What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:09 AM 12/14/2017

by Ray Rahman

IgerMurdoch_Comp - Getty - H 2017
Getty Images; iStock

What's news: The Disney-Fox deal is official: all the details, what it means and what's next. Plus: A closer look at the SAG Awards, Salma Hayek's Weinstein story, our animation roundtable and THR's best TV shows of 2017. — Ray Rahman

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  • Done Deal

    It’s official — Disney and Fox are set to reshape the Hollywood landscape together. Georg Szalai and Paul Bond write:

    The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to acquire big parts of 21st Century Fox in an all-stock deal worth $52.4 billion, or approximately $66.1 billion when including debt, valuing shares of Fox at around $40 apiece while they had traded Wednesday at $32.75.

    The acquisition is expected to yield "at least" $2 billion in cost savings "from efficiencies realized through the combination of businesses, and to be accretive to earnings before the impact of purchase accounting for the second fiscal year after the close of the transaction," Disney said. Full story.

    + The deal is expected to close by June 30, 2018. 

    + Longtime Disney boss Bob Iger will extend his contract as chairman and CEO through the end of 2021 (as opposed to mid-2019 as originally planned). 

    + What Disney gets: Fox's film and TV studio, the National Geographic and FX cable channels business, regional sports networks, international networks, including Star India, Fox's 30 percent stake in Hulu and its 39 percent stake in European pay TV giant Sky.

    + What Fox keeps: Fox will separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a newly listed company that will be spun off to its shareholders. Also: The 53-acre Fox studio lot on Pico Boulevard near Los Angeles will stay with the company.

    + What about James Murdoch? “James and I have had a lot of conversations about the future of these companies,” Iger said during a morning call. “And during that period of time, he and I will continue to discuss whether there is a role for him here or not. But I look forward to talking to him about it.” Read more.

    + The Hulu play: Iger laid it bare during a CNBC interview this morning: "They [Fox] have a lot of direct-to-consumer experience ... Hulu has been building that experience, and we think by controlling Hulu, we'll be able to accelerate its growth in the direct-to-consumer space. ... We'll have the ability to direct Hulu in ways that we haven't been able to as essentially equal partners, but we'll also be able to infuse Hulu with even more content. And we will actually invest in content from both entities for Hulu." Read more.

    + Walter Isaacson on CNBC called the Hulu play "a tsunami that is about to hit an industry that for the past 30 years has been based on transmission by cable of certain properties..." 

    + What it means for Fox's Sky bid: Wall Street weighs in on what is next for the planned transaction for full control of the European pay TV giant.

    + The big picture: It’s a seismic shift for Hollywood's studio system. “The $60 billion deal would be the first time in modern history that a major Hollywood studio has gobbled up another major, throwing the fate of Fox's film and television operations into question,” Pamela McClintock, Michael O’Connell and Borys Kit write in a bird’s-eye-view of the deal.

  • Post-SAG Oscar Watch

    Some Oscar prospects have been written off after they were omitted from both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, while others are being discussed as slam-dunks after being included on both. Awards columnist Scott Feinberg explains why such conclusions are premature:

    Which of the Globe-SAG nominees are most at risk of being bounced by the Academy? I would say Denzel Washington (a star whose work was watched before others' because of his track record); Judi Dench and Steve Carell (competing in a jam-packed category in which a few votes could have knocked them out of contention); and Mary J. Blige (a star who has rarely, if ever, been a part of a "serious" movie, but is trying to be seen in a new light).

    And which of the SAG-Globe snubees could be revived by the Academy? I would argue in favor of Michael Stuhlbarg (a smallish performance in a major contender around which people are increasingly coalescing) and Tiffany Haddish (a beneficiary of relentless championing by members of the industry and press that took time to — but ultimately did — resonate with voters). Read more.

    + What else the nominations tell us (and don't tell us) about the Oscar race. How SAG-specific quirks of voting may have helped some casts and hurt others. 

    + On Daniel Day-Lewis and retirement: The Phantom Thread star — snubbed from the SAG Awards — says it's his last film, but history shows that may not mean the Academy will necessarily hand the three-time winner another trophy.

    + Get in formation: The SAG Awards also announced that its ceremony will feature only female presenters. The Kristen Bell-hosted event will air on TBS and TNT on Jan. 21.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Warner Bros. settles $900 million lawsuit over The Conjuring. The settlement announcement follows a THR story about the disturbing claims behind the billion-dollar franchise.

    ? Salma Hayek's op-edThe actress penned an essay titled "Harvey is my monster too" in the New York Times, which detailed Harvey Weinstein's harrowing demands over the movie Frida. "He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman," she wrote. 

    + Weinstein denied the allegations, saying he "does not recall pressuring" her. 

    ? Harassment-free entertainment: The Times also profiled a new site called Rotten Apples, "a searchable database that informs users which films or television shows are connected to those accused of sexual harassment or worse." The founders say they want to help viewers make "ethical media consumption decisions."

    ^The Animation Roundtable: The risk of making toons for all ages and why hiring more women Is “crucial." Whether they're exploring Taliban rule or the connections between the living and the dead, animated movies can be ambitious — and surprising. Six filmmakers chat with Carolyn Giardina about what happens when a years-in-the-making film suddenly becomes timely: "Everyone in Russia thought 'The Boss Baby' was a movie about Putin." Full story.

    ? It's Star Wars time: The masses will start pouring into Last Jedi screenings today, and they'll come armed with content. "Did you know Star Wars' explanation for Darth Vader's birth is completely bonkers?" GQ's Joshua Rivera writes. At Vulture, they've put together a video showing that the entire original trilogy contains barely 60 seconds of dialogue from women who aren't Leia. And Space.com asks the the question: "Could the Force actually exist?"

    ? Titanic time, too: With the movie's twentieth anniversary approaching (Dec. 19!), the retrospectives have begun. Cosmopolitan has an interview with actor Danny Nucci, who played Jack's best friend Fabrizio; fun behind-the-scenes stories abound. Racked, meanwhile, deep dives into J. Peterman's costly quest to sell "Heart of the Ocean" necklaces. 

    ? Trailers: Two new ones arrived: Clint Eastwood's real-life drama The 15:17 to Paris (out Feb. 9) and the Natalie Portman sci-fi movie Annihilation (out Feb. 23). 

    ? In development: Tiffany Haddish, John Cho and Carrie Brownstein join Ike Barinholtz's satirical thriller The Oath ... Kevin Hart will play a hitman in On the Run, a comedy from Girls Trip producer Will Packer ...

    Agency Comedy Exodus: The Sequel: Following APA comedy head Mike Berkowitz’s leap to WME last week, five more agents, two coordinators, two executives and their support staff have also made the move.

  • TV's Best

    The final season of an HBO masterwork, the latest opus from one of America’s top documentarians and a surprise treat from Epix are among chief television critic Tim Goodman’s 46 (!) favorites of a very peak-TV year.

    1. The Leftovers (HBO) A meditation on loss, spirituality and survival, this was such a weirdly enjoyable creative trip over three disparately intgenious seasons that it never occurred to me to put another series in this slot. That's pretty rare. If you didn't watch it (not many did) there's not much to say other than this is No. 1 for a reason. Find out for yourself.??

    2. The A Word (SundanceTV) This gem about autism ranked No. 6 (out of 38) on my 2016 list, and it returned this year to achieve something even grander — full resonance for Peter Bowker's ambitious vision, which stuffed so much into the first season that the stories weren't always given enough room. In the second season, with the world building already done, the emotional reverberations of a young family and a small village dealing with autism became one of the great storytelling achievements of 2017, with fantastic performances abounding but none lovelier than Christopher Eccleston's.?? See the full list.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Net neutrality vote: The FCC will be voting on its plan to repeal net neutrality protections today at 10:30 a.m. ET; if you're inclined, you can watch it live here.

    ? Russell Simmons accused of sexual assault by four more women. The dam broke yesterday, with the number of women accusing Simmons of harassment or assault totaling 10 thanks to new reports by the New York Times and L.A. Times.

    + Tavis Smiley's show has been suspended by PBS amid sexual misconduct claims ... ABC has pulled The Great American Baking Show due to harassment claims against judge Johnny Iuzzini ... iZombie actor Robert Knepper will remain on the CW show after a Warner Bros. probe found "no evidence of wrongdoing" ... Morgan Spurlock penned a lengthy essay / mea culpa on harassment: "I am part of the problem." 

    Omarosa strikes back: “I resigned,” she told GMA today. “There were a lot of things I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with ... I have my story to tell as the only African-American woman in this White House ... I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally ... when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear."

    ? Major Garrett gets real: “A lot of White Houses have used the deflection part, but none have been as disdainful,” CBS' chief White House correspondent says of covering the current administration in a new Daily Beast profile. “Disdainful of the whole set of ground rules, the whole architecture of the briefing, of the interaction with the White House press corps. The disdain is new. And it comes from Trump, pure and simple.”

    ^Critic's Notebook: Daniel Fienberg parses SAG's TV nominations. "Netflix's GLOW looks like it will be a real long-term awards player, as it picked up a well-earned ensemble nod, a nomination for Alison Brie and, in a real surprise, a nomination for Marc Maron,” writes Fienberg. “Freddie Highmore of The Good Doctor could have cemented his award position by following his Globe nod with a SAG presence. He did not.” Read more.

    ? Golden Globes: Oprah Winfrey to receive Cecil B. DeMille Award. She'll receive the honor during the ceremony's Jan. 7 telecast.

    ? In the works: USA's Mr. Robot is getting a fourth season, though there's no word yet on a timeline ... 50 Cent has extended his overall deal with Starz to September 2019 ... Issa Rae unveiled a new sci-fi series titled The Awoken for her ColorCreative.TV production company ... Amanda Knox will host a Vice series on Facebook called The Scarlet Letter Reports.  

    A nice thing: You've probably seen the video of Joe Biden consoling Meghan McCain by now, but if not, now's your chance. 

  • In the 'Zone'

    Rod Serling's classic TV thriller series The Twilight Zone gets rebooted for the London stage — to mixed results, Stephen Dalton writes in his review:

    Prefiguring David Lynch, one of Serling's signature strengths as a writer was to conjure up the surreal and uncanny in folksy Middle American settings: Frank Capra meets Franz Kafka, with a side order of Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft. In the play's opening vignette, based on an episode titled "Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?", a group of bus passengers stranded in a snowy diner come under suspicion as possible undercover alien invaders. The TV blueprint is creepy and claustrophobic, with a twist of sly humor. But the stage version is played as broad comedy, diluting its eerie impact.

    Thankfully, later chapters are more tonally assured. An episode based on "Nightmare as a Child" is a crisp little psycho-thriller. The cryogenic future-shock fable "The Long Morrow" still works as a poignant romantic allegory. And "Perchance to Dream" is a classic pulpy potboiler with a killer twist. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "This show has the best clothes on TV right now." Rachel Syme writes: "The costuming on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is one of the more joyful revelations of this year. " [The Cut]

    — "Who's getting rich off all these loud teen YouTube stars? This guy." Taylor Lorenz writes: "Chris Vaccarino had a nice, $1 million-per-year business shipping band T-shirts. Then YouTube stars came along, and with it came their fans’ parents’ cash." [Daily Beast]

    — "Shroom: An oral history of the London club that kicked off rave culture." Michaelangelo Matos writes: "In September 1987, four London club and pirate-radio DJs spent a week on the Balearic island of Ibiza, a place where, legend had it, ‘it was even possible to get drugs on room service.’" [Rolling Stone]

    — "Kit Harrington isn't trying to compete with Game of Thrones." Jeremy Egner interviews the actor ahead of the American debut of his new series Gunpowder. [New York Times]

    — "Mimi O'Donnell reflects on the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the devastation of addiction." The late actor's longtime partner opens up about Hoffman's battles. [Vogue]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Judd Apatow addresses sexual harassment in Hollywood." [Late Night]

    + "No Moore!" [Full Frontal]

    + "Bryan Cranston guest-hosts for James Corden." [Late Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "How Netflix makes a hit: Steven Soderbergh and Scott Frank interview." [Recode Media

    + "Darren Aronofsky: Interview." [WTF w/ Marc Maron]

    + "How 2017's best animated film came to be." [I Think You're Interesting / Vox]

    Today's Birthdays: Vanessa Hudgens, 29, Tammy Blanchard, 41, Michaela Watkins, 46, Natascha McElhone, 48, Dino Stamatopoulos, 53, Jane Birkin, 71.