + New series: The platform announced Sacred Lies (working title), a thriller from Blumhouse Television and writers Raelle Tucker and Scott Winant; Face the Wild, from Bear Grylls and Electus; and Fly Guys, a stuntman series. Full Facebook update. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? The Aziz Ansari question, continued: The debate about the claims made against Ansari raged on another day, with a lot of the conversation now revolving around how the story itself was handled (as well as its content and its impact).

    + Ansari debate: "Babe, what are you doing?" by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd at Jezebel; "Aziz Ansari and the paradox of no" by Megan Garber at The Atlantic; and "Aziz Ansari, Cat Person, and the #MeToo Backlash" by Anna Silman at The Cut.

    ? Ann Curry talks Matt Lauer: "I can tell you that I’m not surprised by the allegations," the former Today co-host said on CBS This Morning. "I’m trying not to hurt people. I know what it’s like to be publicly humiliated ... But I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed."

    ? Today executive producer steps down: Don Nash, a 23-year NBC veteran who has executive produced Today since 2012, will step down from the position, with Libby Leist serving as his replacement, according to an internal memo from NBC News chairman Andy Lack. Leist becomes the first female to exec produce the show's early hours.

    ? #MeToo series comes to PBS: The public broadcaster has ordered a new five-part series #MeToo, Now What? debuting Feb. 2. The half-hour show will explore the topic at the forefront of the national conversation: the culture’s sexual harassment awakening.

    ? Fox News to air seven-part series about Bill Clinton's impeachment. The network announced a seven-part documentary series called Scandalous that will spotlight the events that led to the former president's impeachment in 1998. The show, which will consist of weekly hourlong episodes narrated by actor Bruce McGill, begins Jan. 21.

    + Trump watch: Will the president, ever intrigued by the Clintons, live-tweet along? 

    + The other Fox News news: Did the network spike the Trump-Stormy Daniels payout story before the election? Yes, according to a new CNN report. 

    ^How HBO's Big Little Lies' stars leveraged Apple for big paydays. Lesley Goldberg writes:

    HBO had to ink entirely new deals with the cast for a second season. The option to do more was not in anyone's contracts since part of the appeal for top stars to do TV is the limited nature of a show. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, say sources, received between $250,000 and $350,000 an episode for season one, plus exec producer fees and points off the backend. 

    Those numbers skyrocketed for season two not only because of the show's success, but also because of the precedent of a massive payday Witherspoon recently scored from Apple. Sources say the duo is now getting in the $1 million-an-episode ballpark for season two, as well as points off the show's backend and EP fees. More details.

    ? J.J. Abrams is shopping a TV space drama script. The untitled drama would be the first show he wrote and created since Fringe. Sources say Apple and HBO (where Abrams serves as an EP on Westworld) are both in the running, with producers Warner Bros. Television also open to additional bidders.

    + The plot: A family —  a scientist mother, her husband and their young daughter — gets into a car crash. After the mother winds up in a coma, the daughter digs through her experiments in the basement and winds up transporting to another world amid a battle against a monstrous, oppressive force. 

    ? Fox hands Ryan Murphy's 911 early season 2 pickup. The renewed show has only aired 2 episodes so far, but it's been a standout performer so far when delayed viewing is factored in. 

    ? Amazon signs deal with Sharon Horgan: Amazon has signed its Emmy-nominated Catastrophe creator and star to a two-year overall deal.

    Shannara Chronicles gets axed: The genre drama, whose first season aired on MTV before moving to the soon-to-be-defunct Spike, will not find life at the new Paramount Network, which passed on a third season.

    ? HBO picks up The Price of Everything: The documentary from Nathaniel Kahn takes a deep dive into the art world and includes interviews with the likes of Jeff Koons and Gerard Richter.  

  • Masters on #MeToo

    Media missteps in the #MeToo age: Why "no comment" is no longer an option. High-profile flubs from stars like Greta Gerwig and Matt Damon are creating complex, nuanced new rules for what to say (and not say) on the red carpet and beyond, writes Kim Masters:

    When Greta Gerwig made her way into the press room after winning a Golden Globe for Lady Bird, her victory lap was interrupted by a difficult but predictable question: Did she regret having worked with Woody Allen in the 2012 movie To Rome With Love? Gerwig wasn't ready for the question.

    Her fumble — she felt compelled to do a follow-up interview with The New York Times the next day in which she said, "I will not work for [Allen] again" — is another sign of Hollywood's new reality. For those who have been associated with alleged perpetrators — and even those who haven't — evading questions about sexual misconduct and the Time's Up movement no longer is possible.

    "Everyone should presume that every time they stand in front of a camera, microphone or iPhone, this is going to be asked about, and they should have a concise and thoughtful response," says Terry Press, pres­ident of CBS Films. Press adds that any publicist who doesn't explain this reality and plan for possible questions is providing "very poor client service." Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "In a competitive year for Best Actress, Aubrey Plaza dangles Oscar bait from outside the box." Jesse Hassenger makes the case for the Ingrid Goes West star getting a nomination. [AV Club]

    — "How Darren Criss became Versace's killer (and why he keeps playing gay)." Kevin Fallon talks to the actor about "leaving Glee behind for darker roles, that Instagram thirst trap, and being a straight actor who consistently plays gay characters." [Daily Beast]

    — "Why the weight-loss industry is starting to use more male celebs as spokespeople." T.L. Stanley writes: "By putting men front and center, brands may be trying to target more males in an industry that’s spoken primarily to women, but it also shows 'we’re all in this together.'" [Adweek]

    — "The oral history of Breaking Bad." Emma Dibdin gets Vince Gillian, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and more to reflect on the revolutionary series. [Esquire]

    — "The enduring miracle of Tyra Banks on America's Next Top Model." Eren Orbey writes: "The miracle of Banks’s decade-and-a-half-long tenure as the show's host is that she has managed, season after season, to extract some semblance of wisdom from entertainment that might otherwise appear (especially in light of recent allegations of abuse in the fashion industry) merely exploitative." [The New Yorker]

    — "Is this the golden age of drag? Yes. And no." Issac Oliver writes: "RuPaul’s Drag Race has made stars of its contestants, catapulting many into full-fledged careers. But for some who have yet to catch this wave, drag is still an uncertain labor of love." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Kristen Bell on being first SAG Awards host." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Daniel Kaluuya: Get Out shows how white people say weird stuff." [Late Show]

    + "Carrie Brownstein is a proud member of Bachelor Nation." [Tonight Show

    + "Ellen Pompeo talks motherhood, Grey's Anatomy and more." [THR]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "The Crown creator Peter Morgan." The man behind Netflix's royal drama sits down for a lengthy interview. [Fresh Air / NPR]

    + "In streaming, one Goliath creates many Davids." Synopsis: "Spotify is threatening to become a category killer, and with that comes problems." [Popcast / New York Times]

    + "The Last Jedi with Noah Segan." Segan discusses his minor role as an X-wing fighter in the Star Wars film. [I Was There Too / Earwolf]

    Today's Birthdays: Kelly Marie Tran, 29, Zooey Deschanel, 38, Lil John, 47, Kid Rock, 47, Joshua Malina, 52, Michelle Obama, 54, Jim Carrey, 56, Steve Harvey, 61, Maury Povich, 79, James Earl Jones, 87, Betty White, 96.