What Matters in Hollywood Today

9:01 AM 1/24/2018

by Ray Rahman

Disney CEO Robert Iger 2013 - Getty - H 2017
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

What's news: TV writers are anonymously filling out a Google Doc with their salaries. Plus: Disney showers its employees with bonuses, the major networks make some high-profile pilot gains and Netflix might land the next Cloverfield movie. — Ray Rahman

[Note: To receive this Today in Entertainment newsletter by email each weekday, click here.]

  • Disney Bonuses

    Disney employees just got a welcome surprise — unless you were just hired. Paul Bond writes:

    Just over a month after Disney's $52.4 billion deal to acquire much of 21st Century Fox's assets was announced, Disney CEO Bob Iger is offering 125,000 employees a one-time cash bonus of $1,000 and pledging millions of dollars more to an education initiative.

    The conglomerate said Tuesday it will pay the $1,000 bonuses to all full- and part-time non-executive, non-union employees in two installments: one in March and another in September. Distribution plans for union employees are still to be worked out.

    To be eligible, an employee needs to have been on the job just three weeks — hired no later than Jan. 1. Read more.

    + Iger's letter to employees cites lower taxes, not the merger, as the reason for the abrupt generosity. "Dear fellow employee," the letter reads, "as a result of the recently enacted tax reform, I am pleased to announce two new initiatives for our U.S.-based employees."

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? NBCUniversal's film division boosts Comcast's bottom line: Comcast on Wednesday reported its fourth-quarter financials, announcing a higher profit at its entertainment arm NBCUniversal — including a record profit for its film unit for the full year of 2017.

    ? Netflix in talks to acquire Cloverfield sequel God Particle from Paramount. Sources say it is unclear if a deal will be made, but the culling of Paramount’s release slate is being spearheaded by chairman Jim Gianopulos, who took the reins last spring. “He sat down and looked at what is theatrical, and what is not in this day and age,” says one source.

    ? The Final Draft awards: The screenwriting software's annual awards ceremony announced that it will fete The Post screenwriter Liz Hannah, who didn't make the Oscar cut yesterday, with a New Voice Award on Feb. 8. Former WGA West chief Howard Rodman will be given a Hall of Fame Award. 

    ? Isabelle Huppert addresses France's #MeToo backlash: "Just because we have different opinions in France, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t in solidarity with the movement," she said. "But it’s important that all voices be heard, that there’s not too much overzealousness on either side."

    ? Armando Iannucci's latest film banned in Russia: Russia's culture ministry withdrew the exhibition license of the Veep creator's Cold War satire The Death of Stalin after complaints that it "distorted historic events" and "made fun of Soviet symbols." Said one Russian actress: "I've never seen anything more despicable."

    ^ How to make Peter Rabbit work on the big screen: James Corden, Rose Byrne and writer-director Will Gluck reveal how they blended live-action, CG animation and watercolor sequences for the adaptation: “It was like stepping back into childhood and using your imagination at full force," says Byrne. Full story.

    ? Anne Hathaway's Barbie movie moves to 2020: Sony is moving its long-in-the-works, fish-out-of-water take to May 8, 2020 — well after its original Aug. 8, 2018, release date. The script will receive more work in the meantime.

    ? Sundance: Neon and Russo Brothers' AGBO team to buy Assassination Nation: Curiosity surrounding the film from Sam Levinson was off the charts heading into the festival, with buyers calling the script "polarizing" and "fucked up."

    + The film follows four teenage girls in a quiet suburb who become the focus of unwanted worldwide media attention after their personal information is leaked by an anonymous hacker. Given the Donald Trump references and over-the-top violence, the film is bound to stoke controversy upon its release.

    ? Cate Blanchett as Melania Trump?: The actress playfully raised the proposition at Davos, Switzerland, yesterday: "If I was playing Melania Trump — not that I would be probably cast in that role — I wouldn't be necessarily coming from the place of 'Free Melania,' I'd be trying to understand the situation."

  • TV Writers Unite

    A shareable Google doc asking writers and assistants to share their wages is being passed around town, writes Lesley Goldberg:

    Days after Grey's Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo spoke about her years-long struggle to earn the same pay as former lead Patrick Dempsey, TV writers are looking for a way in which they, too, can achieve salary parity.

    On Tuesday, a Google document asking those writers along with assistants to share their salaries in a bid to "achieve parity" was passed around the industry. The survey, which does not offer any clues as to who created it, has already had multiple staff writers and assistants contribute their wages — all anonymously. Full story.

    + How it works: Writers are asked for their gender and if they are a person of color as well as to provide the name of th enetwork and studio they work for on top of their per-episode quotes. 

    + What's revealed so far: A female person of color working as a co-producer on a CW show produced by CBS Television Studios said she earns $10,000 per episode, while a white woman working on a CW show also produced by CBS Television Studios — in its first season — wrote that she is earning $14,000 per episode (of a 13-episode show). Another woman of color working on a Freeform Marvel show said she was getting $15,000 an episode.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Funny or Die cuts jobs: Citing a "tough" media climate, CEO Mike Farah announced the cuts in a memo sent to staff Tuesday. The company didn't disclose how many employees were impacted. 

    ? Fall TV trend? Immigrant stories may be in vogue this fall season, reports Vulture, which points at Freeform's Party of Five reboot and a slew of pilot projects as examples. “It’s such a present issue,” Party of Five producer Amy Lippman says. "All these show creators are feeling that same incredibly rich source of storytelling.”

    ^Waco, reviewed: "Definitely the stars are the reason to check out Waco," writes Daniel Fienberg. "With Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon leading the way, the shows boasts an ensemble worth building a cult around and a historical perspective that had me tearing my hair out." Full review.

    ? NBC's comedy orders — Mike Schur, Sean Hayes and more: Here are NBC's four multicam comedy pilot orders: Abby's, from Schur, revolves around an unlicensed bar in San Diego where the regulars enforce a unique set of rules; So Close (a rom-com) and Like Family (about sibling-like friends who grew up together in foster care), both produced by Hayes; and buddy comedy Friends-in-Law, from The McCarthys creator Brian Gallivan.

    + Has NBC found its Lost?: The network also handed a pilot order to the Robert Zemeckis-produced Manifest, described as a high-concept mystery thriller in which a plane disappears from radar and returns years later after being untraceable and presumed lost at sea.

    ? ABC picks up Get Christie Love reboot pilot: Pitch alum Kylie Bunbury takes over the titular role originally played by Teresa Graves — who, until Kerry Washington in Scandal, was the only African-American female lead in a U.S. network drama.

    ? CBS gives Greg Berlanti's God Friended Me a pilot order: The network describes the project as a humorous, uplifting drama about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is "friended" by God on Facebook.

    ?Judge Judy library sale sparks profits lawsuit: Kaye Switzer and the Sandi Spreckman Trust are suing Judy Sheindlin, Big Ticket Television and CBS, claiming they should have been paid at least $4.75 million when the court TV star sold the series library back to the network in 2017.


  • Eating L.A.

    Where Hollywood Eats: L.A.'s 20 hottest restaurants right now. Gary Baum ranks the town's buzziest dining spots for the month of January.

    1. FELIX Evan Funke, who made his name with a porchetta truck, then polished it with Culver City's short-lived if acclaimed Bucato, has taken over the longtime Joe's in Venice. The exactingly handmade pastas are the kitchen's focus, drawing a fizzy crowd with a zeal last seen when Gjelina opened up the street nearly a decade ago. A not-so-secret stunner is the focaccia siciliana with sea salt and rosemary. See the full list.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Can Hollywood fix its harassment problem while celebrating itself?" Amanda Hess writes: "As allegations of sexual exploitations pile up, the industry has absorbed the critiques and converted them into inspirational messaging and branding exercises." [New York Times]

    — "Ursula K. Le Guin, the spiritual mother of generations of writers." John Scalzi pays tribute to the beloved science fiction writer, who passed away yesterday at the age of 88. [Los Angeles Times

    — "Sundance: #MeToo and Time's Up conversations dominate." Kate Erbland writes: "Outspoken advocates are eager to talk about the movements at the festival, but everyone seems focused elsewhere: the future." [IndieWire]

    — "Erykah Badu, in conversation." David Marchese talks to the R&B star about "Jedi mind tricks, how millennials hear music, and not taking rappers to the sunken place." [Vulture]

    — "Phantom Thread is the best food movie in ages." Helen Rosner makes the case: "Even before that breakfast where Reynolds first meets Alma, we learn that the exacting, impatient designer is used to exercising his will on the people around him through food." [New Yorker]

    — "Star Wars: Episode IX can fill Leia’s absence by embracing its forgotten queen." Caroline Siede makes the case to "call back a character who’s thus far been notably absent from the continued Star Wars mythos: Padme Amidala." [AV Club]

    — "SZA almost quit music. Now she's a Grammys contender." Reggie Ugwu writes: "In an industry where the youngest stars radiate the most heat, SZA was a relatively late bloomer." [New York Times]

    — "Business cards aren't dead, they're just getting weirder." Sue Shellenbarger writes: "A subset of creative networkers insist on oddball cards with unusual shapes and materials to stand out with potential clients." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "L.A. journalism’s ‘Prince of Darkness.'" Lyz Lenz writes: "Getting to know Lewis D’Vorkin isn’t that easy, and neither is making sense of what exactly he has planned for the LA Times." [CJR]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "With no big Oscar snubs, who are we mad at?" [Late Show]

    + "Jimmy Kimmel on 2018 Oscar nominations." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Michael Che and Colin Jost review their rejected SNL sketches." [Late Night]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Paul Thomas Anderson: Interview." The director sits down with Terry Gross. [Fresh Air / NPR]

    + "Explaining the 2018 Oscar nominations." The VF crew breaks it all down. [Little Gold Men / Vanity Fair]

    + "Academy Award nominations." Film critics dive into how a broader Academy resulted in more diverse nominees. [The Frame / KPCC]

    Today's Birthdays: Mischa Barton, 32, Carrie Coon, 37, Kristen Schaal, 40, Ed Helms, 44, Matthew Lillard, 48, Mary Lou Retton, 50, Neil Diamond, 77.