What's news: The feud between Donald Trump and author Michael Wolff keeps escalating. Plus: The White House wants to see The Post, The Last Jedi struggles to find its footing in China and Fox brass discuss the network's post-Disney future at TCA. — Ray Rahman
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The multiple-way battle between Donald Trump, Michael Wolff, publisher Henry Holt & Co., and former White House staffer Steve Bannon (among other parties) is raging on at a head-spinning pace, fueled even further by the THR excerpt yesterday. The latest:
► Last night, Trump lashed out at the book. "I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book!" he tweeted. "I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!"
+ Earlier: Trump threatened to sue. The president stated that the book amounts to defamation, false light invasion of privacy and an inducement of breach of Steve Bannon's written agreement. Trump threatened the publisher, Henry Holt, and Wolff himself to prevent them from publishing the book (whose release had been moved up to today due to "unprecedented demand.") The legal demand.
► Today, Wolff defended his work: "I am certainly, absolutely in every way comfortable with everything reported in this book," Wolff said on the Today show, adding: "Where do I send the box of chocolates? Not only is he helping me sell books, but he’s proving the point of the book."
► THR editor Matthew Belloni emails: "When Michael would talk to me over the past year about his reporting for the book, it all seemed surreal, both what was going on in the White House and that the Trump team would give him such broad access. As Jack Shafer points out, given Trump was talking to Rupert Murdoch a lot this year and Rupert HATES Wolff, why didn't Murdoch tell the president to shut this down?"
Who will win, and who should win? Todd McCarthy and Scott Feinberg break it down, category by category. Starting with best picture, drama:
SHOULD WIN: Call Me by Your Name All five of the nominees here are good enough that none would be an embarrassing winner. But while it is arguably the least showy and stylishly cinematic of the lot, I still come down decisively in favor of Call Me for its casual intelligence, the slow burn of its gathering eroticism and intense sensitivity to the vagaries of love and sexual attraction.
WILL WIN: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Call Me has no directing or writing nom and Dunkirk has no acting or writing nom. The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards each have acting, directing, writing and score noms. Shape has the most for acting (3) and total (7), but I hear Searchlight's other title, Billboards, is slightly preferred. See the full list.
Elsewhere in film...
► Trump's White House asks to screen The Post: The White House team has requested, and been granted, access to the political drama, about the showdown between a presidential administration and the press. What would Tom Hanks think?
► Weinstein Co. close to a sale? The Wall Street Journal reports that the studio is on the verge of being sold (as in, within a week) for $500 million, an amount that would leave its current owners with no cash from the sale.
► DC Movies finds new president: Walter Hamada, one of the executives behind the massively successful Conjuring horror movies made by Warner Bros.' New Line division, has been named president of DC-based film production.
► Stephen Fry steps down as BAFTA host: The 12-time host says it's "only right to stand down and let others take the BAFTAS on to new heights and greater glories."
► David Ayer, Chris Long launch film, TV studio: Cedar Park Entertainment will look to create and own content for theatrical, VOD, premium channels and beyond. The company's first project is Family Crimes, a drama set up at Starz in November with Ayer penning the script.
^Is Star Wars losing China? The Last Jedi just opened in China, but it's already losing badly to a local comedy called The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes — which there opened a week ago. Full story.
► Ridley, Merlin and Disney: Ridley Scott is in talks to direct The Merlin Saga for Disney, with a script penned by Lord of the Rings Philippa Boyens.
+ Amazon Studios, Scott Free team for an action-adventure film: Thee movie is called Task Force Two. Logline details are being kept under wraps, but it is known to be a true-life action drama based on the eponymous, elite search-and-rescue team based in California.
► In the works: Method Man has been cast in the Shaft reboot ... Captain Marvel recruits She's Gotta Have It star DeWanda Wise ... Get Out star Lakeith Stanfield has been tapped for The Girl in the Spider's Web.
► Mike Tenser, president and CEO of Crown International Pictures, dies. Tenser passed away on New Year's Day.
► Darlanne Fluegel, actress in To Live and Die in L.A. and Running Scared, dies at 64. The actress and former model passed away Dec. 15 at her home in Orlando after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Who will win, and who should win? Tim Goodman and Scott Feinberg break it down, category by category. Starting with best drama series...
SHOULD WIN: Game of Thrones This one isn't even close. The depth of the multilayered storytelling, the nuance of each character, the enormity of the full story coalescing — it was all there in its pulse-pounding glory. There wasn't a more thrilling drama series in 2017.
WILL WIN: The Handmaid's Tale The last three winners won for their first season — bad for Games of Thrones (it has never won), The Crown (won last year) plus Stranger Things and This Is Us (lost last year). The HFPA dislikes copying the Emmys but it'll make an exception for Handmaid's, which, like This Is Us, has a category-high three noms. See the full list.
Elsewhere in TV...
► N.Y. Times to air ad during Golden Globes. The paper "will premiere the next phase of its brand campaign starting with an ad focusing on The Times’s recent sexual harassment investigations during Sunday night’s broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards," according to its PR team. The video.
► Danny Masterson dropped by UTA amid rape accusations. The actor, who was fired from Netflix's The Ranch on Dec. 5, is no longer repped by the agency.
► Ed Westwick's role recast in BBC series: Scenes in the Agatha Christie drama Ordeal By Innocence are set to be reshot, with Christian Cooke replacing Westwick, who has had a number of sexual assault allegations against him. The series was originally due to air over Christmas.
► Comedy Central campaigns for Trump's "dishonest" award. "The Daily Show is running a full page Oscar-style 'For Your Consideration' ad in the New York Times today, aimed at winning President Trump’s upcoming dishonest media awards," tweets CNBC's Eamon Javers. The photo.
► Maher recreates Al Franken groping pic: The HBO host tweeted an image of himself and Bob Saget on a plane recreating the 2006 photo of Al Franken groping a journalist. There's not much context as to why this was done; Maher's tweet simply read: "These New Years Hawaii trips are getting weird - Saget, forgive me!"
^The Chi, reviewed. "The first three episodes indicate that The Chi is a definite work in progress," writes Tim Goodman, "with potential in parts but cliche and predictable storytelling in others.but there's potential for improvement." Full review.
► Fox at TCA: Network brass did their best to exude confidence post-Disney deal during their TCA day, pledging that Fox would remain "robust" and "nimble."
+ Addressing concerns that a slimmed-down Fox would primarily focus on live and reality fare, leaders assured they "will continue to do entertainment programming. Rupert [Murdoch] sees it as enormous opportunity for the broadcast network."
+ Ryan Murphy had his own worries: "Am I going to have to put Mickey Mouse in American Horror Story?" the showrunner, whose FX shows will now be run by Disney, asked Bob Iger. Murphy went on to say he'd take a wait-and-see approach: "I don't think anybody knows what that company is going to look like."
+ TCA News and notes: The seventh and final season of New Girl will debut April 10, with the series finale airing May 15 ... The Gifted has been renewed for a second season ... Sterling K. Brown will guest star in a Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode when the series returns this spring ... Family Guy will air with an episode with limited advertising breaks in March.
► Roku CEO on how Disney-Fox impacts streaming video: "We're going to see the emergence of a handful of large-scale SVOD services," Anthony Wood says. "Netflix is the biggest now, and there are others competing to be there. Those companies are good for our business." Q&A.
► Hulu revives Animaniacs with a two-season order: The streamer is teaming with Amblin Television and Warner Bros. Animation to bring back the cartoon series, with Steven Spielberg on board to exec produce.
► George R.R. Martin's Nightflyers picked up by Syfy: The series, based on a Martin novella from 1980, will star Gretchen Mol, Eoin Macken (The Night Shift) and David Ajala (Fast & Furious 6).
+ As for Game of Thrones, HBO announced the series would return in 2019 — meaning that this year, as fans suspected, will be without any new Thrones content (unless Martin finally releases The Winds of Winter).
► Castings and goings: ABC has pulled the plug on The Mayor, but the comedy will be shopped around .... Ozark casts Janet McTeer for season 2 ... The Jeopardy! production schedule has been delayed due to a surgery underwent by Alex Trebek.
Golden Globes fashion preview: Tuxes are harkening back to black, the result of fashion's inevitable pendulum swing and politics, with sympathy for #MeToo, writes Vincent Boucher:
Call it the end of peacocking. Ilaria Urbinati, who styles many leading men, including Globe nominee Armie Hammer, posted on Instagram that "all my guys will be" wearing black; The Rock responded, "Yes we will."
Dark neutrals don't have to be boring. With black tie, one can bring "depth by playing with silhouettes and contrasting lapels," says Michael Fisher (who is styling nominees Hugh Jackman and Sam Rockwell): "We're seeing more three-piece tuxedos with vests and double-breasted." Full story.
^The Time's Up Pin: The hot accessory on the Golden Globes red carpet on Sunday will be the Time’s Up pin, expected to be worn by leading ladies and men alike. Read more.
What else we're reading...
— "Alyssa Milano on joining Time's Up." The actress writes in an essay: "Harvey Weinstein ripped a generation of actresses from society." [Rolling Stone]
— "Daniel Kaluuya isn't waiting for your approval." Roslyn Sulcas profiles the Get Out star: "Crunching nuts and drinking water during an interview here just before Christmas, the actor was in turn frank, guarded and intense: a movie star who hasn’t yet acquired the smooth sheen of the experienced interviewee." [New York Times]
— "Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone are the quintessential Hollywood BFFs." Lynn Hirshberg interviews both actresses, leading to quotes like: "We just scream at each other. We’re both hoarse after we hang out. Oh my god, I can’t imagine what it must be like for other people. We should never hang out, only with each other." [W]
— "Casablanca director Michael Curtiz is finally getting the recognition he deserves." Kenneth Turan sings the praises of the Old Hollywood auteur: "No one understood studio filmmaking better than Curtiz, and the sheer amount of work he did was staggering." [Los Angeles Times]
— "Amazon Prime begins its makeover, starting with Mrs. Maisel." Michael Schneider assesses the streaming service's present and its future. [IndieWire]
— "No one can fire Logan Paul." Inkoo Kang writes: "That's why the disgraced vlogger is free to make a comeback whenever he wants." [Slate]
— "The Met should be open to all. The new pay policy is a mistake." The blunt headline masks a nuanced conversation between art critics Holland Cotter and Roberta Smith. [New York Times]
What else we're seeing...
+ "Stephen bites into the juicy new Trump book." [Late Show]
+ "Khloé Kardashian loves Costco." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]
What else we're hearing...
+ "Cons and clowns." After all the political stuff, the Crooked Media gang discuss Golden Globes and Trump-era comedy with Seth Meyers. [Pod Save America]
+ "Joe Hagan: Interview." The author of the Jann Wenner biography Sticky Fingers in conversation with Michael Silverblatt. [Bookworm / KCRW]
+ "A.O. Scott: Interview." Slate's Isaac Chotiner sits down with the film critic. [I Have to Ask / Slate]
Today's Birthdays: Amanda Hearst, 34, January Jones, 40, Bradley Cooper, 43, Derek Cecil, 45, Marilyn Manson, 49, Diane Keaton, 72, Bela Lugosi Jr., 80, Robert Duvall, 87.