What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:19 AM 1/31/2018

by Ray Rahman

Photograghed By Adam  Amengual

What's news: Disney holds a "day of listening" for its staff amid John Lasseter speculation. Plus: Trump's State of the Union dips in the early numbers, Jimmy Kimmel questions Stormy Daniels, Fox inks a huge new NFL deal and Kathy Griffin covers the new issue. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Can a comic in exile come back? Eight months after torching her career (and friendship with Anderson Cooper) with a not-so-funny photograph of a decapitated Donald Trump, Kathy Griffin is holed up in her Bel Air mansion, talking to the FBI, trying to figure out what happened and pondering a potential comeback: "When you're a woman, you get one fuck-up and it's over." Seth Abramovitch writes:

To get to Kathy Griffin's home, you need to pass through a series of gates. The first, an imposing barrier at the entrance to a private community in a secluded Bel Air canyon, is manned by three stone-faced guards who check your ID and glare suspiciously into your eyes before waving you in. Then you find yourself wheeling around a maze of manicured streets until you arrive at a slightly smaller gate, where you press a speaker button. Finally, you spot the redheaded comic — all 5-foot-3 and 106 pounds of her — standing at the doorway of an enormous Mediterranean-style mansion that looks like it would be right at home on a Tuscan cliff.

"Welcome to my fuck-you house," she announces. Read more.

+ Her story: "I didn't commit a crime," she says defiantly. "I didn't rape anybody. I didn't assault anybody. I didn't get a DUI. I mean, my God, there are celebrities that fucking kill people."

+ The death threats: They were being sent not just to Griffin but also to the theaters where she was scheduled to appear on our. That's when the cancellations started coming in. "I don't blame the theater owners," she says. "These are theaters that are normally playing Mamma Mia! or Stomp, and all of a sudden they're getting calls saying they're going to 'shoot her in the c— live onstage.' That was the most common threat. And that they were going to 'cut my head off and stuff it up my c—.'"

+ How she handles them: "There's a pile that we think is harmless," she explains of the FBI's system. "And a pile that's questionable. And then there's a pile that the FBI says you put in a Ziploc bag and give to them. That's my life now."

+ Her plan: She's been reaching out to anyone who might help, including J.J. Abrams — Griffin's former improv student at the Groundlings back in the mid-1980s — who met with her recently to discuss her various TV ideas. She spends her days writing, making videos, working on new stand-up material and, lately, feuding with her 60-something-year-old neighbors over their loud music playing (they're going to court Feb. 16). "I do normal stuff, like see my mom and play with my puppies, but my mind is always focused on the best way to move forward."

+ Blackballed? Netflix, a natural home with its heavy stand-up push, wants nothing to do with her. And NBCUniversal properties like Bravo, E! and NBC won't touch her, either, at least not at the moment.

  • Disney's 'Day of Listening'

    Getty Images

    On Thursday, the staff of Disney Animation Studios will gather on the lot for what the company is calling a "Day of Listening," with a handful of human resources professionals present to facilitate a discussion of workplace concerns. Kim Masters writes:

    The gathering, which Disney veterans say is unprecedented for the Burbank-based animation unit, comes as sources with ties to both Disney Animation and Pixar Animation Studios speculate that John Lasseter, who oversees both companies but has been on leave since November, will not return from what was characterized by Disney as a six-month "sabbatical." 

    One veteran says he believes the "real reason behind this day of listening is to take the temperature of staff to see how likely it is that Lasseter can come back," but he adds that many in the animation community think Lasseter's return is unlikely. "That's a stretch to put somebody back in charge of animation at such a storied brand as Disney after the revelations of his behavior," he says.

    When Pixar had such a listening event several years ago, sources say, employee complaints were aired about Lasseter's behavior generally. When Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull delivered that feedback to Lasseter, one animator says, Lasseter was so angry that he didn't speak to Catmull for more than a week. Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Paramount fires Amusement Park director over "inappropriate conduct claim": Dylan Brown, an animator on Pixar movies such as The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc., was fired from what would have been his feature directorial debut, Paramount's animated Amusement Park, starring Matthew Broderick and Mila Kunis.

    + His lawyer's response: "Mr. Brown disputes these allegations. They are defamatory, and he is considering his legal options.”

    The Greatest Showman...on Broadway? After making a stunning recovery at the box office, the P.T. Barnum musical is on its way to becoming one of North America's top-grossing musicals of all time — and now a Broadway adaptation is being considered, says Fox film chief Stacey Snider.

    Champagne from Spielberg: The director, passed over in the Oscars noms, is no sore loser — multiple sources confirm that he sent champagne and caviar to each of the five best director nominees.

    ^Netflix and Amazon learn to make their own blockbusters. "Frankly, I was confused," says one agent when Netflix and Amazon gave Sundance Festival fare the cold shoulder. Says another insider, "The streamers are continuing to push for more commercial fare and taking more control of their destinies by looking inward to develop content." Read more.

    Bill Nighy, Chris Geere join Detective Pikachu: The actors are set to co-star in the Pokemon movie that, as we all know by now, will feature Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. 

    Emily Blunt boards Disney's Jungle Cruise: She'll co-star alongside Dwayne Johnson in the feature based on the classic Disneyland ride. Blunt seems to be becoming a Disney favorite: She previously starred in Into the Woods and, of course, she's currently working on Mary Poppins Returns, due in December.

    Jim Caviezel's Jesus, resurrected: The actor is poised to reprise his role as Jesus Christ in the upcoming sequel to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Gibson will presumably produce, direct or both.

    Riverdale star Cole Sprouse will star in a romantic drama: The man known to CW viewers as Jughead is in talks to topline Five Feet Apart, about two people who fall in love while being treated for illnesses. A co-star has yet to be announced. 

    Richard Dreyfuss goes to space: He and Colm Feore will topline the indie drama Astronaut, starring Dreyfuss as a lonely widower who wins a golden ticket to space. The drama is the feature directorial debut of longtime British TV actress Shelagh McLeod.

    Czar Brandon Routh: The Arrow star will play Czar Nicholas in the live-action family film Anastasia.

    RIP, Ezra Swerdlow. A crackerjack producer and production manager who worked on such movies as The King of Comedy and The First Wives Club, Swerdlow died at the age of 64.

    RIP, Cyrus Yavneh. The Emmy-nominated producer who worked on such TV series as 24 and films including Town & Country and It's Pat: The Movie, died at the age of 76.

    ► Academy updates mailing procedures for Oscar screeners. Starting this summer, movie screeners and promo materials no longer can be directly sent to AMPAS members, but instead must go through mailing houses that the Academy will select and then furnish with contact information for members. Read more.


  • Kimmel Gets Stormy

    Hours after last night's State of the Union address, Jimmy Kimmel brought on adult film star Stormy Daniels to ask about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. Katie Kilkenny writes: 

    Stormy Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — addressed a letter sent to journalists Tuesday reiterating a claim that she had not had an affair with Donald Trump. She neither denied nor verified that she had signed an NDA that barred her from speaking about him.

    In fact, when Kimmel asked Clifford if she had signed the Tuesday letter, she got cagey. "I don't know, did I? That doesn't look like my signature, does it?" she said. When Kimmel then asked her if she had a nondisclosure agreement with Trump, Clifford similarly responded, "Do I?" 

    "If you did not have a nondisclosure agreement, you could say that you did not have a nondisclosure agreement," he replied. "You're so smart, Jimmy," she said. Watch the full interview.

    + The State of the Union, reviewed: "Speaking to cheering Republicans and glaring Democrats, the president introduced so many special guests it felt like he was pitching a new reality show," writes Frank Scheck. Full review.

    + Early ratings: A dip from 2017. Based solely off overnight broadcast returns, the address fell roughly 9 percent from the comparable one last year. The numbers: 14.8 overnight rating among households on the broadcast networks. That's between 9 and 10:30 p.m., and only counts for four of the seven major networks carrying the speech.

    + Late night's take: Stephen Colbert: "That will be a touching message for the people of Puerto Rico once they have electricity to turn on their TVs." Trevor Noah: "There were so many black women missing that Boko Haram tried to take credit for it." Read more.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Glee star Mark Salling dies at 35. The actor, who recently pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, committed suicide yesterday, according to the Los Angeles County Corner's office. He was 35. Read more.

    Andrea Tantaros claims female Fox News employees were secretly recorded disrobing. The former Fox News co-host has added new allegations in her lawsuit, including that Fox News had a closed-circuit television network that allowed its former chief Roger Ailes to monitor offices where most Fox female talent disrobed daily.

    + Details: "There was also a bi-annual trunk show in the Spring and Fall conducted by Fox’s wardrobe department...female talent was expected to disrobe down to their undergarments to try on new on-air dresses for the next season, without even the benefit of a curtain...pants were not an option."

    Vice's digital chief is out: Mike Germano was already put on leave due to accusations of improper conduct, but now he's officially left the company. Meanwhile, Vice Media president Andrew Creighton is still on leave and under investigation.

    SiriusXM to launch Howard Stern video service: On its earnings call, management said that a long-planned Stern video service would launch in the second quarter, with the company then set to follow up later in the year with more video offers. "Let me be clear: We are wading into the video pool, not diving headfirst," SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer said. Read more.

    ESPN's pivot from politics = bad news for Nate Silver. Within Disney, the acquisition of FiveThirtyEight has long been viewed as a “misstep,” one insider says. “There was zero integration,” says another. “They stayed on their island and slowly became less and less relevant.” Full story.

    ► Fox snags Thursday Night Football in massive five-year deal: The NFL and Fox Sports have agreed to a deal valued at $550M annually to broadcast Thursday Night Football beginning with the 2018 season. The agreement encompasses 11 regular-season games between weeks four and 15 (excluding Thanksgiving night, which NBC will continue to broadcast).

    Leslie Jones gets Winter Olympics gig: After getting attention for her enthusiastic support of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, the SNL star will serve as a Winter Olympics contributor for NBC, attending live events, meeting with athletes and providing online and televised coverage during the games.

    + Jim Bell: "Experiencing the Olympics through the lens of Leslie is unlike anything else," says NBC's Olympics chief. "Her passion for Team USA is contagious, and her adventures in South Korea should be fascinating." 

    Piers Morgan vs. Trevor Noah: There’s a feud simmering between the two, which began when Noah called Morgan an "unfuckable Colin Firth" on The Daily Show. Morgan's Twitter response: "I agree I’m 'not as f—able as Colin Firth.' But you’re not as funny as Jon Stewart. So we’re kinda even."

    Amazon Prime's first Super Bowl ad: The streaming service will unveil a 60-second spot for its upcoming John Krasinski-starring series Jack Ryan during Sunday's game, but you can just watch it now if you can't wait.

    ^Who will Face the Nation? CBS News correspondents are jockeying to replace John Dickerson as host of the Sunday morning show, writes Jeremy Barr.

    CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes was first up in the informal competition, hosting the show Sunday to positive reviews, while White House correspondent Margaret Brennan will take the reins for next Sunday's show.

    But a network source said the "smart money" is on Cordes or chief White House correspondent Major Garrett as Dickerson's permanent replacement. "I think the interesting choice is whether to go with a woman in a program that runs more to a male audience," a former CBS News executive said. Read more.

    ► Diane Lane, Greg Kinnear join final House of Cards season. After a Kevin Spacey-induced hiatus, production on Netflix's flagship drama resumed today with news that Lane and Kinnear will be a part of the sixth and, yes, final season of the series.

    Suits goes on: As expected, USA has officially announced the show will be back for season eight, despite the upcoming exits of Patrick J. Adams and Princess Meghan Markle (they'll wrap their runs when season seven returns March 28).

    + Promotion: To help fill the void, Dule Hill will see his recurring role upped to series regular.  

    + Adams speaks: "I started thinking about leaving at the end of the first half of season six, after Mike was released from prison," Adams tells THR. "From a story point of view, I was a little unsure of what was left for him to do." Q&A.

    The Chi renewed, but with changes: Showtime has given the Lena Waithe series a second season, with will Ayanna Floyd Davis (Empire, Hannibal) coming on as showrunner. She replaces Elwood Reid.

    A Superman show without Superman? The forthcoming DC Digital Service has given a 13-episode, straight-to series order to Metropolis, a live-action drama set before Superman's arrival to the city; the show will instead follow Lois Lane's and Lex Luthor's earlier exploits. The series, written by Gotham duo John Stephens and Danny Cannon, launches in 2019.

    The CW picks up six pilots — including a Roswell reboot: The network hauled in a number of shows: (1) a Roswell redo, (2) Spencer (from Greg Berlanti), (3) In the Dark (from Newsroom writer Corinne Kingsbury), (4) Skinny Dip (based on a Carl Hiaasen novel), (5) Playing Dead (a family dramedy) and (6) The End of the World as We Know It (from the iZombie team).

    Showtime cancels Andrew Dice Clay comedy: The semiautobiographical scripted comedy Dice lasted two season.

    Hulu cancels Shut Eye: The Jeffrey Donovan-starring drama lasted two seasons.

    ► WME tells its side of the Terry Crews story:  In the new court papers submitted Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the agency disputes turning a blind eye to the incident. In fact, WME boasts it acted "decisively" after the actor finally told its leadership about what happened. Read more.


  • Hot Podcasts

    iStock; Elizabeth Fischer/ABC

    TV producers can't get enough of podcasts, and now the $220 million industry is poised to significantly expand as Hollywood offers lucrative new revenue opportunities, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    Hollywood's hunger for the podcast format has only grown, with more than a dozen audio-inspired projects in various stages of development across town.

    The interest has proved such a boon that Brooklyn-based startup Gimlet Media is creating a film and television arm called Gimlet Pictures to capitalize on the momentum. "There's definitely a fervor," says Gimlet Pictures head Chris Giliberti, who will split his time between New York and L.A. " Read more.

    ^Super Bowl party guide: Where to be in Minneapolis this week? Wherever Pink and Cardi B are:

    Nomadic Live!, Friday night: Before she sings the national anthem on Sunday, P!nk will take the stage here, along with Imagine Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly ad Kelly Clarkson throughout the weekend.

    Rolling Stone Live, Friday night: Grammy-nominated group Migos will perform along with T-Pain and DJ Cassidy.

    Maxim Party, Saturday night: Maxim's annual Super Bowl soiree will see performances by Cardi B, Post Malone and Marshmello. See the full list.

    What else we're reading...

    — "A paper tears apart in a city that never quite came together." Tim Arango and Adam Nagourney write: "The turmoil at The Los Angeles Times in recent months is a reminder of the slow decline of a newspaper that had long been a cohesive force in Los Angeles civic life. " [New York Times]

    — "The great sci-fi TV boom of 2018." Alison Herman writes: "From Star Trek: Discovery to Counterpart and beyond, Peak TV has fully embraced science fiction. But what does that mean for the genre itself?" [The Ringer

    — "Inside Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop summit: Self-care, celebrity, and binaural beats." Josh Duboff writes: "Drawing a crowd with a "laser focus" and cameras at the ready for a Gwyneth sighting, the second edition of the summit made the case for lavish wellness in trying times." [Vanity Fair]

    — "Amazon, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's employee." Lauren Weber and Laura Stevens write: "Amazon plans to hire thousands of people in the area it picks as a second home from a shortlist of 20 locations. That’s worrying other companies in those areas because it could become more difficult to attract talent." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "How to come of age onscreen? Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet know." Philip Galanes take the Oscar nominees out to eat. [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Chrissy Teigen shares the mortifying way she greeted Beyoncé." [Tonight Show]

    + "The Pod Save America hosts analyze Trump's SOTU." [Late Show]

    + "Common and Chance the Rapper's grandmas were friends." [Late Night]

    + "John Legend calls out music industry harassment in #MeToo interview." [THR]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Can you balance screen time and family time?" A conversation. [On Point / WBUR]

    + "Carrie Brownstein on the final Portlandia season." Brownstein chats with Sam Sanders about working with co-star Fred Armisen, the show's satirizing of liberals, and her riot grrrl background. [It's Been a Minute / NPR]

    + "Let's eat." Movie buffs discuss the best food movies, or at least the ones that make them hungry. [Film Comment Podcast]

    Today's Birthdays: Megan Ellison, 32, Justin Timberlake, 37, Bobby Moynihan, 41, Kerry Washington, 41, Paul Scheer, 42, Portia de Rossi, 45, Minnie Driver, 48, John Lydon, 62, Jonathan Banks, 71, Jessica Walter, 77, Philip Glass, 81.

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