What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:16 AM 2/21/2018

by Ray Rahman

Christopher Patey

What's news: There's a lot executive shuffling going on at Lionsgate. Plus: TV's new reboot economics, George and Amal's activism and a look at Disney's Black Panther marketing playbook. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Roseanne returns. Is TV ready for a Trump-loving comic with "nothing left to prove?" Lacey Rose sits down with Roseanne Barr and her creative team to discuss:

Did you consider having Roseanne vote for anyone besides Trump?

Barr: No, I wanted to do it this way. It's the conversation everybody is having. Families are not speaking to each other. People are still shocked and upset about it. It's the state of our country.

What happened in the room when it came time to write those scenes?

Bruce Helford: Contrary to what you might think, the room was not totally liberal.… There were people who had points of view that you'd consider conservative, and we had those discussions, and they ended up being what goes on between Darlene and Roseanne and Jackie.

Whitney Cummings: We so often surround ourselves with people we agree with, so going into the writers room was often like, "Eeeeek." We were challenging each other, and I definitely wanted to go back into my Huffington Post or Vulture cocoon where everyone agrees, but it's really important to be with people you disagree with when you're writing to make sure you're not being elitist assholes.

Barr: I thought everybody was pretty liberal, so I was keepin' an eye on it, making sure that it was evenhanded. But the day we went to shoot [the pilot], I got with the writers, and I'm like, "You guys have to have a Hillary slam." 'Cause they were all Trump slams.

Sara Gilbert: People think this show is more political than it is. It's more about how a family deals with a disagreement like that. But I get it, it creates website clicks.

John Goodman: The family is still sunk no matter who gets in [the White House]. Full Q&A | Gallery | Video

+ From "domestic goddess" to nut farmer: a look back at Roseanne Barr's wild career. Tonight Show breakout, queen of primetime, presidential candidate, reality show star — the actress-comedian's career has been everything but dull. Read more.

  • Lionsgate Exits

    Both, Natasha Moustache/Getty Images

    Lionsgate may not want any turbulence as it looks for a buyer, but an executive reshuffling is in the works, writes Kim Masters: 

    Lionsgate shuffle: Sources say Motion Picture Group co-president Erik Feig has been raising money to launch a new company focused on youth-oriented projects, while Motion Picture Group co-chairman Patrick Wachsberger also plans to leave within months. Lionsgate is likely to be a major investor in Feig's company.

    An executive with knowledge of the situation says Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and vice chairman Michael Burns had hoped Feig would remain for another year, presumably to give them time to pursue a sale without any major changes at the company that could raise concerns for a prospective buyer.

    What they'd be losing: Feig has championed such winners as La La Land, which grossed $446 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, and the Julia Roberts drama Wonder, which pulled in $265 million on a $20 million budget.

    Could a sale be near? With consolidation underway in the industry, Lionsgate may feel that selling is urgent and the iron is fairly hot. But the company's stock recently dropped sharply after the company adjusted earnings... Full story.

    Black Panther's final weekend gross...

    And the new number is: $242 million, updated after the totals for a record-breaking holiday Monday. That's enough to pass Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the second-highest four-day gross of all time (behind The Force Awakens). Globally, it's $426.6 million.

    Ryan Coogler's open letter: "I am struggling to find the words to express my gratitude at this moment, but I will try," writes the filmmaker. "Deep down we all hoped that people would come to see a film about a fictional country on the continent of Africa, made up of a cast of people of African descent." Full letter.

    Disney's Black Panther playbook: “The biggest thing for the campaign was really super-serving black moviegoers while also making it the broadest moviegoing event,” says Disney marketing executive vp Asad Ayaz, who handles Marvel titles. “This wasn’t just for our core Marvel fans. We went about making it feel like a cultural event." Full story.

    The Erik Killmonger debate: Michael B. Jordan's villain is inspiring plenty of think pieces. The Atlantic: "The tragedy of Erik Killmonger." The New Yorker: "On Killmonger, the American villain of Black Panther." The Ringer: "Was Erik Killmonger right?" Esquire: "Does the film ask its audience to root for the wrong character?"

    Want to fly to Wakanda? Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson is offering flights to the fictional African nation. Sure, it was a joke, but a pretty good one.

    A depressing new study...

    Women in Hollywood: Ninety-four percent of women working in entertainment have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault during their careers, according to a new survey of hundreds of women in Hollywood. The most frequent incidents of harassment in the Hollywood workplace are unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures directed at a woman or about a woman (87 percent of respondents said they experienced such comments).

    Other experiences reported by the majority of respondents include unwanted sexual comments (75 percent of respondents saw or experienced them), "being touched in a sexual way" (69 percent), witnessing colleagues advancing in the workplace due to sexual relationships with higher-ups (65 percent) and being propositioned for a sexual activity in the workplace (64 percent). Full results.

    + A new Weinstein doc: The U.K.'s Working With Weinstein, which debuted on Channel 4 this week, showcases graphic, firsthand employee accounts of Harvey Weinstein's alleged history of harassment and assault. Details.

    George and Amal's activism...

    Big donation: George and Amal Clooney kicked off a wave of giving by announcing a $500,000 donation to March for Our Lives, the student-led demonstration organized by the Stoneman Douglas High kids. The couple will be marching as well.

    Who followed: Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw each opened up their pocketbooks as well.

    Sean Hannity has thoughts: "My attitude is, 'Run, George, run,'" Hannity said on his radio show in response to The Drudge Report's "Clooney 2020?" headline. "If George Clooney wants to run, I'm all for it.... I think Oprah Winfrey would be infinitely better as a candidate than George Clooney."

    News from the Academy...

    Solidarity: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is voicing its support of the filmmaking team behind the nominated documentary Last Men in Aleppo that won't be able to attend the Oscars due to travel restrictions. "As supporters of filmmakers — and the human rights of all people — we stand in solidarity," the Academy said in a statement.

    Director talk...

    From Paddington to Pinocchio: Disney is tapping Paul King, the director of the acclaimed Paddington films, to direct its live-action reimagining of Pinocchio, on which the studio is hoping to start production in the fall.

    From Lego Batman to Dungeons & Dragons: Chris McKay may be carving out a niche for bringing games to life: The Lego Batman helmer is in talks to take the reins on Paramount's upcoming D&D movie, slated for a 2021 release.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Will Jessica Chastain actually star in It: Chapter 2? Maybe! The Internet's dream casting for the grown-up version of Beverly may come true, as Chastain is currently in talks for the sequel. 

    Viola Davis's Amazon movie: The actress is attached to star in Troupe Zero, an Amazon Studios film written by Beasts of the Southern Wild scribe Lucy Alibar. 

    Robert Rodriguez's next sci-fi thriller: The director is teaming up with creature feature writer Max Borenstein for Hypnotic, described as a grounded cop thriller with sci-fi elements.

    Jennifer Lopez's rom-com gets a date: STX will release Second Act on Nov. 21. The film also stars Milo Ventimiglia, Leah Remini and Vanessa Hudgens. 

    Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog movie gets a date, too: It'll open Nov. 15, 2019. Deadpool director Tim Miller is executive producing.

    Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time soundtrack: She convinced Sade to write an original song — and Sade said yes, much to DuVernay's surprise. Sia will also be providing an original song, the director revealed.

    Netflix picks up White Fang: The animated feature, which premiered at Sundance, is based on the Jack London story. The streamer is planning to release it this year.

    Annihilation, reviewed. "Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien," Todd McCarthy writes of the Natalie Portman-starring film. "Writer-director Alex Garland shows an unerring hand in building a sense of unease about what evil lurks in a forest, and then making it pay off." Full review.

    Speaking of Natalie Portman: She's come to realize it was a bad idea to sign a Hollywood petition supporting Roman Polanski back in 2009. "I very much regret it. I take responsibility for not thinking about it enough," Portman told BuzzFeed. "Someone I respected gave it to me, and said, 'I signed this. Will you, too?' And I was like, 'Sure.'"

    The Costume Designers Guild Awards...

    And the winners are: As a precursor to the Oscars, Tuesday's CDGA honored such Oscar-nominated films as I, Tonya (Excellence in Contemporary Film), The Shape of Water (Excellence in Period Film) and Wonder Woman (Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy). Full winners list.

  • Reboot Economics

    Illustration by: Mario Zucca

    What are the new economics of TV's reboot craze? Michael O'Connell writes:

    The model: Most point to Will & Grace as the current standard of reboot success. At the very least, it's the show ABC will measure against when Roseanne returns after a 20-year break. Will & Grace ranks as NBC's No. 1 comedy of the season, and it trails only CBS' Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon on the list of top comedies across TV.

    Better still: The already-renewed comedy barely costs more money than a typical first-year show, say sources.

    Who gets paid: If the original creator is not involved, he or she will still get a cut, whether the new series is a continuation or a traditional remake. Example: Matt Williams, Roseanne's creator and first showrunner, departed in season one after butting heads with Roseanne Barr. But he still saw his name run with the lone "created by" tag for the eight and a half seasons that followed, and that credit will remain intact for the show's new episodes, even though he's as uninvolved as ever. Full story.

    + From Cagney & Lacey to Charmed: The next class of reboots. See the list.

    + Josh Gondelman's vision: The No Cosby Show. The Last Week Tonight writer and co-founder of the @SeinfeldToday Twitter account offers updated takes on Sex and the City, All in the Family and more. See them all.

    Meanwhile, on the AT&T-Time Warner front...

    Setback: A month before the trial that will decide the fate of AT&T's $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner, a federal judge refused AT&T's bid to obtain communication logs between Donald Trump's White House and the Department of Justice, hindering the company's premise that the White House played a role in the government's decision to stop the merger. 

    Money quote: The judge writes of the Justice Department's attempt to block the vertical merger: "While it may, indeed, be a rare breed of horse, it is not exactly a unicorn!"

    Time for a Tavis Smiley update...

    He's suing PBS now: The former PBS host is suing the network for breach of contract after it stopped distributing his show once sexual harassment allegations against him came to light. A new wrinkle: He also claims in the suit that PBS was "racially hostile" and "hassled" him over booking African-American guests with controversial opinions.

    Ryan Murphy speculation...

    Who will he recruit to join him at Netflix? Lacey Rose writes: What’s left to be hashed out is not only the focus of his attention with seven active Fox TV series, but also the longer-term fate of his superstar collaborators, at least some of whom sources expect he’ll try to recruit to Netflix pacts once their own multiyear Fox TV deals expire. Among them: Tim Minear, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, each of whom has shared creator credits on several Murphy shows.

    Same for Shondaland: A handful of Shonda Rhimes’ top writers are said to be considering their own futures, be it at ABC Studios or Netflix. Insiders say ABC brass has been busy pitching key players on staying put, while Rhimes, rather than the streaming executives who lured her, is making the case for Netflix. Full story.

    Televangelist Rev. Billy Graham dies...

    Per the AP: The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died Wednesday. He was 99. Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Imagine Entertainment buys stake in Jax Media: Ron Howard's and Brian Grazer's production company is teaming with the studio known for half-hour TV comedies Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Inside Amy Schumer and the Roseanne reboot.

    Hulu, Lionsgate veterans join Otter Media exec team: Andy Forssell is joining Otter as chief operating officer; he'll lead the company's day-to-day operations as well as technology and product development. Alan Beard is also joining as chief brand officer, and Jennifer Cho boards as chief financial officer.

    Epix taps Nancy Cotton to head scripted programming: She'll serve as exec vp original programming, where she'll be charged with development and production of all scripted originals.

    Lots of big casting and development news from various networks...


    Walton Goggins, L.A. Confidential: The Justified and Vice Principals favorite, who fielded multiple offers this season, will bring his talents to the reboot as Detective Jack Vincennes, aka the one played by Kevin Spacey in the movie. The show has added Anna Fricke (CW's Valor) as a co-showrunner. 

    Jay Hernandez, Magnum P.I.: That right, Tom Selleck fans, there's a new Thomas Magnum in town. The role now belongs to Hernandez, who may or may not grow the mustache for the CBS pilot. 

    Phillipa Soo, The Code: Best known for her Tony-nominated turn as Hamilton's original Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, Soo will join the military courtroom drama as a hyper-organized lieutenant and lawyer. 

    Bill Gates, The Big Bang Theory: The Microsoft man has booked a one-episode appearance as himself for a March episode this season. 

    A new Mark Burnett show: The network is ordering TKO, described as a "physical and funny" obstacle series from the man behind the Survivor franchise.


    Katie Holmes: She's setting her sights on broadcast television via Fox's untitled Ilene Chaiken drama pilot, which will star Holmes as an FBI agent whose career becomes threatened thanks to an affair with a prominent general. 


    Lauren Cohan, Whiskey Cavalier: The Walking Dead star, currently without a season-nine contract amid a salary battle with AMC, seems to be ready to walk away — she's been cast in a leading role opposite Scott Foley in ABC's drama pilot.


    Another Muppets reboot? Yep: Sources say the studio's Netflix rival is planning to develop a whole bunch of series and films based on its classic titles — including a reboot of The Muppets.


    Tiffany Haddish, Tuca and Bertie: This is actually two big bits of news. (1) The streamer is giving a 10-episode straight-to-series order to this animated comedy from the BoJack Horseman team, about two 30-year-old bird women friends (lady birds?). (2) Haddish will play the cocky toucan Tuca opposite the yet-to-be-cast anxious songbird Bertie.

    Miranda Otto, Sabrina: The Homeland alum will play Zelda Spellman, Kiernan Shipka's stern aunt in Netflix's still-untitled Sabrina the Teenage Witch companion to CW's Riverdale.

    Joel Kinnaman, Altered Carbon? Maybe — he's not ruling it out, at least: "We don't know anything about the second season," the actor, who signed a one-year deal on the show, tells THR.


    Consider Phlebas: Amazon may have found its space opera — the streamer beat out multiple bids to acquire global television rights to adapt Consider Phlebas, the first book in author Iain M. Banks' so-called Culture series. Writer Dennis Kelly (Utopia) and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment are on board to produce.


    Paul Feig's Girl Code: The comedy, set at an all-female tech incubator, is getting a pilot order at the network.

    THE CW

    Melonie Diaz, Charmed: A breakout from Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, Diaz lands one of the reboot's three starring roles. 

  • Beltway on Broadway

    Courtesy of Joan Marcus

    Gillian Jacobs, Aya Cash and Zach Grenier appear in Kings, Sarah Burgess' new drama set in the world of Washington, D.C., politicians and lobbyists. Frank Scheck reviews: 

    Midway through Sarah Burgess' drama, two characters sit down for a business meeting at the chain restaurant Chili's. During the conversation, one of them suddenly asks, "What is that sound?" Seconds later, a waiter brings in a tray of fajitas as smoke begins to waft across the stage. Not long after we hear them, we smell them. And they smell delicious.

    If I'm dwelling a little too long on the culinary aspects of Kings, it's because the play's dramatics prove comparatively underwhelming. The world of lobbying is a timely, relevant topic that well deserves to be examined, but this play does so in a manner that's more pedantic than compelling. Full review.

    In other news...

    Vox Media layoffs: In a memo to staff this morning, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff announced plans to lay off around 50 employees, with the Racked, Curbed, SB Nation and Video Services teams "bearing the biggest impact." Additionally, he said that around 12 other employees will be offered "role changes." Full memo.

    What else we're reading...

    — "How much magic can Harry Potter make?" Roslyn Sulcas writes: "The Broadway home for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been rebuilt in the hope that it will run for many, many years. So why is J.K. Rowling worried?" [The New York Times]

    — "What Ryan Coogler can teach Hollywood about making the industry more inclusive." Tre'vell Anderson writes: "If the industry takes a close look at what Coogler and team have created, they'll unlock the not-so-secret secret to creating a more inclusive industry." [L.A. Times]

    — "Kobe Bryant could add an Oscar to his record of wins." Charles Solomon writes: "The film has generated considerable excitement in the animation industry for its celebration of traditional drawing." [The New York Times]

    — "What could Transparent look like without Jeffrey Tambor?" Kathryn VanArendonk writes: "In a vacuum, if the circumstances were simply that Transparent has now been on for four seasons and Tambor is now leaving, with none of the surrounding context and damage, I’d have said this was a great move for the show." [Vulture]

    — "Chris Hardwick explains why @midnight had to die." The comedian tells Jacob Shamsian: "We were not a political show." [Business Insider]

    — "Rebooted Mad magazine to publish first issue in April." Alfred E. Neuman rides again. [EW]

    — "Comedian J.B. Smoove explains what goes into being the face of razors." Lindsay Rittenhouse talks to the Curb actor about shaving and more. [Adweek]

    — "What happens when athletes do the sportswriting?" Amos Barshad examines Derek Jeter's Players' Tribune. [NYT Magazine]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Marjory Stoneman students argue for 'common sense' gun laws with Jordan Klepper." [The Opposition]

    + "If politicians won't take action, these high schoolers will." [Late Show]

    "Parkland shooting survivors school Congress on gun violence." [Daily Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Willem Dafoe." The admired character actor talks experimental theater, his unconventional face and landing edgy projects. [Awards Chatter/THR]

    + "Michael Stuhlbarg on his approach to playing real-life characters." The ubiquitous Oscar season actor talks about his breakout year. [All Things Considered/NPR]

    + "What the F? Saltier language creeps into basic cable." A discussion of TV swearing. [Screen Grab/KCRW]

    Today's Birthdays: Sophie Turner, 22, Ellen Page, 31, Jennifer Love Hewitt, 39, Jordan Peele, 39, Kumail Nanjiani, 40, Billy Baldwin, 55, Kelsey Grammer, 63, David Geffen, 75, John Lewis, 78.