What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:24 AM 2/8/2018

by Ray Rahman

Uma Thurman attends the 71st Annual Tony Awards - Getty-h 2018
Jim Spellman/WireImage

What's news: Uma Thurman's Kill Bill story has the stunt community angry. Plus: Bryan Fuller leaves Apple's Amazing Stories, Sony releases the first trailer for Venom and a TV writer journeys into Hollywood's post-Weinstein dating scene. — Ray Rahman

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  • Uma Crash Fallout

    How did Uma Thurman end up crashing into a tree at perhaps 40 miles per hour for the sake of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill? The question has the stunt community up in arms, writes Jonathan Handel:

    “The situation as it has been described sounds like a stunt and would be a likely safety violation,” says a spokesperson for performers’ union SAG-AFTRA, of which Thurman is a member. “In general, only stunt professionals should perform stunts with guidance from a stunt coordinator to ensure a correct and safe performance.”

    “The stuff that went on is appalling,” says veteran stunt performer and coordinator Andy Armstrong. “That could have been a death by decapitation. The car could easily have rolled over [or] the camera could have flown forward. It was irresponsibility on a mega level.” Full story.

    + Who's in charge? Responsibility for Thurman’s safety on set was shared by the producers, Tarantino and Keith Adams, the film's stunt coordinator. Lawrence Bender, the lead producer on Kill Bill, told THR, "I deeply regret that Uma suffered the pain she has, both physically and emotionally, for all of these years from the accident that occurred on the set of Kill Bill. I never hid anything from Uma or anyone else nor did I participate in any cover-up of any kind — and I never would.”

    + The missing stunt coordinator: Armstrong says stunt coordinator Adams, whose job includes vetoing unsafe action, could have stepped in to prevent Thurman from driving the car, but he wasn’t on set at the time. “The stunt coordinator was told to stay in his hotel that day, stay home,” says Armstrong, who adds that he knows this because he has spoken to Adams about the matter.

    Elsewhere in film ...

    ? Box-office preview: Christian Grey whipping Clint Eastwood. Because February is E.L. James season, Fifty Shades Freed is set to seduce audiences to the tune of $30 million or more over the pre-Valentine's Day weekend — enough to beat Clint Eastwood's The 15:17 to Paris ($10M-12M) and Peter Rabbit ($14M-17M).

    + Billion-dollar bondage: With the release of Freed, the Fifty Shades film series will zoom past the $1 billion mark at the global box office.

    + 15:17 to Paris, reviewed: "Eastwood's risky decision to cast the three actual guys who pulled off the heroic act stands as the most novel and interesting aspect of the movie, which unfortunately is mostly banal and drama-free," writes Todd McCarthy. Full review.

    ? Fox earnings: Cable television helped 21st Century Fox beat financial expectations in its quarterly report — but broadcast TV and film segments each showed less revenue and operating income.

    + Numbers: The company said it earned an adjusted 42 cents per share on $8 billion revenue (above Wall Street's expected (38 cents/$7.94B).

    + Breakdown: Cable programming grew revenue to $4.4B; TV revenue fell to $1.8B; and film stumbled slightly to $2.2B.

    ? SXSW: Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs will close the festival this spring.

    ? The L.A. Phil at the Oscars: Among the Los Angeles Philharmonic's big 100th-season plans: a live performance at the Oscars, an 11-day festival, a Moby collaboration and concert tributes to John Williams and Stanley Kubrick. Read more.

    ? Marlon Brando and Richard Pryor? According to a very free-flowing interview with Quincy Jones over at Vulture, Brando and Pryor were at one point romantic partners (or, at the very least, had sex). Pryor's widow even confirmed the surprising tidbit, telling TMZ: "It was the '70s! Drugs were still good, especially quaaludes. If you did enough cocaine, you'd f*** a radiator and send it flowers in the morning."

    ^Why aren't Star Wars filmmakers as inclusive as its universe? The news that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff would be given keys to the franchise has Marc Bernardin asking: "Are there no female storytellers, no artists of color, no gender-fluid creators who would kill to get to play in the sandbox George Lucas built? And would the stories themselves not benefit by being told through a different set of lenses?" Full guest column.

    + Solo intel: EW has first-look photos from the next Star Wars movie, as well as Alden Ehrenreich spilling details: "The Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist, he has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities."

    + Han to Han: Here's the advice Harrison Ford gave to Ehrenreich: “Tell them I told you everything you needed to know, and that you can’t tell anyone.”

    ? Venom trailer: The Sony film has dropped its first preview of the Tom Hardy-starring Marvel anti-hero movie, and so far, it's a lot more Hardy than Venom. Watch.

    ? Amy Schumer unveils "I Feel Pretty" trailer: Her upcoming comedy centers on an ordinary woman struggling with feelings of insecurity — until she wakes from a head injury believing she's the most beautiful and capable woman in the world. Watch.

    ? Could Dwayne Johnson become a $25 million man? A bidding war has broken out for Red Notice, an action comedy that would see Johnson reunite with the team behind his upcoming Skyscraper. The bidding saw Johnson's fee cross the $20 million barrier — a new threshold for the star — and insiders think he could walk away with as much as $25 million.

    ? Nate Parker's next move: The Birth of a Nation filmmaker, whose resurfaced rape trial derailed his directorial debut, looks to be angling for a comeback with Baselines, a short form digital project about a Los Angeles family protecting their son's basketball dreams from the dangers of inner city life. According to a casting breakdown, auditions are scheduled to begin today.

    ? Willem Dafoe teams with The Witch director: The current Oscar nominee is set to star in The Lighthouse, a thriller from Witch director Robert Eggers. Dafoe's role is, well, very Dafoe-y: He'll play an aging lighthouse keeper named Old in early-20th-century Nova Scotia.

    + Full circle: Eggers' first announced post-Witch project was a remake of Nosferatu — and Dafoe famously played Max Schreck in Shadow of the Vampire. Spooky?

    ? Milo Ventimiglia cast in The Art of Racing in the Rain: The This Is Us star is heading to the big screen to headline an adaptation of the book of the same name, with Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin) directing.

    ? Mira Sorvino, Val Kilmer join Riptide: They'll star in Shaun Hart's indie crime drama, which also boasts Michael Chiklis, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Henry Thomas among its cast.

    ? Armie Hammer's Annapurna thriller:  He'll play a New Orleans bartender whose life starts to unravel when he picks up a left-behind phone in the untitled film from Iranian director Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow). Annapurna has fast-tracked the feature for a March 2019 release. 

    ? Julianne Moore joins After the Wedding remake: The Oscar winner will star in the American adaptation of the Mads Mikkelsen-starring Danish drama, which Bart Freundlich will direct.

    ? Kate Bosworth, Alfred Molina set for The Devil Has a Name: The pair will co-star alongside David Strathairn in the Edward James Olmos-directed dark comedy.

    ? It star Jaeden Lieberher's next horror film: The young actor joins The Lodge, the Riley Keough-starring scary movie from Austrian directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.

    ? Russell Brand will star in Butterfingers: The Brit will play a down-on-his-luck hitman in the action-comedy from Barnaby Southcombe (I, Anna).

    ? Piper Perabo, Rob Huebel get Spontaneous: They and Yvonne Orji (Insecure) are set to star in the YA project from The Babysitter writer-director Brian Duffield.

    Paparazzi vs. stars: Who owns that Instagram pic? As famous faces and web influencers use shots to monetize their social media accounts, photographers are now filing six-figure lawsuits: "This is a form of trolling." Full story.

  • Fuller Walks

    Bryan Fuller has exited Apple's Amazing Stories, marking the first wrinkle in the tech giant's TV ambitions. Lesley Goldberg writes:

    Fuller, who was poised to serve as showrunner, is leaving the project due to creative differences. The producer had originally developed Amazing Stories for NBC before it moved to Apple with a series pickup. 

    The issue? He's said to have wanted to do a Black Mirror-type show, which sources say was not something Apple had in mind. Full story.

    + Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Fuller on the series, is also exiting the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a new showrunner

    + Flighty Fuller: After helming the first season of Starz's American Gods, Fuller and Michael Green were recently fired from the series following a budget dispute.

    Elsewhere in TV ...

    ? Viacom earnings: Good news, overall. The company, currently exploring a CBS merger, beat expectations with a net profit of $535 million, up from $396 million a year earlier. Executives on the call declined to answer any questions about the possible CBS merger.

    ? Twitter earnings: The company reported a rise in quarterly revenue: $731 million, well ahead of analyst forecasts. Monthly active users, meanwhile, stayed flat. The result? Twitter's first net profit.

    ? CNN beats racial discrimination lawsuit: The network is clear of a racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by an employee who says he was repeatedly passed up for promotions, after a Georgia federal judge granted summary judgment in the network's favor. Details.

    ? Nicole Eggert files police report against Scott Baio. "Eggert and I met with two police detectives from the sexual assault unit at my law firm," said attorney Lisa Bloom. "Nicole answered all of their questions for over an hour and told her story of sexual abuse by Scott Baio when she was a minor. A witness, [Charles in Charge star] Alexander Polinsky, appeared as well."

    ? T.J. Miller isn't the Mucinex booger anymore: The comedian, dogged by sexual assault allegations, has been replaced by Jason Mantzoukas as Mr. Mucus, as many Super Bowl viewers noticed during the company's ad on Sunday. 

    ^Versace: Why the series profiles the victims of Andrew Cunanan's first two murders. "If you look at the crimes themselves, they express various facets of homophobia," says screenwriter Tom Rob Smith, who penned the entire second season, of the decision to devote episodes to the pre-Versace murders of David Madson and Jeffrey Trail. "They're very different." Read more.

    ? Joel McHale's Netflix show sets its first guests: Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, Mike Colter, Paul Reiser, Jodie Sweetin and Jim Rash are all set to appear in the Feb. 18 debut of The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale, his topical weekly series for the streamer. Watch the trailer.

    ? CBS's new reality show: The network is picking up The World's Best, a new competition series from Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell. It’s basically The Planet’s Got Talent, per the official description: “A talent competition featuring acts from every genre imaginable" from around the world, with only one eventual winner crowned.

    ? BattleBots is back: The bygone Comedy Central (and, later, ABC) series where homemade robots fought head-to-head is being rebooted by Discovery and Science Channel.

    Promotion: Warner Bros. TV has upped Jeff Tobler to the newly created position of senior vp television publicity and communications, filling the void left by Tammy Golihew after her exit for Amazon.

  • L.A. Romance After Weinstein

    TV writer Ari Berkowitz details her adventures in dating post-Weinstein — with the help of professionals.

    There are many political and business ramifications [to the #MeToo movement], but, honestly, I'm about to spend another Valentine's Day alone, so I'm just gonna focus on the dating ramifications. In Hollywood, the office romance is dead. General meetings will never again bleed into late-night drinks. The blurred lines are focusing. And I'm glad. But Hollywood singles are facing a totally new era of dating.

    Enter matchmakers Jaydi Samuels and Lauren Rosenberg. I learned about them the way I learn about everything — in a general meeting. When the female exec I was meeting with casually mentioned she had just started using a matchmaker, I casually mentioned that she had to f—ing tell me all the details immediately. Read more.

    + Hollywood's insider matchmakers: TV writer Jaydi Samuels and reality show producer Lauren Rosenberg — who work only with referred clients, including a current Oscar nominee — have unique insights into industry dating, including why they charge women for membership and not men. Full story.

    In other news ...

    The L.A. Times has been sold. Has the paper found its Jeff Bezos? Billionaire doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune for $500 million yesterday. He says returning the newspaper to local ownership (it had been owned by Tronc) will give the paper a chance to preserve its mission and its independence.

    + What does this all mean? Ken Doctor looks to the paper's future, asking: "The billionaire doctor famously keeps his own counsel, which raises the question: With so much of the Times’ top leadership gone, who runs the show — with what strategy?" Read his take.

    What else we're reading ...

    — "Pivot to video: Inside NBC's social media strategy for the Winter Games." Angela Watercutter writes: "Many of the gripes during the #NBCFail days, and in other Olympics’ events, has come from the problems of tape delays and awkward commercial interruptions. Transmitting everything live as it happens should assuage that." [Wired]

    — "How did The Shape of Water become the film to beat at the Oscars?" Cara Buckley investigates: "Some thought its success was helped by admiration that industry folks harbor for Mr. del Toro; others saw the handiwork of masterful marketers and campaigners, who overcame a familiar plot." [New York Times]

    — "Did the Oscars blow its big bet?" Sean Fennessey examines whether years of tinkering with the best picture category has made any difference. [The Ringer]

    — "Donald Glover has always been 10 steps ahead." Bijan Stephen profiles the star: "The shape of his career, wending as it does across television, music and movies, feels like something very new, or perhaps very old: He’s the sort of cross-genre talent rarely seen since Hollywood’s studio days." [Esquire]

    — "How Facebook is killing comedy." Sarah Aswell talks to comedian Matt Klinman about how the platform's publishing model impacts creators: "Facebook is essentially running a payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own fans to see your content." [Splitsider]

    — "Suicides spike 10 percent in months after death of Robin Williams." Martin Finucane writes: "The researchers at [Columbia University's] Mailman School of Public Health found a 10 percent increase in suicides in the period from August to December 2014, after Williams’s death on Aug. 11, 2014." [Boston Globe]

    — "Eight exhilarating Winter Olympics movies, from I, Tonya to Cool Runnings." Kate Erbland takes a look at the genre's best offerings. [IndieWire]

    — "Inside Jennifer Aniston's dreamy California home." Mayer Rus writes: "High above Los Angeles, Jennifer Aniston crafts a scene of pure domestic bliss with husband Justin Theroux, a spectacular mid-century house, and a trio of very happy dogs." [Architectural Digest]

    What else we're seeing ...

    + "Guillermo del Toro welcomes a fatal bathtub of ice cream." [Late Late Show]

    + "John Oliver and Stephen Colbert implore Trump to speak to Robert Mueller." [Late Show]

    + "This week in chaos: Nunes & BIEs." [Full Frontal]

    + "Whitney Cummins talks directorial debut The Female Brain." [THR]

    What else we're hearing ...

    + "MoviePass sounds too good to be true. Is it?" CEO Mitch Lowe goes inside the numbers with Peter Kafka. [Recode Media]

    + "Jordan Klepper's anti-fact persona." Comedy Central's The Opposition host chats with Terry Gross. [Fresh Air / NPR]

    + "'Narnia was not up to code': Lev Grossman on building fantastical worlds." The critic and author of The Magicians sits down for an interview. [I Think You're Interesting / Vox]

    Today's birthdays: Cecily Strong, 34, Danny Tamberelli, 36, William Jackson Harper, 38, Seth Green, 44, John Grisham, 63, Mary Steenburgen, 65, Creed Bratton, 75, Nick Nolte, 77, John Williams, 85.