What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:32 AM 12/15/2017

by Ray Rahman

Rupert Murdoch Robert Iger - Illustration - H 2017
Illustration by Kyle Hilton

What's news: A closer look at Murdoch's Disney plan, the deal's backlash and the future of Hulu. Plus: New accusers come out against Dustin Hoffman, the Oscars snub Angelina Jolie's latest film and Star Wars blasts off at the box office. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Disney, Fox and the future of entertainment. But why did Rupert Murdoch do it? Michael Wolff writes: 

With the media titan unloading the bulk of Fox to Disney rather than letting it pass to his heirs, it proves that Rupert has always has had a favorite Murdoch — himself. 

At least since he nearly went bankrupt in the early 1990s, Murdoch has been obsessed with handing his business to his children. He has navigated this course through vast turmoil in the media industry, multiple marriages, frayed family dynamics, occasional signs of shareholder rebellion at such family entitlement in a public company, and even the resistance of his own children.

He seemed to have succeeded in this quest — elevating his oldest son, Lachlan, cajoled back from Australia, and his youngest, James, miraculously rehabilitated for his part in the phone-hacking scandal in the U.K., to the top of his company in 2015. But now, all of a sudden, he appears ready to abandon his dream of a Murdoch dynasty. Full column.

+ Murdochs rally staff: Rupert, Lachlan and James tried to put a positive spin on "the new Fox" in a memo sent to staff — but also warned of layoffs.

+ Rupert also brushed off Fox News sexual harassment claims.

 + The White House reacts: “The president spoke with Rupert Murdoch earlier today, congratulated him on the deal and thinks that ... this could be a great thing for jobs and certainly looks forward to a lot more of those being created," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday.

+ "People are subdued and stunned": The mood inside Fox Film yesterday was shaky as chief Stacey Snider tried to calm the troops.

+ Hulu's future and what's at stake for Netflix: For the first time in its 10-year history, Hulu will have a majority owner — but questions linger about how Disney plans to leverage the streamer's 12 million-plus subscribers.

+ A scramble for more big media deals? "Investors are now curious about what deal might come next," one analyst says. The Disney-Fox deal has laid "down the gauntlet for the rest of the industry," notes another. Full report.

+ Cape fear: The X-Men and Fantastic Four are now in flux thanks to the impending merger with their Marvel colleagues.

+ The comics angle: What does the deal mean for the comic books world? A lot.

+ How Disney could redraw Fox's animation business: Since Disney already houses Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, will the new mega-studio have room for Fox Animation and the Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios?

+ The Fox lot: Disney announced that it would be leasing space on the 53-acre Fox studio lot.

+ WGA West is not happy about any of this: “The antitrust concerns raised by this deal are obvious and significant. The Writers Guild of America West strongly opposes this merger and will work to ensure our nation’s antitrust laws are enforced.” Read more.

  • Hoffman's New Accusers

    "It changed everything": Five Dustin Hoffman accusers tell harrowing stories of sexually predatory behavior. Seth Abramovitch writes:

    Over the course of a remarkable seven-decade career, Dustin Hoffman, 80, has scaled heights seen by just a handful of actors. But a very different picture of Hoffman has emerged in recent weeks — one that stands in stark contrast to the sympathetic characters he plays on film. It began with a first-person account from Anna Graham Hunter, a writer who, in 1985 at age 17, endured a steady stream of Hoffman's obscene comments, gropes and demands for foot rubs while she worked as an intern on the set of the TV movie adaptation of Death of a Salesman.

    Now several other women are coming forward with their own claims of Hoffman's predatory behavior. All accounts have been corroborated by friends and family members in whom the women confided their experiences over the years. Full story.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Sources: Golden Globes actresses will wear black to protest gender inequality. Both nominees and presenters are said to be planning the move to acknowledge the flood of sexual abuse allegations that have rocked Hollywood since Harvey Weinstein.

    ? Clint Eastwood gets R-rating on 15:17 to Paris overturned. The director won an appeal to have the movie released with a PG-13 rating. The original R-rating was given due to "a sequence of violence and bloody images" in the film, which is due for a Feb. 9 release.

    ? Oscars update: The Academy unveils its foreign-language film shortlist. There are now nine finalists in the running for a nomination, including favorites like The Square (Sweden) and Loveless (Russia).

    + Who's out: Surprisingly, Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father (Cambodia) was snubbed, as was BPM (Beats Per Minute), the French drama set during the 1990s AIDS epidemic. 

    ^Star Wars box office: The Last Jedi soared to a near-record $45 million in Thursday previews, according to early estimates — which would make it the second-best preview tally behind The Force Awakens. The movie is expected to make a domestic debut in the $200 million range this weekend. 

    + Will you be joining the Force this weekend? If so, here's our handy refresher of where the last film left off.

    ? Marlon Brando biopic: George Englund's memoir The Way It's Never Been Done Before has been optioned by Brian Oliver's New Republic pictures for biopic treatment. 

    ? 48 Hrs., rebooted: A remake of the 1982 Eddie Murphy cop movie is in the works from Benny and Josh Sadie, the brother filmmaking team behind this year’s Good Time. Jerrod Carmichael is attached to co-write the script.

    + In development: James Gunn is set to produce a horror movie from The Hive director David Yarovesky ...  John Wick director Chad Stahelski will be adapting the comic book Kill or Be Killed for the big screen ... Sony is co-producing Pablo Trapero film La Quietud as its first-ever Argentine feature. 

    Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks compare Trump administration to Nixon's at The Post premiere. “There’s a lot of excitement when you talk about stolen papers and government secrets and an administration attacking the press to stop the truth from being told,” Spielberg told THR at the Washington D.C. event last night. Full report.


  • Top Ten

    A late-night delight, a Netflix comedy about mental illness, two masterfully concluded dramas and an FX gem about strong women making their way without weak men are among TV critic Dan Fienberg’s favorite shows of the year.

    1. Better Things (FX) Although he wrote or co-wrote every episode of the most recent season, I refuse to throw out Pamela Adlon's Better Things baby with the Louis C.K. bathwater. Whether it was always intentional or eerily predictive or it was subtext that was thrust to the surface by current events, these 10 Better Things episodes were, over and over and over again, about increasingly puerile and disappointing men — and how, at the end of the day, if men are going to let you down, you have to be able to turn to the women in your life, be they daughters or mothers or friends.

    2. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) Few shows achieved storytelling unity more efficiently than this look at the boom in personal computing in the '80s and '90s. Ostensibly about the birth of online search engines, the final season was about relationships and the fates of its five central protagonists, so intermingled that the last batch of episodes produced almost nonstop tears from me. Never a hit and never an awards darling, it's a blessing that Halt and Catch Fire got four full seasons to come full-circle. See the full list.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? NCIS: New Orleansshowrunner was twice investigated for misconduct. Brad Kern, whose TV credits go back to Remington Steele, has drawn multiple complaints of workplace hostility since starting in 2015. Disciplinary actions are said to have included six months' worth of sensitivity training, which was completed in February, and marked an end to the any official complaints filed.

    + Mario Batali has been fired from The Chew amid misconduct claims ... HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse has been accused of coerced oral sex by a makeup artist ... Tavis Smiley, who is pushing back against allegations against him, has been dropped by Walmart as well as book distributor Hay House ... One of Russell Simmons' accusers claims L.A. Reid also sexually harassed her ... Morgan Spurlock is stepping down from his production company following a lengthy blog post in which he admitted to past accusations of harassment and assault. 

    ? Law and Order: SVU has cast Martin Donovan (Homeland, Weeds) and Yasmine Al Massri (Quantico) to star in its upcoming Harvey Weinstein episode, which will take on rape culture in the workplace.  

    ^Net neutrality goes down. It finally happened yesterday: The FCC voted 3-2 to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections. Reaction was swift from supporters and opponents — not to mention late-night TV, which had a lot to say on the matter.

    ? Save the date: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will get married on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Meanwhile, USA has yet to announce a date for Suits season 8.

    ? Comedy excellence: The Writers Guild of America will honor Tina Fey and Robert Carlock with the Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence at its annual ceremony. “This is particularly meaningful for us as Herb created 'Weekend Update,'which is where we first worked together in the late nineties," Fey and Carlock said in a statement.

    ? Jean-Claude Van Johnson, reviewed: “Amazon's Jean-Claude Van Damme comedy fails to maintain the creative charge of its unexpectedly clever pilot,” writes Daniel Fienberg. Read more.

    ? In the works: HBO has renewed Curb Your Enthusiasm for a 10th season ... Catherine Keener will star as a beleaguered puppet-maker in Jim Carrey's Showtime series Kidding ... Awkward creator Lauren Iungerich is launching an inner-city high school comedy called On My Block on Netflix ... Netflix will also be debuting two new true-crime series — Dirty Money and Rotten — in January.

    BET shakeup: Longtime BET president Debra L. Lee is ceding day-to-day duties to Scott M. Mills, who will rise to the role of president. Lee will remain chairman and CEO.


  • Stage Puppet

    Pinocchio hits the London stage: Director John Tiffany, choreographer Steven Hoggett and many of their key collaborators unite for this very modern take on the adventures of the famed Italian puppet boy, featuring songs from the 1940 Disney animated classic. Leslie Felperin reviews:

    The result is a spectacular work, a moving — in every sense; the cast and set elements seem to be in ceaseless agitation — meditation on what it is to be human. Working from a book by Dennis Kelly (Matilda on stage), Pinocchio offers a distillation of Carlo Collodi's original 19th-century picaresque novel, strained through the fluffy muslin of the 1940 Disney animated film version. It's then dosed with jiggers of dark 21st-century Gothicism and state-of-the-art stagecraft to make a heady, not-exactly-for-children brew. Although brave 8-year-olds and up, the age threshold recommended by the National, will likely love it. Read more.

    What else we're reading...

    — "How Arthur Sulzberger outwitted Don Graham." Daniel Okrent offers a profile of the New York Times publisher, who has just passed the job on to his son. [Politico]

    — "Could Maid in Manhattan get made today?" Shea Serrano and Amanda Dobbins debate whether its premise would still fly in 2017. [The Ringer]

    — "'We know the difference between a Glenn and a Matt Lauer': Inside The New York Times, the Glenn Thrush scandal is a sex-reckoning test case." Joe Pompeo writes: "Some three dozen detailed interviews will determine whether the star White House correspondent will keep his job — but chances are he won’t be going back to cover the West Wing." [Vanity Fair]

    — "The horrors of a broken sink in Mother!" David Sims looks back the polarizing Darren Aronofsky film's seminal scene. [The Atlantic]

    — "The Meyerowitz Stories is the perfect Hanukkah movie, just without the Hanukkah." Charles Bramesco writes: "The sheer paucity of Hanukkah movies means that we may have to move the goalposts just to find something quality to watch." [Vulture]

    — "Happy no more, Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D. want to wake you up." Jon Caramanica writes: "All through last year, even as Mr. Williams stumped for Hillary Clinton, he was certain Mr. Trump would win the election." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "James and Julia Corden had a baby daughter." [Late Late Show]

    + "Laura Dern talks Star Wars." [Late Night]

    + "Will Smith meets another Will and Jada Smith in the audience." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Amy Pascal on The Post." [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "The popularity of 'Cat Person.'" [The Kicker / Columbia Journalism Review]

    + "I, Tonya director on the Tonya Harding saga." [On Point / WBUR]

    Today's Birthdays: Rachel Brosnahan, 27, Charlie Cox, 35, Michelle Dockery, 36, Adam Brody, 38, John Lee Hancock, 61, Julie Taymor, 65, Tim Conway, 84.