What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:21 AM 2/14/2018

by Ray Rahman

Ryan Murphy - New Yorker Festival - Getty - H 2017
Getty Images

Happy Valentine's Day! What's news: Netflix and Ryan Murphy become sweethearts. Plus: Vice Media is hit with a lawsuit, Jimmy Buffett heads to Broadway and Anthony Pellicano covers THR with his first extensive interview from prison. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: The Anthony Pellicano prison interview. A year ahead of his release, Hollywood's notorious fixer talks for the first time in detail about victims, enablers and post-prison plans. James Andrew Miller writes:

Once we're inside the prison, there's a glass-enclosed area, roughly the size of a standard jail cell, that is used to stash visitors. Now, after many months of requests, official refusals, texts, emails and carefully monitored phone calls — everything but eleventh-hour telegrams to the governor — the prison, and the prisoner, have given us the green light for a sit-down.

As 347869 walks closer, gait hastening, it's hard not to think about the thousands and thousands of hours of recorded conversations floating around in his head. Imagine the secrets that he kept on dozens of clients, from financial to professional to sexual; his early days in Chicago's mobster ZIP codes; his part in the investigation into John F. Kennedy's assassination; the gaudy glory that was Watergate; and even his own wild personal life, including nine children from four marriages to three wives. Read more.

Highlights ...

His viewpoint: "The government claimed that I compromised the judicial system — and I did. I was often the court of last resort for many."

Mob ties? "If you tried to connect me to organized crime, you probably could get close — but no cigar."

Brad Grey: "I knew Brad Grey since I moved to California back in 1982. His and Bernie Brillstein's office was right next to mine on Sunset Boulevard. As a matter of fact, I moved my suite of offices and laboratory to another floor so that they could expand for the sake of Brad. I was saddened that he died so young and with so much to live for. I liked him and was proud of what he was able to accomplish. He often told me that he, and others, were so glad that there was someone like me to go to."

What he knows about Michael Jackson: "I was offered $500,000 to tell the whole story by a tabloid, and I declined, even though, while incarcerated, I needed the money."

On snitches: "I believe rats, informants and others of that ilk are worse than child molesters. Close call — but I feel that way, and I will never relent."

Innocence: "I got convicted of committing crimes I did not commit. I had to listen to testimony of those who got up on the stand and lied. I changed a lot of lives for the better, helped a whole lot of people who were all grateful at the time. That’s what I kept in mind as I took all the heat — alone. As things got troublesome for me, they all took off for the hills."

Regrets? "I would not change a thing, but I would never have given absolute loyalty to so many. Some people got away with a lot of things and made a lot of money because of me."

His impending release: "A lot of people are quaking that I’m going to disclose lots of things when I get out. They’ll just have to keep quaking, won’t they? I'm not stupid. Unless something has greatly degraded, I still have an IQ of 167." Full cover story.

+ Where the major players are now: From Michael Ovitz to Garry Shandling, several Hollywood stars and dealmakers got caught up in the sensational scandal. See the list.

+ The battle over MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian's $2 billion estate. The ex-wives and questionable heirs of the late billionaire — an Anthony Pellicano client — continue to fight over his assets. Read more.

  • Netflix's Ryan Murphy Coup

    Call it an American Streaming Story: Like Shonda Rhimes before him, Ryan Murphy has signed a Netflix mega-deal, writes Lesley Goldberg: 

    The prolific producer behind American Horror Story and American Crime Story will exit his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television in favor of a mega-deal at Netflix that is said to be for five years and worth $300 million, according to The New York Times.

    Netflix made the announcement late Tuesday that Murphy and his Ryan Murphy Productions banner will produce new series and films for the streaming giant effective July 1, when his deal with 20th Television expires.

    How it happened: He was said to have had several deals on the table, including from all three streaming services, as well as a multiple-year offer from 20th Television to stay in what sources estimate was a $35 million-$40 million annual pact. But given the TV studio's uncertain future amid the Disney acquisition, Murphy opted for the Rhimes-like Netflix deal.

    Foreshadowing: At the winter TCA, Murphy jokingly(?) asked Bob Iger how his edgy content would fit into Disney's scheme, and told reporters he always thought he'd be "buried on the Fox lot."

    Disney takes another L: Just last year, the company lost ABC's TGIT engineer Rhimes to Netflix for a deal sources put at $100 million.

    What Netflix really wins: Ownership. Between Murphy, Rhimes and OITNB's Jenji Kohan, Netflix will be the exclusive home to new series from all three proven hit-makers — or own the content should programming be sold elsewhere.

    Dominoes: The deal will split up Murphy from 20th Television and Fox co-president Dana Walden, with industry chatter this week that the exec could move to run Murphy's Netflix-based company if she doesn't get a top post once the Fox-Disney deal is finalized.

    Murphy: "The history of this moment is not lost on me. I am a gay kid from Indiana who moved to Hollywood in 1989 with $55 in savings in my pocket, so the fact that my dreams have crystallized and come true in such a major way is emotional and overwhelming to me ..." Full story.

    The Vice lawsuit ...

    Systemic pay disparity? Vice Media is being hit with a lawsuit, filed in L.A. on behalf of former employee Elizabeth Rose, alleging systemic gender discrimination. “Our investigation has uncovered significant evidence that Vice made a conscious decision to pay more money to its male employees than its female employees who worked in similar positions performing the same or substantially similar work," attorney Michael Morrison said in a statement.

    Key detail: Rose was privy to internal memos containing the salaries of dozens of Vice employees, which showed that women "made far less than male employees for the same or substantially similar work."

    Vice's response: "We have just been made aware of the complaint and are reviewing it. As a company, we have made a significant commitment to a respectful, inclusive and equal workplace. That commitment includes a pay parity audit started last year, a goal of 50/50 female/male representation at every level by 2020, and the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board." Read more.

    Meanwhile, Natalie Jarvey reports from Code Media conference day two ...

    A+E chief Nancy Dubuc talks about ...

    Vice's culture problem: "It doesn't happen overnight," she said of enacting culture change at their Vice Media, which counts A+E as a partner/investor. "I don't think they're alone. The bro-y culture is pervasive in our business. I will give hats off to them for actually coming out and forming [the council] with a very impressive roster."

    Viceland's disappointing performance: "They certainly have a way to go, but they're proving to deliver the second-most upscale audience to Bravo in cable. What do people want? Give us a shot here." She added that the audience has grown by more than 20 percent year-over-year.

    Not taking the Amazon job: "The timing for me, as CEO of A+E, wasn't right," Dubuc said, adding that she's known for being an East Coaster. (The Amazon gig is based in L.A.) Full story.

    ? Disney's streaming promises: Hulu will become "a big, profitable service," Disney VP Kevin Mayer said. "We're very much in support of growing Hulu ... It takes an investment. As for Disney's stand-alone streaming service: "All of our bigger movies, I think, will ultimately go through somewhat of a traditional path" before they hit the streaming service, he said. Read more.

    + New Handmaid's Tale costumes! A sneak peek at season two's outfits.

    ? Turner CEO talks a little smack: "I have DirecTV," John Martin said of the product from AT&T, which is in the midst of acquiring Turner parent Time Warner. "I live in Beverly Hills. It's not that good. They have not innovated quickly enough. ... Nobody is going to be watching anymore because they're all going to be on the non-advertising supported platforms."

    ? Rose McGowan cancels: The actress-activist, who planned to speak at Code Media, tweeted that she would be canceling all public appearances for the time being.

    Streamer talk ...

    ^How Jennifer Salke could spend Amazon's $4.5 billion a year: The newly anointed studio chief aims to hire new lieutenants and find big, broad hits with a war chest built for a post-Netflix world, write Tatiana Siegel and Lesley Goldberg:

    Is Amazon Studios going all-in on big commercial fare? Given Salke's track record as a champion of such TV juggernauts as This Is Us, Glee and ABC's Modern Family, some industry observers predict that art house fare like Transparent and Manchester by the Sea may fall by the wayside in the new paradigm.

    After all, Salke's broadcast roots don't exactly dovetail with Amazon's slate in film or TV over the past few years, which notably lacks a Stranger Things or Game of Thrones-type entry in its roster. Read more.

    + Salke's to-do list: She'll have to ingratiate herself with the film community and work with COO Albert Cheng, worldwide film head Jason Ropell and worldwide television acquisition vp Brad Beale — who all now report to her — to determine a new reporting structure. She'll also need to hire her own top lieutenants, including heads of comedy/drama, unscripted, international and kids programming ...

    ^Rich Greenfield's memo to Hulu owners: Be more transparent about financials. The streamer's lack of public disclosures on who benefits from losses makes it hard for investors to understand reported numbers, especially at Disney and Fox, writes the top media analyst. Guest column.

    In other TV news ...

    ? NBC is still winning: The network dominated its first Monday of Winter Games coverage, averaging a 14.5 overnight rating between NBC and NBC Sports. The Bachelor came in at No. 2.

    + So is Shaun White: The snowboarder won a gold medal last night, but shortly afterward was asked about past allegations of sexual misconduct: "I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff." 

    + Another gaffe: Not long after one correspondent had to apologize to the people of Korea, Katie Couric is now saying she's sorry for saying the Dutch are especially good at speed skating because they regularly skate on frozen canals to get from place to place.

    ? Chris Rock's comedy special is out: His first stand-up special in a decade is called Tamborine, and it's out on Netflix today. From EW's early review: "The second half of Tamborine deals almost exclusively with marriage, relationships and, particularly, Rock’s 2014 divorce — its causes, and, more importantly, its aftermath."

    ? Atlanta trailer: The second season of Donald Glover's FX comedy has been dubbed "Robbin' Season," but details have been scarce — now the first full trailer is here. Watch.

    ? Egypt is banning SNL Arabia. The reason: "sexual phrases and insinuations that should not be presented to viewers."

    ? Mister Rogers is getting a stamp: Per NYT: "Next month, the United States Postal Service will immortalize Mr. Rogers, who died of cancer in 2003, alongside cultural and political icons such as Elvis, Big Bird and former presidents, when it introduces a Forever postage stamp with his portrait. He will be depicted wearing — no surprise here — a sweater, and cuddling up to a puppet, King Friday XIII." 

    ^Pilot season's most wanted: Which stars are getting all the offers? Lesley Goldberg writes:

    Stop us if you've heard this one before: Happy Endings favorite Damon Wayans Jr. continues to be among the most in-demand stars. The same is true for Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., Rosario Dawson, Sleepy Hollow alum Nicole Beharie and New Girl's Hannah Simone.

    Elsewhere, Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan is actively looking for her next role and has been getting offers left and right this pilot season. Read more.

    ? Kevin Durant brings Swagger to Apple: The tech giant is developing a basketball-themed scripted drama inspired by the NBA star's early career in the AAU. The series is being produced by Imagine Television and written by Reggie Rock Bythewood (Shots Fired).

    + Durant's other project: He and Andreessen Horowitz are among the investors putting in $9.5 million in funding toward sports media startup Overtime, an app from former WME digital head Dan Porter that distributes high school sports highlights.

    ? Judy Greer joins Showtime's Jim Carrey comedy: She'll star opposite Carrey as his character's estranged, newly rebellious wife in the network's upcoming half-hour Kidding.

    ? CBS All Access renews its first comedy: The network's digital service has signed on for a second season of No Activity, the Will Ferrell-produced, Tim Meadows-starring scripted comedy that launched last November. 

    ? Walking Dead alum Michael Cudlitz gets an ABC comedy: He landed the leading role in an untitled pilot from Last Man Standing writer Tim Doyle. Logline: Set in the '70s, the show revolves around an Irish-Catholic family with a working-class dad, traditional mom and eight sons as they navigate changes brought by the turbulent decade.

    ? Amazon wants more Bosch: The Titus Welliver drama will be back for a fifth season. Eric Overmyer, who stepped away last season to oversee Man in the High Castle, will return as co-showrunner alongside Daniel Pyne.

    + Amazon orders German drama Beat: It's ordering a German-language drama focusing on a murder within the Berlin club scene.   

  • Weinstein Co. Future

    Could bankruptcy be the best option now? Eriq Gardner and Tatiana Siegel write: 

    Whether Harvey's company sells assets piecemeal, comes to a settlement with the New York attorney general or auctions itself off, the value of the indie studio has taken yet another huge hit.

    Maria Contreras-Sweet, who is backed by a group of investors including Ron Burkle, seems uninterested in meeting A.G. Eric Schneiderman's demands. A source close to the deal characterized it as all but dead and the chances of it being resuscitated as “very unlikely.”

    Why bankruptcy works: From a transactional standpoint, a sale of the company through the bankruptcy process offers upside in that corporate assets may be sold free and clear of claims and interests — potentially, a more lucrative option to Bob Weinstein and David Glasser than submitting to Schneiderman’s demands. Full story.

    Arnon Milchan trouble ...

    Hot water: After a months-long investigation, Israeli police are recommending charges of bribery and tax avoidance against the famed Hollywood producer — as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Details.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    ? The latest Star Wars-Game of Thrones connection: Veteran art director Paul Inglis, who worked on Blade Runner 2049 and Game of Thrones season one, has been enlisted for the franchise's Episode IX

    ? Visual Effects Society Awards: War for the Planet of the Apes won big, taking home prizes in four categories — a positive sign for its Oscar chances. See the winners.

    Point, counterpoint ...

    NYT: "Coming soon to a stage near you: Yesterday's movies." Roslyn Sulcas writes: "Movies have long been a birthplace of Broadway musicals, and they continue to provide lucrative revenue streams for big studios, looking hard at their back catalogs for the next big thing."

    WSJ: "Not coming sooner at a home theater near you: New movies." Ben Fritz writes: "Hollywood studios’ push to make movies available for home viewing sooner after theatrical release at a premium price is a casualty of Walt Disney Co.’s deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox Inc."

    ^Sony's Silver Sable/Black Cat movie has a writing team: Lindsey Beer and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, two of the biggest names in geek screenwriting, have penned the most recent script for Silver & Black, Sony's movie project that centers on the Marvel Comics characters Silver Sable and Black Cat. Read more.

    ? Melissa McCarthy may join Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen: McCarthy is in negotiations to star opposite Haddish in New Line's adaptation of the DC/Vertigo crime drama.

    ? Rita Ora will be in Detective Pikachu: The singer-actress, fresh off of Fifty Shades Freed, is the latest to join Ryan Reynolds in Legendary's live-action Pokemon movie.

    ? Michael Keaton circling What Is Life Worth: The actor is in talks to star in the David Frankel-directed biopic of D.C. lawyer Ken Feinberg. 

    ? Jason Statham plays The Killer's Game: Well, maybe. He's in talks to star in the long-considered film adaptation of the 1997 assassin novel, with D.J. Caruso planned to direct. The movie, now being developed by STX Films, has previously counted Michael Keaton and Wesley Snipes as its potential stars. 

    ? Nat Faxon, Jim Rash team up for a rock-climbing drama: The Oscar-winning duo are set to direct Batso and the Wall, a film about legendary American rock climber Warren "Batso" Harding.

    Release calendar changes ...

    Fox: The studio is giving its Murder on the Orient Express follow-up Death on the Nile a Nov. 8, 2019 release. Meanwhile, Alita: Battle Angel is being moved from summer to Dec. 21, and Shane Black's Predator reboot (now due Sept. 14) swaps places with The Darkest Minds (Aug. 3). 

    Sony: The Equalizer 2 moves up to July 20 (from Aug. 3) and Paul, Apostle of Christ is now due for March 23 (up from March 28.)

    Warner Bros.: Horror film The Nun is being pushed from July 13 to Sept. 7.

    STX: The Mark Wahlberg action flick Mile 22 hits theaters July 20.

  • Buffett on Broadway

    The story of how producer Frank Marshall helped bring Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville to Broadway — and what's next. Deborah Wilker writes:

    The two met 38 years ago at Harrison Ford's New Year's Eve party in Aspen, Colorado, where Buffett was performing. They bonded over sailing, sports and guitars. "Frank is a student of the guitar," says Buffett. "He can play 'Margaritaville' pretty well. So if I go down …"

    "I'm kinda like the stand-in?" Marshall says.

    "Well," says Buffett, "for that song. The rest of 'em … no." Read more.

    ^Mr. Chow's empire turns 50. Anjelica Huston and Michael Keaton will be among the 700 celebrating at his SoCal studio on Feb. 16, Booth Moore writes:

    The son of a Peking Opera grand master, Michael Chow has always had a cinematic vision (the tiled interior of his original London location was inspired by 1946 classic Gilda). "One is always looking for that magic moment, the audience participation, all the stars," he says. "The golden rule is never to bore the audience." Read more.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "AT&T targets head of DOJ in defending Time Warner deal." Brett Kendall and Drew FitzGerald write: "AT&T is considering an unusual bid to seek testimony from the Justice Department’s antitrust chief in the coming trial over its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, part of the companies’ effort to challenge the legitimacy of the government’s lawsuit." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Black Panther star Danai Gurira on embracing her Zimbabwean name: I realized I didn't want to fit in." The actress pens a personal guest column for the magazine. [Glamour]

    —  "John Oliver opens up about confronting Dustin Hoffman: 'I was surprised that he showed up." Kevin Fallon interviews the HBO host. [Daily Beast]

    — "David Letterman's Netflix show reminds us of the value of the talk-show interview." Jen Chaney writes: "He’s reminding us that interviews — especially ones that aren’t micromanaged by publicists and allowed some room to meander — can and should be thoughtful and entertaining." [Vulture]

    — "The Wire still matters." Jeremy Gordon writes: "A new oral history reminds why it deserves its reputation as some of the best television ever made." [The Outline]

    — "Fifty Shades of Fever Ray." Holly Williams writes: "In her latest album, the Swedish pop star Karin Dreijer explores her newfound taste for kinky sex." [New York Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Oscar Isaac on becoming an internet sensation." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Wanda Sykes honors great fails in black history. [Late Show]

    + "Iain Armitage reacts to Sheldon Cooper fan theories." [Late Late Show]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "Marty Allen from 2015." Marc Maron dusts off a relatively recent interview with the late comic, who passed away this week at the age of 95. [WTF With Marc Maron]

    + "It's alive! Frankenstein at 200." Jill Lepore discusses Mary Shelley's classic novel. [On Point / WBUR]

    Today's birthdays: Freddie Highmore, 26, Danai Gurira, 40, Rob Thomas, 46, Simon Pegg, 48, Carl Bernstein, 74.