What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:30 AM 1/4/2018

by Ray Rahman

THR - Margot Robbie -Photographed by Miller Mobley -Splash 2018
Photographed by Miller Mobley

What's news: Michael Wolff reveals what his year inside the Trump White House was really like. Plus: Margot Robbie covers THR with Tonya Harding, Seth Meyers reveals his Golden Globes plan and Tiffany Haddish wins over the critics (and P.T. Anderson). — Ray Rahman

On the cover: Margot Robbie and Tonya Harding, a candid conversation about I, Tonya and a tumultuous life. Figure skating's most notorious character shares memories of the scandal that ended her career with the star who plays her — and reveals she's back in training.

THR: You two met for lunch before shooting. What were your first impressions?

ROBBIE I don't know if you remember, but I was saying how [the skating part] is really hard, and you said, "Do you have your skates with you? We can go to this rink, I can train you." Also, you asked how was I dealing with fame at a young age, which I thought was a very kind thing. I was like, "I can't believe she's worrying about me."

HARDING When I saw her, I was like, "Oh my God, she's so beautiful. Thank you, God!" (Laughs.) And I did not expect you to be so kind and forthcoming with me because I've had so much disrespect in my life. I don't even wish for my worst enemy to have to go through anything that I went through. Q&A.

[icon:therace] Lacey Rose profiles Robbie on the eve of the Golden Globes: An ingenue turns indie producer with I, Tonya as Robbie opens up about the downside of starring in Suicide Squad ("Now you have to be able to afford security") and maps out a plan for career longevity: "I don't want to burn hard and fast and then disappear." Cover story.

  • Wolff's Trump Year

    Author and THR columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration while reporting what turned into his new book Fire and Fury, excerpts of which are currently roiling the White House. In a new column, Wolff writes about his insane year inside Trump World:

    The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn's abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.

    The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Full column.

    + The Trump Network that almost was: The book's Steve Bannon quotes might be getting all the attention, but those aren't the only interesting details. From a New York Magazine excerpt, which reveals how deeply Trump assumed believed he would lose the election: “His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.”

    + The excerpt also contains juicy tidbits from a consequential dinner at Ailes’ house and a White House lunch with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? CBS News fires political director: CNN's Brian Stelter reports that Steve Chaggaris has been let go amid allegations of "inappropriate behavior," just six weeks after CBS News axed Charlie Rose for his own behavior. 

    ? Hoda Kotb's salary: She'll be making a lot less than Matt Lauer, according to reports (not to mention Kotb herself), though it's unclear how much less. The New York Post puts it at $7 million, far below Lauer's $25 million but reportedly on par with Savannah Guthrie's current take. 

    ? Dan Harmon apologies to Megan Ganz for "treating her like garbage": There were few specifics, but the Community creator launched a long Twitter thread with his former producer Megan Ganz after publicly voicing his regret over his behavior years ago. 

    Alias Grace actor Albert Schultz accused of sexual misconduct by four actresses. Four TV actresses have brought separate lawsuits against the Canadian actor and director, alleging he sexually assaulted and harassed them while he was artistic director of Soulpepper Theater Company in Toronto.

    ^The three topics the TV press will push with execs at TCA this year: Disney's Fox acquisition, ongoing harassment fallout and big talent deals will be fixtures in the semi-annual dialogue between critics and networks,which kicks off today, Michael O'Connell writes. Read more.

    ? Epix shakeup: Original series chief Jocelyn Diaz is leaving the network as head of original programming, nearly a month after Michael Wright was named the network's new president. 

    ? Freeform's The Fosters ending after five seasons: The show will wrap with a three-night limited series finale, but there's a silver lining: a spinoff has been set to revolve around Maia Mitchell and Cierra Ramierez

    ? Octavia Spencer's big Apple deal: The actress will star in the online giant's true-crime drama Are You Sleeping from Reese Withserspoon. The series is based on a very modern story: a Kathleen Barber crime novel that glimpses into America's obsession with true crime pocasts

    ? NBC News touts Snapchat growth. Its daily show Stay Tuned "has also attracted a loyal audience, accumulating 4 million subscribers since launch, according to a source," Digiday reports. (CNN scrapped its daily show last month.)

    ? In the works: HBO'True Detective season 3 has cast Stephen Dorff as Mahershala Ali's partner ... Mira Sorvino will be a guest star on the Jan. 17 episode of ABC's Modern Family ... CBS's The Big Bang Theory has booked Walton Goggins and Beth Behrs as guest stars, both for the Jan. 18 episode. 

    CW president Mark Pedowitz gets contract extension. The exec first joined The CW in 2011, which makes him one of the longest-running broadcast chiefs on the job, second only to NBC's Robert Greenblatt. Under his watch, The CW has gone from a predominantly female channel to one with close to 50 percent male viewership. Details.

  • Director Diversity Still Dismal

    Only eight women directed a Top 100 movie in 2017, a new study finds. Meanwhile, six black and five Asian helmers made the list as well, writes Rebecca Sun:

    The good news is that three more women directed a top 100 film in 2017 compared to the year before.

    + The bad news is that just eight female helmers made the second annual Inclusion in the Director’s Chair study, published Thursday by the University of Southern California. And, following a sadly familiar pattern, none of this year's class of female top performers had directed any of the 1,000 top-grossing films in the decade prior.

    + “As we said last year, most female directors are ‘one and done’ when it comes to helming popular films, particularly women from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups,” says Dr. Stacy L. Smith, whose Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC is behind the study. Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Tiffany Haddish rocks the New York Film Critics Circle dinner: Her R-rated acceptance speech for best supporting actress was the toast of last night's event, so much so that Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread star Lesley Manville was instructed to slip her his phone number in a note. "I know everyone wants to work with you now," the note read. "May I cut to the front of the line?"

    ? Meryl gets real on Hoffman, Melania: Streep, in a lengthy New York Times interview alongside her Post co-star Tom Hanks, recalled Dustin Hoffman "overstepping" when slapping her on the first day of shooting for Kramer vs. Kramer.

    + She went on to discuss Hollywood's harassment culture early in her career ("everybody was doing cocaine") and Harvey Weinstein ("I didn't really know"), while Hanks fretted about his complicity ("I know that I have participated in crude humor worthy of a baseball locker room on a set.")

    ? "I didn't have any serious issues with Harvey": Annette Bening recalls her time working on The Grifters, a Weinstein movie, early in her career in a Daily Beast interview. “I had a couple of not-serious moments with him,” she continues. “I mean, I was 31 and I was married. I don’t know. I think I was lucky. Harvey sort of put the feelers out for most people—well, that’s not fair. But I didn’t have any issues with him.”

    Publications revise their red carpet coverage: The New York Times announced the ways it would update its red carpet coverage for the Oscars and other awards shows, including sending Pulitzer-winning photographer Damon Winter to take pictures and having the likes of Jodi Kantor report during awards season.

    New York Magazinannounced it would skip its usual practice of ranking the night's best and worst dresses, citing the Time's Up organization's decision to don all black as a part of their reasoning.  

    + How the red carpet fashion blackout is putting a damper on dealmaking: "Instead of stylists taking money from brands under the table for their clients to wear the goods, or celebs taking money over the table, people are asking for a sizable donation" to Time's Up, says one fashion publicist. Details.

    ^Seth Meyers is ready to handle the first big post-Harvey awards show. "I had conversations with my wife and with the women on this staff, and we all agreed it's an opportunity to be able to say some things that you wouldn't be able to say in previous years," Meyers, who'll host this Sunday's Golden Globes, tells Lacey Rose in a new interview." Q&A.

    ? Lance Armstrong enters the film circuit: The disgraced cyclist will host a reception for Icarus, the Oscar-shortlisted Netflix documentary about doping. The event will happen in New York on Jan. 6 — one day after Oscar voting begins. 

    ? Oliva Munn hosting Critics' Choice Awards: “Beyond her skills as an actress, Olivia’s work as an activist within the industry gives her a powerful voice, making her the perfect candidate to lead this night honoring the best and brightest in film and television,” said Broadcast Film Critics Association president Joey Berlin.

    ? The first very creepy Slender Man trailer is here: And did we say it's very creepy?

    + The father of one of the girls involved in the Slender Man-inspired stabbing, meanwhile, is voicing his concerns with the film, saying it's "popularizing a tragedy" and hopes local theaters won't show it. 

    [icon:esq] In THR, Esq: Brett Ratner accuser asks court to stop his defamation lawsuit. Melanie Kohler, who accused the director of raping her 12 years ago, has asked a Hawaii federal court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by him. Kohler's attorneys write that Ratner "filed this defamation lawsuit with a single purpose: to silence and intimidate Ms. Kohler — and other women like her — from coming forward with stories of grave sexual mistreatment at his hands." Details.

  • Shrinking Studio System

    Worldwide grosses hit a record $40 billion, but attendance in North America sinks to a 22-year low as the movie industry makes do with higher costs, slimmer profits and consolidation amid Disney's bid to swallow much of 21st Century Fox, writes Pamela McClintock:

    Consolidation is looming. The frayed studio system is headed for reinvention as box-office fortunes become ever harder to find under the canopy of a tentpole-centric business. Companies now must spend hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market the sort of event film that will persuade consumers to hit the pause button on Netflix and other streaming services to visit an actual cinema. 

    After conquering the box office ($6.46 billion in 2017), Disney is aggressively moving into the streaming business. To do so, it needs original content, some of which could come from a pared-down Fox, including prestige titles produced by Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000. Disney's foray into the OTT galaxy could finally open the floodgates and push the other studios to shorten the theatrical window and offer premium VOD titles. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "Hollywood on the brink." Film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis review the year in film, including the narratives off the screen. [New York Times]

    — "Logan Paul and YouTube's great responsibility." Justin Charity writes: "Only YouTube could’ve afforded Logan Paul the room to make such a grotesque mistake on such a massive scale." [The Ringer]

    — "A field guide to the musical leitmotifs of Star Wars." Alex Ross writes: "In decades past, it was fashionable for self-styled serious music types to look down on John Williams, but the Star Wars corpus has increasingly attracted scholarly scrutiny." [The New Yorker]

    — "Broadway is becoming more accessible, thanks to a boost from podcasting." Caitlin Cruz writes: "A recent partnership between podcast leader Audible and Broadway theaters are helping make The Great White Way more accessible for everyone." [Pacific Standard]

    — "Unfiltered fervor: The rush to get off the water grid." Nellie Bowles reports on the latest craze coming out of the Bay Area: raw water. [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Stephen took out a billboard for Trump's Dishonest Media Awards." [Late Show]

    + "Sean Diddy Combs reveals new name." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Trump goes nuclear on Twitter." [The Daily Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Jemele Hill." Richard Deitsch interviews the ESPN personality whom the White House wanted fired. [Media Podcast / Sports Illustrated]

    + "John Cho on representation, Columbus, and his need to slip on a few banana peels." The actor sits down for a chat with Linda Holmes. [Pop Culture Happy Hour / NPR

    + "Ta-Nehisi Coates." Marc Maron holds a lengthy conversation with the writer and activist. [WTF With Marc Maron]

    Today's Birthdays: Charlyne Yi, 32, D'Arcy Carden, 38, June Diane Raphael, 38, Harmony Korine, 45, Dave Foley, 55, Michael Stipe, 58.