What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:20 AM 3/1/2018

by Ray Rahman

Dan MacMedan (Pitt), Jason Merritt (DiCaprio) and Jason Merritt (Tarantino)

What's news: Paramount delays its Heathers reboot in wake of the Parkland, Fla., tragedy. Plus: Black Panther battles Jennifer Lawrence at the box office, Alec Baldwin discusses the #MeToo movement and Academy President John Bailey opens up about the organization's new code of conduct and potential rule changes. — Ray Rahman

[Note: To receive this Today in Entertainment newsletter by email each weekday, click here.]

  • Black Panther Round 3

    Murray Close/Twentieth Century Fox; Taka Shiseida

    Can the reigning champ fend off two newcomers at the box office? Pamela McClintock writes:

    Black Panther, week 3: The Disney/Marvel movie is once again expected to maul the competition this weekend as it bounds past the $500 million mark domestically. It is projected to bring in north of $60 million, one of the best grosses ever for a movie in its third frame.

    The rest: Fox's and Chernin's Jennifer Lawrence spy flick Red Sparrow is tracking for an opening in the mid-teens, if not higher; ditto for MGM's Bruce Willis-starring Death Wish

    Weinstein sale takes a new turn...

    Georgina Chapman gets involved: Ron Burkle, part of a $500 million bid to buy the embattled Weinstein Co., is attempting to enlist the support of Marchesa fashion designer Chapman, who is in the process of divorcing Harvey Weinstein, in order to make the deal happen, sources say.

    Why: Chapman, who reportedly reached a divorce settlement with Weinstein in January, apparently now controls his shareholder vote, insiders say.

    Hollywood diversity study...

    Things still bad: "The population is becoming more diverse over time and the question is: what is Hollywood doing relative to that population increasing in diversity?” said study co-author Darnell Hunt at a discussion. Not enough, apparently: “The bad news in every arena, regardless of the progress we made last year, is that women and people of color remain woefully underrepresented,” Hunt said.

    Kevin Smith update...

    Home again: The director announced yesterday that he was back home after being hospitalized following a major heart attack. "Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!," he tweeted. "Home is where the heart is and the heart is feeling good! It’s actually getting more blood flow and oxygen than it has in a long time. So I am ALERT, to say the least! Thank you for all the kind words, folks — from Vegetarian Kev, Day 2!"

    China's box office blows up...

    Boom times: The country's film market looks to be back after 2016's shock correction — total ticket revenue for January and February soared 39 percent to $2.37 billion, up from $1.7 billion (at current exchange rates) in the first two months of 2017. Already the world's second-biggest theatrical market, China once again is rapidly closing the gap with North America, still the world's largest.

    There might be a new Academy rule...

    No more "double dipping": Is it cinema or is it television? Under a new rule being considered at the highest tiers of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, awards submitters would be forced to "pick their pathway" between the Oscars and the Emmys. A nomination at one would rule out submitting to the other.

    Potential roadblock: Film Academy governors are unsure of how best to raise the issue with their counterparts at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and indeed whether the Television Academy cares at all about the current redundancies.

    Quite a trio...

    Brad and Leo join Quentin: That's right, Pitt and DiCaprio will reunite with Tarantino for his latest feature, Sony's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

    Tarantino's description: “A story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor...Sharon Tate."

    When: The movie is due out Aug. 9, 2019.

    Chris Hemsworth has a new franchise...

    Hemsworth in Black? The Thor actor is in early negotiations to star in Sony's spinoff of the Men in Black franchise. Sources say that the studio is hoping to round out a diverse ensemble cast and may be potentially eyeing the leads to be a white male, a female of color and an older man. F. Gary Gray, who directed last year's Fate of the Furious, is due to helm, with a script from the Iron Man team.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates' next Marvel project...

    "Why I'm writing Captain America": That was the name of an essay Coates published yesterday in The Atlantic, where he revealed that he would be writing a new story for the Marvel superhero comic. (He's already been handling the Black Panther universe since 2016.) His new Captain America No. 1 will launch, fittingly, on July 4.

    And your Wonder Woman 2 villain is...

    Kristen Wiig? Maybe! The SNL alum is in talks to play Cheetah, a moniker that has been adopted by multiple characters over the years and who generally are known for having superhuman strength and agility. Few other details about the Patty Jenkins-directed film are known except that it'll be set in the 1980s against a Cold War backdrop.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Ansel Elgort's latest project: A musical? The Baby Driver actor is circling an original musical fantasy centering on a young Hans Christian Andersen, whom he would play. The Fox 2000 film comes with a deep pedigree: music by Wicked's Stephen Schwartz, script by Mary Poppins Returns writer David Magee, and produced by Chicago team Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

    Ursula K. Le Guin novel heads to the big screen: The Telling, the acclaimed sci-fi novel from the influential author who passed away in January, is being adapted into a movie with genre vet Rekha Sharma (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Discovery) set to star.

    The Last Men in Aleppo producer can come to the Oscars after all: After weeks of uncertainty, Kareem Abeed has been granted a visa and will be able to attend the ceremony Sunday. "Thanks for all the solidarity and the effort from the American friends for facing Trump ban to help us to be with our film," tweeted the movie's director, Feras Fayyad.

    Dope director's new project: Rick Famuyiwa has signed on to write and direct Black Hole, New Regency's and Plan B's adaptation of the graphic novel by Charles Burns.

    In the Heat of the Night at 50...

    Reunion! The Oscar-winning film's surviving principal creators — producer Walter Mirisch, Sidney Poitier, composer Quincy Jones and director Norman Jewison — come together for a half-century reunion. See the pictures.

    + Does Mister Tibbs still matter? Acclaimed mystery writer Walter Mosley reflects on the impact the 1968 best picture winner had when it was released — and its relevance in the age of Black Lives Matter. Read his essay.

  • 'Heathers' Delayed

    Paramount is delaying the premiere of its Heathers reboot in light of the Parkland tragedy, writes Lesley Goldberg:

    "The right thing to do": "Paramount Network’s original series Heathers is a satirical comedy that takes creative risks in dealing with many of society’s most challenging subjects ranging from personal identity to race and socio-economic status to gun violence," the network said in a statement Wednesday. "While we stand firmly behind the show, in light of the recent tragic events in Florida and out of respect for the victims, their families and loved ones, we feel the right thing to do is delay the premiere until later this year."

    Fuller House exit...

    Jeff Franklin is out: The executive producer behind the Netflix reboot and the original ABC Full House has been taken off the series amid complaints about his behavior. Those close to the situation are quick to point out that the alleged harassment is described as "behavioral," not sexual.

    Warner Bros. TV's statement: “We are not renewing Jeff Franklin’s production deal and he will no longer be working on Fuller House.”

    Netflix:Fuller House will return for a fourth season, as planned. We hope to go into production in the next few months.”

    A Viacom streaming service is on the way...

    Bob Bakish: The Viacom president and CEO said Wednesday that the media giant started pulling back on licensing its content in 2016 to exploit opportunities in the emerging over-the-top digital space.

    The plan: "Later in the year, you'll hear about the product we'll launch to leverage those assets, including over 10,000 hours of library product that we'll implement on a direct to-consumer basis."

    What Steve Burke thinks about...

    MSNBC: "We make far less money than we should," the NBCUniversal CEO said at a Wall Street conference Wednesday. "CNN makes well north of $1 billion a year, and we make 40 percent of that. We should make more, and there's lots of opportunity there."

    This year's Super Bowl: "It might have been the most profitable night in the history of television for any channel."

    The Olympics: Ratings may have been down, but Burke was very satisfied with the Olympics, he said, noting that NBC had 40 million unique users of Olympics programming on Snapchat.

    Letter from the White House...

    Hope Hicks is out: Trump's longtime aide and current White House communications director — the fourth so far in the administration — will be leaving her post soon. Now the question is: Who'll take the job next?

    Billy Eichner heads to Netflix...

    Stand-up special: The Billy on the Street star has sold his first-ever comedy special to the streamer. There's no filming date or title yet, but it's being described as a blend of comedy and music covering politics and pop culture — plus his signature man-on-the-street segments.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Young Sheldon will be in Big Little Lies again: Actor Iain Armitage will return for the HBO show's second season, along with James Tupper and Jeffrey Nordling.

    Pete Nowalk re-ups: The How to Get Away With Murder creator has renewed his overall deal with ABC Studios. Under the rich three-year deal, Nowalk will continue to serve as showrunner on the Viola Davis starrer, while also developing for broadcast, cable and streaming.

    Syfy renews The Magicians: The show will return for a fourth season.

    MTV departure: A year after being promoted to oversee scripted programming, Maggie Malina is exiting MTV and VH1, effective immediately. Her departure comes as scripted has become less of a priority under president Chris McCarthy, who has revived Jersey Shore, TRL and Fear Factor, among other unscripted pushes.

    The Alec Baldwin interview...

    Lacey Rose talks to Baldwin about his new ABC talk show, the Woody Allen fallout and his SNL future:

    On #MeToo: "What we saw for a while, in my opinion, was people who were perpetrators being exposed. There was a lot of rhetoric about people who were being outed. When the community at large runs out of perpetrators, they start to turn on the supporters of the perpetrators because they need more fuel for the fire. The next thing they throw on the fire are the friends of these people who aren't stepping out and renouncing them...."

    On playing Trump on SNL: "Every time I do it now, it's like agony. Agony. I can't. If things don't go in the right direction for the midterms…. I could go out on the street, stand on any corner and tap 10 people on the shoulder. And all 10 of them, in all likelihood,would be more qualified — ethically, morally, intellectually and spiritually — than Trump. I'll vote for Mitt Romney. I don't care. Anybody over this guy. It doesn't matter. We have to get rid of him." Full Q&A.

    Atlanta Robbin' Season premieres today...

    Tim Goodman's review: Greater, weirder, more — Donald Glover and an excellent cast winningly resume their wholly original slice-of-life series on FX. The Takeaway: A great steal. Full review.

    The Jeff Daniels interview...

    The Looming Tower: "I didn’t know about Larry’s book, I didn’t know about John O’Neill," the actor says of the FBI legend he portrays in Hulu's adaptation of Lawrence Wright's 9/11 book. "And then when you do find out, you go, 'What happened?' It’s a great hook. It’s a tragic story in O’Neill’s case, but it’s a great story that I knew nothing about. You think you know 9/11, but you don’t." Full Q&A.

  • Academy President Talks

    Photographed by Michele Thomas

    John Bailey talks to Gregg Kilday about the Academy Museum's progress, new code of conduct and the evolving meaning of movies in a disrupted Hollywood:

    Has the board received complaints about violations of the code?

    The process has not started yet, no. We're in the process of setting up a secure website [to report claims]. But it will be a very thorough process. David Rubin and the membership and rules committee have worked very hard with the board of governors to clarify this. 

    How will you handle controversial figures from the past, like Roman Polanski? Can any Academy member lodge a complaint even if they don't have firsthand knowledge?

    Well, in the case of Polanski, I believe there was a conviction involved, so it's not just an accusation. There are several names that, when it's all in place, will probably be presented for consideration. I can't speak to what will happen, but everybody wants to be responsible in addressing any of these accusations.

    Does the Academy have to start thinking about redefining what exactly a film is?

    We have a future-of-film committee that [producer] Albert Berger is chairing. He's had three open meetings with large groups of people from all the branches, and he's been collating many different perspectives and is now bringing it down to a smaller working group that will represent a coalition of those different views. And as soon as the Oscars are over, he's going to move forward. Full Q&A.

    + The temple takes shape: Inside the Academy's $388M museum. Seven years after it was first proposed, the museum is closer to completion, with an A-list board of trustees, including Ron Meyer, Annette Bening and Ted Sarandos, and a giant sphere rising in the middle of L.A. The question now is: When will it open? Read more.

    The Oscar nominees' dilemma...

    Which project do you choose next? “All the great directors are watching you at that moment," says one top agent. Explains another: "The next thing you do will be viewed under a microscope. You want to avoid looking like you are selling out. The safe way to go is always an auteur director with a strong cast around you.” Read more.

    Oscars flashback...

    The first Governors Ball: Ray Anthony, 96, whose big band played the Academy's 1958 shindig, recalls the Rat Pack glamour of the era and a party with starlet Marilyn Monroe. Read more.

    That time Marlon Brando ditched the party: A look back at what else happened when actor George Murphy was asked to stage the then-new post-Oscars dinner dance for the nominees.

    Point, counterpoint...

    "Why the Oscars still matter." Kenneth Turan writes: "The fact that the question is asked is partial confirmation of significance." [L.A. Times]

    "Why the Oscars have lost their relevance." Jeffrey Fleishman writes: "They are not hip or clever enough to draw in the young, and they don't honor enough blockbuster titles to entice the popcorn set." [L.A. Times]

    In other news...

    Spotify IPO: The music streaming company unveiled plans to go public, with an eye to trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker name "SPOT." "Our mission is to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by these creators," Spotify said in the filing.

    What else we're reading...

    — "A lot is riding on A Wrinkle in Time. Ava DuVernay doesn't care." Melena Ryzik writes: "Her choices — in casting, tone and vision — have been as groundbreaking as the fact that she was directing it in the first place, the first woman of color at the helm of a $100 million studio tentpole." [The New York Times]

    — "American Idol 2.0 is kinder and cuddlier. Will it still be a hit?" Daniel D'Addario writes: "How to knit an audience back together? Idol 2.0 meets a crasser, nastier era — one in which a former reality-TV star’s blunt judgments on social media make news every day." [Time]

    — "Will there ever be a good time for Paramount's smirking, violent Heathers reboot?" Whitney Friedlander writes: "The original dark comedy is hailed as an all-time classic — but 30 years later, a splashy TV re-do is stirring up another kind of conversation." [Vanity Fair]

    — "Why are there so many bisexuals on TV all of a sudden?" Kathryn VanArendonk writes: "Almost universally, the stories that these shows have found to tell about their characters coming out, about their romantic relationships, and about the mysteries of sexual attraction are more interesting than the straight stories." [Vulture]

    — "The definitive history of the royal family and the Spice Girls." They go way back! [Time]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Omarosa on her 'troubling' year in the Trump White House." [Late Show]

    + "Denzel Washington paid for Chadwick Boseman to study at Oxford." [Tonight Show]

    + "Oscars: All the best actress winners." [THR]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Annual Oscar predictions." John Horn and Rebecca Keegan dive in. [The Frame/KPCC]

    + "James Ivory." The Call Me by Your Name producer reflects on his late partner Ismail Merchant, his love of Italy and his two movies — 30 years apart — about young gay lovers." [Awards Chatter/THR]

    Today's birthdays: Justin Bieber, 24, Kesha, 31, Lupita Nyong'o, 35, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, 44, Javier Bardem, 49, Paul Hollywood, 52, Zack Snyder, 52, Ron Howard, 64, Harry Belafonte, 91.