What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:40 AM 1/25/2018

by Ray Rahman

Lupita Nyong'o - Photographed by Miller Mobley - H 2018
Photographed by Miller Mobley

What's news: Will Shari Redstone's merger plan work? Plus: the hard math behind MoviePass, Today might have a Megyn Kelly problem brewing and Lupita Nyong'o covers our new issue. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Lupita Nyong’o has an Oscar, beauty mega-deals and, with Black Panther, two Disney franchises. She opens up to Stephen Galloway about her globe-trotting childhood, lingering insecurities and why she went public on Weinstein:

On her Harvey Weinstein op-ed: “I felt uncomfortable in my silence, and I wanted to liberate myself from it and contribute to the discussion,” she says. “That was just what I felt I needed to do, quite viscerally. I couldn’t sleep. I needed to get it out.”

Over several days, she wrote and wrote, alone with her computer, then showed what she had crafted to her mother. “I had to talk to her about it because it was something that we hadn’t talked about. She was really moved and very supportive.”

Addressing colorism in her new children's book Sulwe: “Sulwe is a young Kenyan girl who, though her name means star [in Luo], her skin is the color of midnight. And she’s uncomfortable because she’s the darkest in her family and goes about trying to change that, then she has this adventure that leads her to accept herself.” The book came out of a 2013 speech Nyong’o gave “about my journey to accepting myself and seeing beauty in my complexion.”

A family in exile: "I remember staying at home with the curtains drawn," Nyong'o says of her childhood in Kenya. "And my father [a longtime dissident who was detained] had all these papers he had written, and we were burning them. I was 4."

Black Panther: “Marvel called and said that Ryan [Coogler] was interested in me for a role in Panther, and I talked to him about it, and obviously everything was hush-hush, but he walked me through his initial ideas, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute? This is a Marvel movie?’"

Star Wars return? "I don't know yet," she says of reprising her role as Maz Kanata in Episode IX. "I'll know soon." 

President Nyong'o? Not so fast: "I had to share my father with politics for so long," she says, casting doubt on any future political ambitions. "I don’t ever want to be president — let’s just get that out of the way." Full cover story.

  • MoviePass Math

    How long can MoviePass keep burning cash? Paul Bond writes:

    Those predicting the company would be crushed under the weight of its own "buy all the movie theater tickets you want for $9.95 a month" business model may be disappointed so far. While the company said that it would boast 3 million subscriptions by August, CEO Mitch Lowe says he expects to hit that mark by the end of April.

    Lowe concedes that MoviePass is losing money (he won't say how much), yet he predicts profits by the time it hits 4 million subs. "It's a very strong offering if they can structure the business so that they're not constantly needing to raise cash," says one analyst. Full story.

    + MoviePass at Sundance: The company broke new ground by partnering with The Orchard to acquire North American rights to Bart Layton's heist pic American Animals, following through on MoviePass' promise to "put skin in the game."

    Elsewhere in film ...

    ? Box office preview: Maze Runner: The Death Cure, the third installment in the YA franchise, is poised to top the weekend as it heads toward a $20 million or more debut. Meanwhile, Scott Cooper's gritty Western Hostiles, starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike, rides into wide release hoping to garner $10 million, but it'll be going up against a potential Oscar-race uptick in interest for films like The Post and The Shape of Water. Read more.

    ? Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain team up for higher salaries: “I love that woman because she’s walking the walk and she’s actually talking the talk," Spencer said at a Sundance panel. "She said, 'You and I are gonna be tied together. We’re gonna be favored nations, and we’re gonna make the same thing, you are going to make that amount.’ Fast-forward to last week, we’re making five times what we asked for.”

    ? Academy Museum COO steps down. Rich Cherry has resigned after just one year in the position. The museum was supposed to be finished by 2017, but its planned opening has since been delayed until early 2019.

    ? Sundance deals: Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media picked up worldwide rights to the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc RBG; CNN Films retains U.S. broadcast rights ... Lionsgate nabbed worldwide rights to the gentrification-tinged buddy comedy Blindspotting, starring Daveed Diggs ... Neon picked up North American rights to the buzzed-about stranger-than-ficiton doc Three Identical Strangers ... The Nick Offerman music movie Hearts Beat Loud was acquired by Gunpowder & Sky.

    +  Sundance market: Fewer big deals as buyers get cautious. The market got undeniably slower this year with the absence of Netflix and Amazon snapping up titles. Says one insider, "There's a thoughtful and measured approach to the acquisitions due to the evolving competition for audience attention." Read more.

    ^Is the Time's Up movement impacting the Oscar race? Nominees Emily V. Gordon and Joe Wright weigh in: "Maybe in the past, we thought of these movies as just entertainment," Gordon says, "but now we're realizing everything is connected." Read more.

    + Emily V. Gordon takes on The Nest: Fresh off her Oscar nomination for The Big Sick, Gordon has been tapped to pen Amazon Studios' feature adaptation of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's best-selling novel The Nest, with Transparent creator Jill Soloway producing via her Topple banner.

    ? Cat in the Hat, again: The Warner Bros. animation division is producing a series of films based on Dr. Seuss characters and stories, starting with a fully animated Cat in the Hat project. The search for a writer will begin soon.

    ? TriStar wins the Zendaya-starring A White Lie: The Sony-based label beat out multiple buyers to land the film based on the true story of Anita Hemmings (Zendaya), who passed as white to become Vassar's first black student. Reese Witherspoon will produce through her Hello Sunshine banner.

    ? Shailene Woodley's Adrift gets a release date: The intense survival film will open June 1, just one week after Solo: A Star Wars Story's sure-to-be-noisy Memorial Day weekend release.

    ? Margot Robbie thriller: RLJE Films picked up U.S. rights to Terminal, a noir starring Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers and Max Irons. The movie's slated for a spring 2018 release.

    ? Black-ish breakout Marsai Martin to star in Little: In fact, the 13-year-old actress came up with the idea for the script — in which a woman gets the chance to relive the carefree life as her younger self (Martin) when the pressures of adulthood become too much — herself. Girls Trip duo Will Packer and James Lopez will produce alongside Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.

    ? Cheryl Hines' next feature: The Curb Your Enthusiasm actress will direct Revenge Wedding, a comedy from CBS Films; Suzanne Todd (Bad Moms, A Bad Moms Christmas) will produce.

  • Shari's Plan

    Shari Redstone's Viacom-CBS merger plans take shape, but the mogul faces a delicate negotiation with Les Moonves, who wants to be at the helm of the united company. Kim Masters writes:

    Whether Redstone truly is prepared to part ways with Moonves, considered by many to be the best creative executive in the business, is not yet clear. For now, there has been some effort to pour oil on the roiling waters as sources close to both Redstone and Moonves are letting it be known that the two had a splendid time together at the Jan. 21 AFC title game.

    There is much to be worked out before a lasting peace can be declared, but what no one doubts is the urgency of merging CBS and Viacom. What was anxiety-producing when AT&T offered to buy Time Warner in October 2016 became outright terrifying after December's Disney-Fox deal. "Scale" has become a watchword for Redstone, and observers say even a recombined CBS-Viacom might not be big enough to compete. Full story.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    ? Are Megyn Kelly's antics costing Today star bookings? Multiple talent reps say the "Hanoi Jane" remarks Kelly directed at Jane Fonda have made them reconsider booking clients on Megyn Kelly Today. "Actors don't trust her," says one publicist. Full story.

    ? BuzzFeed shake-up: BuzzFeed is overhauling its entertainment group and shifting the division’s top exec, Ze Frank, into a more creative role. The moves are part of a larger company-wide reorganization that began late last year to diversify the digital publisher’s businesses.

    + New strategy: CEO Jonah Peretti is also evaluating the company’s overall video efforts, saying it plans to experiment less with midform content that feels “stuck in the middle” of traditional-length projects and true, shortform social videos.

    ? Jeffrey Katzenberg taps Meg Whitman to lead mobile video venture. The former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO will serve as CEO of NewTV, which will look to develop shortform video series for mobile devices. The idea: to create a new type of serialized, mobile-first content. Says Whitman: "I share Jeffrey's vision that top-quality programming tailored to our mobile lifestyles is the next big touchpoint in entertainment."

    ? Time's Up at the Grammys: Halsey, Rapsody, Kelly Clarkson and other music industry figures will wear white roses to show solidarity with the #TimesUp movement at the Grammys this Sunday.

    ^Critic's notebook: The mysterious, intriguing future of Hulu, post Disney-Fox deal. "If Disney is hell bent on keeping the movie offerings on its new service more family friendly (the vast majority of Marvel movies top out at PG-13), it could make Hulu the destination for edgier, more adult offerings, along with all of the FX Networks series Disney will also acquire in the Fox deal (virtually all MA-rated), plus 20th Century Fox content from both the film and TV side," Tim Goodman writes. Read more.

    ? Meryl Streep goes to Big Little Lies. The HBO series powered almost exclusively by movie stars deigning to do television has reeled in its next big catch: Streep will join season two as Mary Louise Wright — a.k.a. the mother of Perry Wright, the abusive husband played by Alexander Skarsgard, who will apparently be in the season as well.

    ? HBO gets into the Tiffany Haddish business: The breakout comedian and actress has inked a two-year first-look deal with the network, where she'll develop new projects.

    + Haddish mania: The Girls Trip star (and recent Oscar-nominations presenter) is already slated to star in Tracy Morgan's TBS comedy The Last O.G. (debuting April), Kevin Hart's upcoming movie Night School (September).

    ? HBO gets Helen Mirren, too. The network is teaming with Europe's Sky for a four-part Catherine the Great miniseries starring Mirren and written by Nigel Williams, who previously worked with Mirren and HBO on the 2005 miniseries Elizabeth I.

    ? Murphy Brown is back: CBS is rebooting the landmark sitcom, with Candice Bergen signed on to return for all 13 episodes. Creator Diane English will return as well, serving as writer and executive producer.

    ? ABC's new pilots: For Love, described as an epic love triangle set against a grounded, secret world of magic in present-day New Orleans, and Salvage, about an ex-cop who just wants to be left alone in quiet retirement back home in rural Florida.

    ? Margaret Atwood's latest TV deal: Following The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy will also turn into a series thanks to a bidding war won by Paramount Television and Anonymous content. No network is attached yet.

    ? Billions books John Malkovich: The two-time Oscar-nominated actor joins the Showtime drama's third season in a guest arc as a Russian billionaire named Grigor Andolov.

    ? The Handmaid's Tale enlists Cherry Jones for pivotal season two role. The Emmy winner will guest-star as Holly, the feminist mother to June/Offred (Elisabeth Moss) who, up until now, has only been mentioned in passing during flashback scenes. See the first-look photo here.

    ? Darren Aronofsky's virtual reality project strikes a deal: The director's Protozoa Pictures inked a "low- to mid-seven-figure" deal with CityLights, a VR financing and distribution venture. The first episode, narrated by Jessica Chastain, debuted last weekend at Sundance; the project debuts on Oculus Rift this year before expanding to additional platforms.

    ? R.I.P., Olivia Cole. Cole, the Emmy-winning actress best known for her performances in the 1970s miniseries Backstairs at the White House and Roots, passed away on Friday at the age of 75.

    Walking Dead lawsuit: Susan Bernecker, the mother of a stuntman who fell to his death on the show's set, has filed a wrongful death suit against AMC and other parties, saying unreasonably low budgets led to inadequate safety precautions.

  • Hollywood Mobilizes

    The industry bands together to rebuild Montecito after the mudslides as residents from Oprah to Rob Lowe mourn their neighbors and raise funds for recovery — even as a lawsuit brews. Peter Kiefer writes:

    Montecito Now currently has about a dozen local backers, but organizers expect it to grow substantially, according to writer-producer Gwyn Lurie, who chairs the Montecito school board and is serving as spokesperson for the effort. "The plan is to not wait for a bureaucratic response. The subheading here is: Paradise not lost," says Lurie.

    "I don't think people grasp the enormity of it," says WME's Rick Rosen. "You watch images of tornadoes in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — you never think anything like that could happen in Santa Barbara," he says. "It's just crazy and shows no one is immune to these things, regardless of your socioeconomic standing." Full story.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "A superhero movie got a screenplay nomination: Glitch or game-changer?" Glen Weldon writes: "It feels significant that a film in a genre that currently dominates the box office — a genre that attracts vocal detractors both because of and in spite of its omnipresence — should get recognized for the strength of its story." [NPR]

    — "Carrie Brownstein is redefining ambition." Anna Silman talks to the Portlandia co-creator about #MeToo, directing a rom-com and more Sleater-Kinney music. [The Cut]

    — "Workplace romances on TV: Why #MeToo doesn't change things for shows like The X-Files and Grey's Anatomy." Liz Shannon Miller writes: "The office is a complicated place to find love, but the love stories we've enjoyed for decades have no resemblance to actual stories of abuse and harassment." [IndieWire]

    — "Jennifer Fox's drama The Tale brings #MeToo to Sundance." Amy Kaufman writes: "After its premiere, the crowd rose to its feet as the filmmaker and her cast took to the stage, actor Jason Ritter even beginning to cry." [L.A. Times]

    — "Grown-ish quietly champions modest dressing." Nadra Nittle analyzes the Freeform comedy's wardrobe choices. [Racked]

    — "Mark E Smith – the final interview: 'I can clear a pub when I want.'" The thorny frontman of influential post-punk band the Fall passed away at the age 60." [The Guardian]

    — "Graydon Carter recalls his fondest memories (and tricks of the trade) from 25 years atop Vanity Fair." His final editor's letter. [Vanity Fair]

    What else we're seeing ...

    + "Jimmy Kimmel & Lisa Kudrow on The Boss Baby." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Finally, the truth behind Willem Dafoe's last name." [Late Show]

    + "We need to talk about Stephen Miller." [Full Frontal]

    + "Lupita Nyong'o talks Black Panther stunts, Michael B. Jordan, drama school and more." [THR]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "Alexandre Desplat: Interview." The French film composer talks creating a soundscape of love in The Shape of Water. [The Treatment / KCRW]

    + "How Hans Zimmer found the music of the ocean." The Dunkirk Oscar nominee on his collaborative composing process. [I Think You're Interesting / Vox]

    + "We have a right to be mad." Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham chew on Grammy expectations, Aziz Ansari, Larry Nassar and more. [Still Processing / NYT]

    Today's birthdays: Alicia Keys, 37, Stephen Chbosky, 48, Jennifer Lewis, 61, Olivier Assayas, 63, Whit Stillman, 66.