What's news: Bryan Singer's behavior gets him fired from the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Plus: Netflix nixes Danny Masterson from The Ranch, Billy Bush makes his case to Stephen Colbert, Dustin Hoffman gets confronted by John Oliver and Steven Spielberg joins Meryl Streep on the cover of THR. — Ray Rahman
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On the cover: Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and their female collaborators unleash The Post, a too-timely portrait of Katharine Graham and the Pentagon Papers, amid today's attacks on women and the news. Stephen Galloway writes:
In late February, Steven Spielberg hit a wall. Six years after he had started work on period piece The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara — and just weeks before he was due to start filming in Italy — he couldn't find a boy to play the lead.
In need of distraction, he picked up a spec screenplay that his CAA agents had sent him, and fell in love. The Papers, as the script was then called, didn't just tell the story of The Washington Post's Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham, both of whom he knew; it also touched on one of the most relevant issues of the day: freedom of the press, and Graham's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, at the risk of losing her family-owned newspaper.
After mulling things over, Spielberg told his longtime production partner, Kristie Macosko Krieger, that he was going to shut down Mortara and immediately jump onto the other film, which he wanted in theaters by the end of the year. "Everybody thought that I was off my rocker," he admits. Read more.
+ Spielberg and Streep along with screenwriter Liz Hannah, producer and former Sony head Amy Pascal and Spielberg's longtime producer Kristie Macosko Krieger sit down for a roundtable to discuss their film's importance: "This was the only year to make this film." Full story.
Would you like to direct Rami Malek in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody? Because Bryan Singer isn't anymore. After Fox halted production of the film last week due to the director's "unexpected unavailability," the studio announced that the absent Singer was being fired from the production, write Borys Kit and Kim Masters:
The decision reflected an escalating clash between Singer and actor Rami Malek and was caused by the director being missing from the set.
Denying he acted unprofessionally, Singer claimed the studio refused to allow him to tend to "a gravely ill parent" as well as to his own health.
Trouble began when Singer went missing during production on several occasions. Malek complained to the studio, charging Singer with not being present on set, unreliability and unprofessionalism. The growing tension led to a confrontation between Singer and Malek, which, while it did not become physical, did involve Singer throwing an object. Subsequently, however, the two are said to have settled their differences and filming was expected to resume.
But then Singer did not return to the set after the Thanksgiving break. Full story.
+ Tom Hollander was so fed up with Singer's behavior that he's said to have quit the film, though the actor was eventually persuaded to return.
+ Singer was warned before production began by Fox Film that they wouldn't tolerate any unprofessional behavior on his part. A representative from the Directors Guild of America even arrived on set to monitor the situation.
+ Singer's Fox offices have been shut down. His production company Bad Hat Harry is vacating its offices Twentieth Century Fox lot. Singer had a three-year first-look deal with the studio that concluded at the end of October, and it was not renewed.
+ A new director is expected to be named by the studio soon, though due to strict DGA rules, Fox likely won't be able to strip Singer's credit from the movie. The film has about two more weeks of principal photography remaining.
Elsewhere in film...
► Quentin Tarantino and J.J. Abrams, Star Trek partners? Apparently: Tarantino has a pitch for a Star Trek film, and he has shared his vision with Abrams. Now the pair have plans to bring together a writers room to develop at Star Trek studio Paramount. Tarantino has an eye to direct the potential project.
► U.K.'s Cineworld buys U.S.'s Regal for $3.6 billion. The deal will "create a globally diversified cinema operator across 10 countries and allow Cineworld to access the attractive North American cinema market," with Regal getting a chance to look for a better offer.
► Cinemark launches Movie Club to compete with MoviePass. The new $8.99-a-month subscription service offers customers a free movie a month as well a discounted additional tickets and concessions. It seems ... pretty weak compared to MoviePass?
► Annie Awards nominations released: Coco and The Breadwinner lead the animated-movie nominations, while Boss Baby and Loving Vincent also received multiple nods. See the full list.
+ Oscars: Ten animated shorts advanced in the voting process, including Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant's Dear Basketball and Pixar's Lou. Meanwhile, twenty movies moved ahead in the visual effects race; The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Dunkirk are among them.
► Sundance additions: The film festival added some new titles to its slate, including a politically themed Elvis Presley doc from exec producer Steven Soderbergh and a vérité opioid-epidemic docuseries from Matthew Heineman and Morgan Spurlock titled The Trade. Plus: Projects from Spike Lee, Dev Patel and more. See the list.
^Casting pros debate harassment, whitewashing and why the term “casting couch” is offensive. Six top casting directors open up about diversity and weigh in on whether they deserve an Oscar category ("Hell yes"). Full story.
► Weinstein update: At least two New York City police detectives are in Los Angeles working the department's investigation into Harvey Weinstein, authorities confirmed. The exact nature of what detectives are examining or who they may be talking to is not clear.
► John Oliver reportedly got into it with Dustin Hoffman: According to The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, John Oliver got into a testy argument with Dustin Hoffman over sexual harassment allegations against the Oscar-winning actor at a Wag the Dog anniversary film panel last night. Things “grew visibly uncomfortable,” Zeitchik says. Read more.
► In the works: Stranger Things star Sadie Sink, True Detective's Kelly Reilly join the horror film Eli ... Narcos and Game of Thrones star Pedro Pascal joins Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk ... Armie Hammer will make his Broadway debut next summer in Straight White Men ... Blake Lively injured her hand on the set of The Rhythm Section.
After penning an op-ed in the New York Times, a chastened Billy Bush struck back at Trump on Colbert in his first talk-show appearance since the release of the Access Hollywood tape. The former NBC personality did his best to express contrition for his complicity, writes Frank Scheck:
Colbert made the point that it was Trump's recent comments, plus the current charged atmosphere in which sexual harassers and assaulters are finally being called to account, that put the tape back in the spotlight. He also played an excerpt from the tape, much to Bush's obvious discomfort.
Explaining that he played along with what he considered to be a "crass stand-up act" by Trump, Bush seemed contrite. "I feel like I sacrificed a little bit of who I am," he told Colbert. Colbert asked him if he could decipher the specific meaning of one of Trump's remarks. This led to one of the stranger moments in late-night talk show history, with the two men dissecting the phrase "I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there" like rabbis poring over a quote from the Talmud.
Bush kept invoking the word "irony," making it sound like a mantra he had memorized. It certainly applied to his description of entering a spiritual retreat on the exact day that Trump was sworn in as president. Bush also expressed rage, saying of Trump, "Enough's enough! Stop playing around with people lives!" Read more.
+ Bush also vaguely insinuated that Matt Lauer tried to save Bush's job. "We had a conversation about that, and I was told — he told me — that he went privately to the bosses and took that line," Bush said. "I said I appreciated it and thanked him."
+ When Colbert made Bush watch the tape again: "It's like a gut punch now."
+ If he could do things over: "I will say I would have liked to addressed the audience."
Elsewhere in TV...
► Danny Masterson fired from Netflix's The Ranch amid rape allegations. "As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of The Ranch. [Monday] was his last day on the show, and production will resume in early 2018 without him," Netflix said in a statement.
+ The actor will still appear in the second half of season two, due Dec. 15, and may return for parts of season three as the streaming giant writes him out of the Ashton Kutcher comedy.
+ The move comes after one of Masterson’s accusers said that a Netflix executive told her bluntly that he didn’t believe the women, not realizing the woman he was speaking to was one of the alleged victims.
► House of Cards will resume production in 2018 without Kevin Spacey. The Netflix show's sixth and final season will be cut down to eight episodes (down from 13) and, as expected, will star Robin Wright sans Spacey, Ted Sarandos announced.
+ Sarandos also discussed Disney's strategy. "It'll be an interesting couple of years," the Netflix content chief said of the increasingly competitive streaming landscape. "What Disney going direct to consumer means, I don't really know, and I'm not positive that they do either." Read more.
► Christiane Amanpour's show will replace Charlie Rose on PBS. The anchor's CNN International show, which will carry PBS branding and be called Amanpour, will be offered "on an interim basis" to all member stations starting Dec. 11.
► Alec Baldwin is prepping a talk show for ABC. The project is based on his WNYC radio show and podcast Here's the Thing With Alec Baldwin. Sources stress Baldwin's deal is not completely done — it has been in the works for weeks — and additional details remain scarce. Production is slated to begin next week.
► Bill O'Reilly, Fox news sued for disparaging female accuser. Rachel Bernstein is suing for breach of her settlement agreement and defamation over press statements made in the wake of the New York Times story revealing the former anchor paid $13 million to settle harassment claims with five women. .
^The Crown season 2, reviewed. “It's a season of transition for The Crown and for Elizabeth — literally, since Olivia Colman will move into the role — and part of that transition is awareness of the compromises necessary to maintain the institution," Daniel Fienberg writes. "That process involves dedicating time to some less beloved figures and there's some frustration, but ample fascination to that." Read more
► Curb Your Enthusiasm boss hopeful Larry David returns for another season. Executive producer Jeff Schaffer goes inside the supersized finale and looks ahead to the possibility (likelihood?) of a season 10.
► Hosts with the most: Kristen Bell will serve as the first-ever host of the SAG Awards, happening Jan. 21, while Late Night's Amber Ruffin will emcee the East Coast edition of the WGA Awards on Feb. 11.
► Charlie Ergen steps down as Dish CEO to focus on wireless, will remain chairman. Erik Carlson has been promoted to president and CEO at the satellite TV giant.
► YouTube star Tyler Oakley signs with WME. The 28-year-old LGBT activist is planning to launch a production company.
Nickelodeon brings its long-running underwater toon franchise to Broadway with this eye-popping, psychotropic (geddit?) musical fantasia about friendship and community, writes David Rooney:
The show is an eyeful even before it begins. Designer David Zinn, who did both the sets and the astonishing array of costumes, seems to have bought up the entire Western world's fringed-Mylar supplies to drape the theater, with pool noodles, floaties and assorted junk twisted into undersea sculptures and huge neon fidget spinners glowing like pop-art flowers.
When the fabulously costumed Bikini Bottom feeders flood the stage, shuffle down the aisles and descend from above on a trapeze in Jonathan Coulton's buoyant opening song, "Bikini Bottom Day," it's like The Lion King on shrooms. (I have to admit, though, that the giant clown fish freaked me out; it made Pennywise look like a guppy.) Read more.
+ The Bloomberg 50 Gala. Jeremy Barr emails from last night's event:
Keegan-Michael Key hosted the inaugural edition of the event, which was attended by A-listers from the worlds of business, media and entertainment. Most of Key's jokes didn't land, but it was a tough crowd.
The man himself, Michael Bloomberg, made an appearance and gave some remarks, as he always does. Bloomberg dinged President Trump with a self-deprecating joke about how they both enjoy putting their names on buildings. He also got in a dig at Time Inc. and the two brothers who helped finance Meredith's purchase of the company, Charles and David Koch. "I'm glad to say that the Bloomberg 50 is already being copied by other media outlets," he said. "Time magazine just announced that the Time 100 will be split in half, into two separate issues. Turns out the Koch brothers couldn't agree on a list."
Tamron Hall, who has not yet spoken publicly about the allegations against her former Today colleague, Matt Lauer, declined comment when approached for an interview.
What else we're reading...
— "Dave Franco would love to get Tommy Wiseau to the Oscars." Julie Miller writes: "Though James has the flashier role, Dave has the more difficult one — keeping a straight face through his brother’s in-character hysterics and tethering Planet Tommy to reality, acting as Tommy’s go-between to less-deluded characters and the audience’s sympathetic stand-in." [Vanity Fair]
— Critics groups love Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird, but will the academy follow suit? Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp evaluate the state of the Oscar race. [Los Angeles Times]
— "He's channeling Emma Stone. But this ain't La La Land." Jose Solís writes: "In a red wig, black skirt, and white button-down shirt dress, Jimmy Fowlie, as Mia, traces the path from home — she was too big a fish for such a small pond — to drama school, and eventually Los Angeles. She is all heart — and delusional confidence." [New York Times]
— "Meghan Markle is everything Ivanka Trump wishes she could be." Erin Gloria Ryan writes: "Sorry, Ivanka — there's only one American princess, and she's on the other side of the pond." [Daily Beast]
— "Why Boston's college students are still obsessed with Good Will Hunting." Sonia Rao writes: "College students here who haven’t seen Good Will Hunting are akin to those who despise Dunkin’ Donuts. Sure, they exist. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find them." [Washington Post]
What else we're seeing...
+ "'Bruce Springsteen' sings 'Robert Mueller's Comin' to Town.'" [Tonight Show]
+ "Bryan Cranston is The Elf on the Shelf." [Late Late Show]
+ "Guest host Chris Pratt interviews Margot Robbie." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]
What else we're hearing...
+ "Greta Gerwig: Interview." [WTF With Marc Maron]
+ "The Crown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Happy, Mr. Robot." [TV Avalanche]
+ "Vanessa Bayer at Beyoncé's wedding." [2 Dope Queens / WNYC]
Today's Birthdays: Frankie Muniz, 32, Jessica Paré, 37, Paula Patton, 42, Margaret Cho, 49, Joan Didion, 83.