What's news: Billy Bush has some words for Donald Trump and the Access Hollywood tape. Plus: Time's Person of the Year shortlist includes #MeToo and Patty Jenkins (plus Trump), actresses reveal disturbing stories from an Ashley Judd film and an inside look at China's science-fiction ambitions. — Ray Rahman
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Billy Bush's attempted comeback tour has begun: Ahead of his appearance on Stephen Colbert's Late Show later tonight, the former NBC personality took to the New York Times to rebuff recent reports that claim President Donald Trump is starting to doubt the Access Hollywood tape's authenticity. "Yes, Donald Trump, you said that," the op-ed headline reads. Key excerpts include:
"He said it. 'Grab ’em by the pussy.'
Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.
We now know better." Read the full op-ed here.
+ Bush also says he believes the many women who claimed publicly that Trump harassed or assaulted them.
+ He ended the essay on a personal note: "This last year has been an odyssey, the likes of which I hope to never face again: anger, anxiety, betrayal, humiliation, many selfish but, I hope, understandable emotions. ... After everything over the last year, I think I’m a better man and father to my three teenage daughters — far from perfect, but better."
+ There was no mention of his former Today colleague Matt Lauer, recently fired for his own sexual misconduct claims. Surely Colbert will have him address it on tonight's show?
+ NYT's Maggie Haberman tweets: "Yes, there's obvious image-rehab happening here. But of the two ppl in that interview, one was fired in disgrace, the other was elected president."
Elsewhere in TV...
► Time's Person of the Year shortlist: The magazine revealed its list of POTY finalists on the Today show this morning, and Donald Trump was still on it. The full list: Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, the #MeToo movement, Kim Jung Un, Colin Kaepernick, Xi Jingping, "the Dreamers," Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Robert Mueller and Patty Jenkins.
+ Three world leaders that aren't Trump made the list — as well as Robert Mueller. Is Time trolling Trump? Free publicity from the commander-in-chief could certainly help boost sales.
+ Groups or concepts don't often win, but it does happen every few years: there was 2014's "Ebola fighters," 2011's "the Protestor" and, of course, 2006's infamous "You." This year, the #MeToo movement seems like it could be a shoo-in.
+ Wonder Woman director Patti Jenkins is the Hollywood entry on the list (#MeToo aside). She's certainly an underdog — show business figures almost never win the honor.
► ABC News suspends anchor Brian Ross following Trump gaffe. "It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience — these are our core principles. We fell far short of that yesterday," the network said in a statement on Saturday.
^SNL's female cast members: "Welcome to Hell." The (semi-)comedic music video, which included host Saorise Ronan, went semi-viral over the weekend. Will it become 2017's official anthem?
► Kennedy Center Honors took place without drama. Trump skipped the ceremony, which allowed the likes of Norman Lear, LL Cool J, Gloria Estefan and others to collect their prizes this weekend in peace.
► Curb Your Enthusiasm: How last night's finale worked as a season and series ender. "If it ended here, it would be a cool ending," exec-producer Jeff Schaffer says of last night's episode. "But it doesn’t have to end here." Read more.
Rep Sheet Roundup: Chinese actress Liu Yifei, who will star in Disney’s live-action Mulan, has signed with WME. … Rookie Blue alum Missy Peregrym has signed with Paradigm. …Buster Phillips becomes the third music agent in a week to leave CAA for WME Nashville. More here.
The Chinese film sector is charting a course for a sci-fi blockbuster to call its own. The genre may have a spotty history in the Middle Kingdom, but Beijing's film industry is in the grips of a sci-fi movie-making boom, with over 10 projects set for release in the coming year and a half. Will audiences respond? Patrick Brzeski writes:
Over the past year, no genre has captivated the Chinese film industry more than sci-fi. There are now no less than 10 high-profile such projects targeting release over the coming 12 to 18 months, and many of the country's most esteemed film figures have caught the bug.
"It's the next big trend," says Hong Kong director and DreamWorks Animation veteran Ram Hui (Shrek The Third, Monster Hunt). "Even I thought maybe I should try a big sci-fi movie, and my background is family animation."
As is often the case in China, the first major title to hit the market will star Jackie Chan. Set in the not-too-distant future, Bleeding Steel, a sci-fi action thriller written and directed by Lijia Zhang, features Chan as a hardened special forces agent who gets swept up in a global conspiracy while trying to protect the young inventor of a futuristic technology. The film is set for a day-and-date release in China and North America on Dec. 22. Full story.
Elsewhere in film...
► Weekend box-office: Coco stays on top. Pixar's latest grossed a strong $26.1 million for a 10-day domestic total of $108.7 million. Justice League followed with $16.6 million, while Wonder took in $12.5 million. Read more.
► L.A. Film Critics Association Awards: Call Me By Your Name won three in total, including best picture, best director for Luca Guadagnino — a tie with Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water — and best actor for Timothée Chalamet. Other winners included: The Florida Project's Willem Dafoe and Lady Bird's Laurie Metcalf and Get Out's Jordan Peele for best screenplay.
► Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs to open Berlin Film Festival. The animated film will play at the festival Feb. 15, marking the second time an Anderson movie has opened Berlin (Grand Budapest Hotel did it at 2012 version.) Isle of Dogs features the voice talents of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton.
► The story behind Tommy Wiseau's secret Disaster Artist cameo, which he wants a SAG campaign for. Contractual stipulations, fake mustaches and a character called "Henry" led to James Franco's Wiseau meeting the real-life Wiseau in the comedy drama's most ridiculous (and tucked away) scene. Read more.
^Actresses detail groping, simulated rape in audition for Ashley Judd sex trafficking film. "It's to-date probably the craziest audition experience I've gone through," said one participant in the group callback for Trafficked that led to trauma and bruises for some acting hopefuls. Gary Baum writes:
Ashley Judd led a cast of what would turn out to be dozens of actresses in accusing Harvey Weinstein of decades of sexual harassment and abuse in The New York Times’ damning and dam-breaking Oct. 5 investigation. That same night saw the premiere at the United Nations of an indie drama she starred in, Trafficked, about the modern international sex trade.
Now that film is itself at the center of its own fierce debate regarding the troubling verisimilitude of its casting process. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that producers quietly removed its director, Will Wallace, from the project during postproduction over a disagreement involving the depiction of rape.
And, in the #MeToo movement that’s emerged in the wake of the Weinstein revelations, a dispute has broken out over whether a small group audition call-back session simulating a brothel scenario was inappropriately handled, to the unnecessary physical and emotional detriment of performers who participated in the hope of landing a key role in the project. Full story.
► Critics' notebook: Why I will never watch a new Woody Allen film again. "I used to say I was a Woody Allen fan; now I’m done with him,” Miriam Bale writes. “I no longer want to be part of contributing to his income or promoting his films — to increasing his power. It’s taken me a lifetime to get to this point.” Read more.
► Conductor James Levine suspended by Met Opera over sexual abuse claims. The New York opera house has sidelined the famed music director (who was also featured in Disney's Fantasia 2000) and opened an investigation into him based on a 2016 Lake Forest, Illinois, police report by a man who claims Levine began abusing him three decades ago when the man was a teenager.
The rise and fall of Hollywood's secret abortionist: Before Roe v. Wade, Inez Burns became wealthy performing abortions for movie stars and the poor. Some thought she was doing a public service. But to future Gov. Pat Brown, she was a menace, writes Stephen G. Bloom:
Inez was able to stay open for so long through bribes to legions of cops and politicians. Physicians, lawyers, industrialists and pharmacists referred patients to her, as did an underground woman-to-woman network.
Word circulated, as it always does, when what you do, you do exceedingly well and your particular skill is highly specialized, in-demand and illegal. Women came from around the corner and across the nation to Inez's clinic. Whether they arrived in San Francisco by bus, automobile, train or plane, they'd discreetly ask other women, sometimes strangers on the street, "Know where that Burns woman lives?"
She performed as many as 30 abortions a day at her clinic on Fillmore Street, a staggering 50,000 abortions overall. For 20 years, Inez's clinic was California's worst-kept secret. Read more.
Excerpt adapted from The Audacity of Inez Burns: Dreams, Desire, Treachery & Ruin in the City of Gold by Stephen G. Bloom (Regan Arts, Feb. 6, 2018).
What else we're reading...
— "'Who's Next?': The mysterious blind-item king who exposed Weinstein, Spacey, and Lauer before the media." Mandy Stadtmiller writes: "The Weinstein effect is having so many far-reaching societal ramifications that it would be easy to overlook this one: the unlikely redemption of the blind item." [Daily Beast]
— "How do you do a best picture in Trump's America?" Richard Lawson writes: "Made mostly before the election, and viewed by a changing Academy, the potential best-picture nominees face a number of challenges—and opportunities." [Vanity Fair]
— "Is a trivia app the answer to questions about live streaming?" Sapna Maheshwari writes: "HQ Trivia, which broadcasts live shows to iPhones and iPads twice a day, has taken off since its debut in August. Its ability to attract tens of thousands of people to log in for each 15-minute segment in hopes of winning money by answering a dozen trivia questions has some wondering if it has reimagined the TV game show for the cord-cutting era." [New York Times]
— "The live-streamers who are challenging traditional journalism." Webcasters promise transparency and objectivity, but not all views deserve equal time." [The New Yorker]
— " Facebook launches app for tykes and tweens." Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman write: "Messenger Kids is a stand-alone chat and messaging app that allows children to send texts, messages and videos to a list of contacts their parents have approved." [Wall Street Journal]
— "The best songs of 2017 were the unlikeliest." Lindsay Zoladz writes: "From Cardi B to Lil Uzi Vert, the sounds of 2017 were defined by surprise — and were often the year’s only good surprises." [The Ringer]
What else we're hearing...
+ "Tom Hanks: Interview." [The Axe Files With David Axelrod]
+ "After 40 years, U2 is still huge. Why?" [Popcast / New York Times]
+ "All Marvel Everything: Talking Runaways with its creator and showrunners." [The Watch / Ringer]
What's ahead this week...
Tuesday: The Middle airs its 200th episode on ABC ... Will & Grace airs its Christmas special on NBC ... I, Tonya holds its premiere in Los Angeles.
Wednesday: The Hollywood Reporter hosts its Women in Entertainment breakfast in L.A. ... Shut Eye season 2 premieres on Hulu ... Happy! debuts on Syfy ... Knightfall debuts on History ...
Thursday: Psych: The Movie airs on USA ... Top Chef season 15 premieres on Bravo ... GQ hosts its Men of the Year Party in Los Angeles.
Friday: The Crown season 2 drops on Netflix ... The Greatest Showman holds its premiere in New York ... Just Getting Started, I, Tonya, and The Shape of Water hit theaters in wide release.
Today's Birthdays: Tyra Banks, 44, Jay-Z, 48, Fred Armisen, 51, Marisa Tomei, 53, Jeff Bridges, 68.