What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:21 AM 2/7/2018

by Ray Rahman

Martha Galvan

What's news: The #MeToo movement is changing the way Hollywood makes deals. Plus: Game of Thrones meets Star Wars, Black Panther sales skyrocket and Willem Dafoe covers the new issue. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Willem Dafoe, the enigmatic Florida Project star and Oscar underdog who just wants to "disappear." Ben Svetkey writes: 

Here is a typical day in the life of Willem Dafoe: He wakes up early, usually around 5 or 6 a.m. He meditates, has a cup of coffee and writes in his journal for a while. Then he checks his email, does some yoga and makes breakfast. If he's prepping for a film, which he almost always is, he'll go over his lines for a couple of hours. If he's not, he'll read a book, take a walk around his West Village neighborhood or — his favorite activity of all — do some laundry.

"It's one of my great pleasures," he says, dead serious. "I love it so much, I have to resist the urge to do a lot of hand washing when I'm in hotels. Sometimes, when I'm in a strange city, I go to laundromats. I did that in France recently — I was shooting a movie there — and it was a beautiful experience. For some reason, people are really nice to me in laundromats and I have these great encounters. Talk about fun and sexy." Full story | Video

+ On changing his name: As a teenager in Appleton, Wis., William was called Bill, or sometimes Billy, and there was a period during his early childhood when his older brothers teased him with the nickname "Bleeblob." "It's not like I was looking around for a stage name," Dafoe says, "But I knew that I didn't want to be a William or a Bill or a Billy."

+ Almost playing the Joker: He was considered for 1989’s Batman, until Jack Nicholson snagged the role: "[Screenwriter Sam] Hamm said something about how physically I would be perfect for the part, but they never offered it to me.”

+ On his demeanor: "I’m like the boy next door, if you live next door to a mausoleum."

+ Oliver Stone: "He's not a movie star. He's not good-looking in that way. But that's why he's still working. He hasn't fallen into the movie star trap. He's stayed an actor."

+ Sean Baker: "When I cast Willem, everyone was like, ‘Oh no, he’s a villain, he’s a bad guy.' But Willem made the character his own. He came down to Florida a week early and picked out his wardrobe — he’s the one who came up with the sunglasses — and met with actual hotel managers around the area, looking for inspiration. And he was great with the kids."

  • 'Black Panther' Buzz

    Courtesy of Marvel Studios

    The review embargo has lifted, and the verdict is in: It's a good one. Todd McCarthy writes: 

    With uncanny timing, Marvel takes its superheroes into a domain they've never inhabited before and is all the better for it in Black Panther.

    There's no mistaking you're still in the Marvel universe here, but this entry sweeps you off to a part of it you've never seen: a hidden lost world in Africa defined by royal traditions and technological wonders that open up refreshing new dramatic, visual and casting possibilities. Getting it right where other studios and franchises — they know who they are — get it wrong. Full review.

    + Current Rotten Tomatoes score: 100 percent

    + What others are saying: Rolling Stone: "An exhilarating triumph on every level from writing, directing, acting, production design, costumes, music, special effects to you name it." L.A. Times: "Like Christopher Nolan, who was 35 when he reanimated the Batman franchise, the 31-year-old [Ryan] Coogler has a gift for putting his own spin on genre, for making popular culture worlds his own." The New York Times: "There are sequences that may make you cry because of where they go and what they say, but also because of the sensitivity he brings to them." 

    + Super numbers: Pamela McClintock writes: "Black Panther is outselling all previous first quarter movies on Fandango, beating out previous Q1 champs The Hunger Games (2012) and Beauty and the Beast (2017). It's likewise pacing to be the biggest superhero preseller in Fandango's 18-year history, eclipsing Batman v. Superman (2016)." Read more.

    + Oscar buzz? Vulture's Kyle Buchanan writes: "There’s one category where it already ought to be considered the frontrunner, meaning the 18th Marvel Studios movie could take home the company’s first Academy Award. That would be the race for the Best Costume Design Oscar, a trophy that no Marvel film has yet been nominated for."

    And in other huge Disney franchise news...

    Game of Thrones masters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been given the keys to their very own Star Wars film series. 

    + The details: The duo will write and produce a new series of films, Disney and Lucasfilm announced Tuesday. The series will be separate from the trilogy that The Last Jedi director, Rian Johnson, is developing, and will also stand alone from the Skywalker Saga, which J.J. Abrams is working on with the upcoming Episode IX. No release dates have been set for the series. Full story.

    + Kathleen Kennedy: "David and Dan are some of the best storytellers working today,” the Lucasfilm president says. “Their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology will break new ground and boldly push Star Wars in ways I find incredibly exciting."

    + Bob Iger: "They have an idea for number of films and at some later date I'm sure we'll disclose to all of you just what those are," says the Disney CEO. "They are focused on a point in time in the Star Wars mythology and taking it from there."

    + Is this bad news for the stand-alone films? Aaron Couch writes: "It’s fair to say that none of the Star Wars Story movies have been smooth sailing to date. It's easy to imagine that Lucasfilm could quietly fold the initiative altogether." Read more.

    + And what about HBO's Confederate? Remember that alternate-history, the-South-won-the-Civil-War project Benioff and Weiss were working on at HBO? Prospects are murky, and HBO didn't immediately respond for comment on the show's future.

    + Star Wars TV shows? Iger told investors on an earnings call, "We are developing not just one, but a few Star Wars series specifically for the Disney direct-to-consumer app. We've mentioned that and we are close to being able to reveal at least one of the entities that is developing that for us. Because the deal isn't completely closed, we can't be specific about that. I think you'll find the level of talent…on the television front will be rather significant as well." Full story.

    Speaking of earnings...

    Disney financials: In the company's first quarterly financial report since the Fox deal, Disney said it earned more than Wall Street expected even as revenue fell just shy of expectations. Full story.

    + Numbers: Disney earned an adjusted $1.89 per share, while Wall Street was expecting it to post $1.61 per share in its fiscal first quarter. Revenue was $15.35 billion, while analysts expected $15.48 billion.

    + Breakdown: The film studio saw a 1 percent drop in revenue and 2 percent fall in operating income. Media networks saw flat revenue and a 12 percent decline in operating income as ESPN ad sales were weaker than expected. Falling political revenue at the company's owned TV stations also didn't help the media networks segment. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ^Will Sony's new CEO care about Hollywood? "Despite a reputation for axing underperforming divisions, many Sony watchers believe Kenichiro Yoshida is unlikely to unload entertainment assets — just yet," writes Gavin J. Blair. Read more.

    + Sony TV shake-up: Worldwide networks president Andy Kaplan, home entertainment topper Man Jit Singh and president and CMO Sheraton Kalouria will all exit the company as CEO Tony Vinciquerra streamlines his executive roster. Meanwhile, distribution president Keith Le Goy will expand his role and add home entertainment duties. Full story.

    The Cloverfield deal: According to sources, Netflix paid Paramount more than $50 million for The Cloverfield Paradox. It's a win-win: The deal makes the movie instantly profitable for the studio, which would've otherwise had a likely theatrical dud on its hands, and Netflix got the buzz it wanted.

    Deadpool 2 trailer: Meet Josh Brolin's Cable. The movie's new preview includes the first footage of Brolin in character as the mutant. Watch it here.

    Matt Smith as Charles Manson: The outgoing Crown star has been cast as the infamous serial killer in the upcoming Charlie Says, from American Psycho director Mary Harron. The rising Suki Waterhouse, fresh off a Detective Pikachu casting, also joins the film.

    Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez join Doctor Dolittle: The actors will voice-star in Universal's The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, led by Robert Downey Jr. Also joining the film are Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen, both in live-action roles.

    Mindy Kaling comedy gets financing: 30West and FilmNation Entertainment will finance Kaling's comedy Late Night, which will co-star herself alongside Emma Thompson. Kaling's script centers on a late-night talk show host (Thompson) who is at risk of losing her long-running show right when she hires her first female writer (Kaling).

    Amber Heard nabs thriller role: The actress will play a star-crossed lover who encounters the dark criminal underbelly of the European fashion industry in the Paris-set romantic thriller Run Away With Me, from Sentinel Pictures and XYZ Films.

    Milla Jovovich gets her own Lucy: The actress will star in the action-thriller Hummingbird as a black-ops assassin, replacing Olivia Munn (and, before that, Zoe Saldana) in a movie described as being in the vein of Lucy.

    Stephen Merchant joins Dragon Tattoo sequel: He'll star alongside Claire Foy and Lakeith Stanfield in The Girl in the Spider's Web, Sony's relaunch of the franchise. 

    Jumanji writers in for sequel: Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner are in talks to write a follow-up to their recent hit, with director Jake Kasdan expected to return to as well.

    Tribeca Film Festival:The Gilda Radner doc Love, Gilda will open the 2018 fest, kicking off April 18.

  • 'Today' in Pyeongchang

    Anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb are taking the Today show to Korea for the Winter Games. They talked to Marisa Guthrie about that, #MeToo, Matt Lauer and the show's future:

    Hoda, how is double duty going? How long do you anticipate doing both the 7-9 a.m. shift and the 10 a.m. hour?

    Kotb: When you build something with someone, you don’t just say, "That was fun, see you later." It is part of who I am; Kath and I have established a relationship over the years that’s about more than work.... And I don’t think it’s really impacted what I’m doing with Savannah in the morning. I feel like this is one of those times that all those things I learned in local news or at Dateline — I was in Baghdad and Burma and the West Bank and Gaza, all those stories — all of a sudden, everything comes back around and you go, "Oh, yeah." 

    Guthrie: It’s nice to see people rediscover that side of Hoda, too. Already we’re seeing the news roots of Hoda flourish on the show.... She’s the Swiss army knife. She’s got the scissors, the screwdriver, the nail file and definitely the corkscrew.

    You’re still reporting on the #MeToo movement. What’s it like to do those stories, given your personal experience with Matt Lauer?

    Guthrie: We approach those stores as journalists. Sometimes you do have a connection to [a story] and sometimes you don’t. But the job is to try to cover it with integrity. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Full Q&A.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    CAA drops YouTuber Kian Lawley: The agency has dropped the YouTube star, who was fired from the Fox film The Hate U Give after a video showing Lawley making racist jokes surfaced this week.

    Snapchat's good news: The company saw its best quarter since its IPO, adding 8.9 million daily active users and bringing in $286 million in revenue — up 72 percent from the same period the previous year.

    ABC ends Once Upon a Time: After hitting a string of series lows on Fridays this season, the fairy-tale drama will finish up for good after its current seventh season.

    ^Law and Order vet Sam Waterston previews Jack McCoy's SVU return: "It was completely strange and wonderful, like stepping back in time," the actor tells THR of his return to the Dick Wolf franchise. Read more.

    Alec Baldwin exits Kenya Barris comedy: The actor left the untitled straight-to-series comedy after reading the script, when he and Barris realized the part wasn't right for him. Another wrinkle: Baldwin apparently wanted to film in New York — a logistical problem for Barris, who shoots Black-ish and Grown-ish in L.A. Still, Baldwin will remain an executive producer on the project.

    Mamie Gummer heads to True Detective season 3: Like mother like daughter? Gummer, whose mom Meryl Streep just joined HBO's Big Little Lies season two, will recur in the network's next True Detective season as Lucy Purcell, a young mother at the center of one of the show's tragic crimes.

    Arnold at Amazon? Arnold Schwarzenegger is attached to star and exec produce Outrider, a Western event series in development at Amazon. If the deal closes, it would be his first time as a TV series regular. 

    Grey's Anatomy enlists Scott Speedman for season 14: Details on the length of Speedman's guest role and character details are being kept under wraps for now.

    Fox gives Lake Bell-Liz Meriwether comedy a pilot order: Bless This Mess, a starring vehicle for Bell (who wrote and produced along with Meriweather), will be shot in June. The single-camera comedy follows a newlywed couple who give up their unfulfilling New York City lives for a move to Nebraska.

    Leslie Jones books Kevin (Probably) Saves the World guest role: The SNL star will play Cindy, a fellow celestial being like Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory). Creators/showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters say they wrote the part specifically for Jones.

    Christopher Lloyd teams up with Norman Lear: The actor has joined the cast of NBC's Lear comedy pilot Guess Who Died, described as "a humorous and inspiring look at the shared joys and challenges we all experience at any stage of life."

    Greta Van Susteren gets a new show: The cable news vet will anchor Plugged in With Greta Van Susteren for Voice of America, on which she's been a contributor since the fall. 

    Grimm alum David Giuntoli lines up ABC pilot: He'll star in the network's A Million Little Things, a dramedy pilot about a group of friends who get a wake-up call when one of their own dies unexpectedly.

    Jenny Slate joins the Muppet Babies reboot: The actress will voice Miss Nanny in Disney Junior's March reboot of the '80s children's show. 

    ► Viacom changes: Sarah Levy, COO of the company's global entertainment group, is seeing her role expand as Nickelodeon and BET are added to her portfolio. Nickelodeon president Cyma Zarghami will remain in her post and continue to report directly to CEO Robert Bakish.

  • #MeToo's Morality Clauses

    Illustration by: Zohar Lazar

    #MeToo is changing the way movie deals get made as studios race to add "morality clauses" to contracts. Tatiana Siegel writes:

    Moral turpitude? It's a concept with which showbiz talent soon will be well-acquainted. The term, which means "an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community," is popping up in contracts of actors and filmmakers in the wake of the #MeToo movement that has rocked Hollywood.

    Fox is just one of the studios that is trying to insert broad morality clauses into its talent deals, giving it the ability to terminate any contract "if the talent engages in conduct that results in adverse publicity or notoriety or risks bringing the talent into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule."

    At the same time, several smaller distributors have begun to add a clause in their longform contracts that gives them an out if a key individual in a film — whether during or before the term of the contract — committed or is charged with an act considered under state or federal laws to be a felony or crime of moral turpitude. Full story.

    + Backlash? One producer insists that restrictive clauses will spark an inability to finance movies. "If there is anything downstream that impedes the ability of a financier to recoup his investment, the financier will not invest."

    + Women in Film launches sexual harassment support group. The organization is partnering with mental health nonprofit Wright Institute Los Angeles to offer a new free resource for women in the entertainment industry. Read more.

    + Director Michel Hazanavicius launches #WeToo: The Oscar-winning Artist director launched the hashtag, meant to be a way for men to support the #MeToo movement, in response to the controversial anti-#Metoo letter signed by actress Catherine Deneuve.

    ^Hollywood's most toxic bromance: The implosion of Charlie Sheen and Lenny Dykstra. Gary Baum writes: He's a former major leaguer nicknamed "Nails" and an ex-con hustler who made (and lost) millions, but none of that could have prepared Dykstra for his friendship with the wild-man actor, who he alleges is a dangerous criminal about to be taken down by the Feds. Full story.

    And now for our third edition of ...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Tom Pickett, CEO of Ellation, the video company that owns the streaming anime company Crunchyroll.

    How are you guys expanding beyond being strictly a streaming anime service? "We asked our Crunchyroll users what other stuff they were passionate about. They told us they loved not only anime, but also animation, gaming culture, sci-fi, fantasy. So we thought about how we could bring that to our audience and expand beyond our hard-core anime fans and into other passion genres. That became the genesis for VRV: We figured out that the best way to do that would be to partner with other brands and put them all on one subscription service, which is what VRV is."

    Netflix has launched a really aggressive anime strategy. How does Crunchyroll fight that? "We have a team on the ground in Tokyo that works very closely with licensers on a daily basis. And we're going to start producing some of our own original content in the near future — actually, we've got some smaller projects in the works right now. But I think there will always be competition in the space; anime is a great category. We have a tremendous amount of catalog content. The number of shows we license on a quarterly basis is much greater than anyone else. Other folks are getting into it, but they're probably not going to get into it at the depth that we do."

    So there's a Crunchyroll expo. How's that been? "It was a little nerve-racking, because when you're throwing your first convention, you're wondering whether people will show up. But it was great — 16,000 people showed up to our first anime convention, which exceeded the expectations we have. We see it as a strong endorsement from our community."

    What else we're reading...

    — "The gospel according to Oprah." Julia Reed profiles the media maven: "Whether or not she ever runs for office, Oprah Winfrey is on a mission to make America listen again." [WSJ.]

    — "Mena Suvari is done worrying what Hollywood thinks." From her conversation with Jane Borden: "You start to convince yourself to stay in the safe lane,” says the actress. “And then — whether you want to call it age or whatever — I just didn’t give a shit anymore.” [Vanity Fair]

    — "Timothee Chalamet by Frank Ocean." The musician interviews the actor about the film, music and art that inspires him. [V Man]

    — "How celebrity kids took over the modeling industry." Eliza Brooke writes: "This dance — the dismissals and appeals that bubble up when privilege and nepotism collide with the faulty meritocracy of beauty — has played out innumerable times in the modeling business." [Racked]

    — "Like Warhol but for 2018." Allison P. Davis profiles Poppy, the person many consider the Internet's weirdest star. [The Cut]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Sarah Jessica Parker shares some advice for being single." [Tonight Show]

    + "Sam Rockwell believes dad defended Three Billboards in NYT comment section." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Wanda Skyes' idea to fix D.C.: Bring back the duel." [Late Show]

    Today's Birthdays: Deborah Ann Woll, 33, Ashton Kutcher, 40, Chris Rock, 53, Garth Brooks, 56, Eddie Izzard, 56, James Spader, 58, Gay Talese, 86.