What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:13 AM 3/16/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

What's news: The new Avengers: Infinity War trailer is here. Plus: Ava DuVernay nabs a superhero flick, Amazon's video numbers get leaked, Danny Boyle says he's working on Bond 25 and Margaritaville heads to Broadway. — Ray Rahman

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  • DuVernay Goes DC

    Christopher Polk/Getty Images

    Ava DuVernay's next big gig...

    Welcome to DC: The Wrinkle in Time director will take on Warner Bros. and DC's The New Gods, a creation of the late and legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic heroes.

    What she's getting into: Mixing social commentary, mythology and science fiction, the comic version sees a war between two alien planets — New Genesis and Apokolips — arrive on Earth when the ruler of the dystopian Apokolips discovers that humanity holds the key to the Anti-Life Equation, which allows its user to control all living beings in existence.

    So who are these New Gods? The primary players include: Orion, the Luke Skywalker-like lead character of the original story; Lightray, his devil-may-care best friend; Highfather, the group's patriarchal figure; and Darkseid, the main villain whose name is, fittingly, pronounced "Dark Side." There are others, of course — read more here.

    Infinity War is coming...

    Trailer: The Russo Bros.-directed Marvel flick Avengers: Infinity War assembles pretty much the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and the Hulk — plus a number of stars from Black Panther, such as Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright and Winston Duke. Watch it all unfold here.

    Boyle, Danny Boyle...

    007: After some weeks of speculation, director Danny Boyle has told the media that he's at work on the script for James Bond 25 and expects to direct the latest installment of the movie franchise. "We are working on a script right now," Boyle told Metro.us at the premiere of his FX series Trust.

    Universal's new diversity initiative...

    Keeping score: The studio's diversity division has announced the Universal Film Music Composer Initiative, whose goal is to nurture novice composers that have had limited or no access to the studio production process. The accepted composers will have the chance to work with filmmakers and other talent from within Universal Pictures, Focus Features and DreamWorks Animation.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Charlize Theron's Tully gets a new date: The Focus Features film, which reunites Theron with director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, is moving from April 20 to May 4 — closer to Mother's Day (May 13) but also further from Avengers: Infinity War's new release date (April 27).

    A Ridley Scott spy movie? Maybe: The filmmaker is in talks to direct 20th Century Fox's graphic novel adaptation Queen & Country, which centers on a British Secret Intelligence Service operative named Tara Chace. Scott would come on to produce with Chernin Entertainment if the deal closes.

    Miranda July's heist film: The director behind You and Me and Everyone We Know is readying her yet-to-be-titled third feature, said to involve a family heist, with Annapurna and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment.   

    Demian Bichir's Grudge: The actor will join Andrea Riseborough in Sony's latest take on the Japanese video game The Grudge, to be directed by Nicolas Pesce (Eyes of My Mother).

    A24 wins worldwide rights to Native Son: Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) is in final negotiations to play Bigger Thomas, the central character from the classic Richard Wright novel. The adaptation is set to be written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by conceptual artist Rashid Johnson.

    Behind the scenes of Love, Simon...

    Coming out: Star Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Bram in the teen romcom, talks about representation, Queer Eye and coming out on the set of the film: "I don't even know how I said it, but I just said it to the group, and they were, of course, really supportive and I explained to them that I wish I had said something earlier." Full Q&A.

    Letter from China...

    Foreign-language movies are thriving: "There’s a growing demand for diversity in the market in terms of genres, stories and styles," says analyst James Li. "The Chinese audience has grown up watching about half of their movies subtitled or dubbed — thanks to Hollywood — so there is potential here for foreign-language films that never existed in North America." Read more.

    Galloway on film...

    Stephen Hawking and the search for a Hollywood genius: "Geniuses rock the system, buck convention, shatter our most fundamental notions about the world and even the universe," writes Stephen Galloway. "They’re the last kinds of people you want toiling in a well-oiled machine." Read more.

  • Prime Numbers

    Courtesy of Amazon

    A new report is shedding some light on Amazon Prime's metrics, writes Natalie Jarvey:

    The big picture: The U.S. audience for Amazon's video programming, including its library of licensed shows and originals like Transparent, totaled about 26 million customers in early 2017, according to a Reuters review of internal company documents. All told, Amazon as an estimated 90 million Prime subscribers.

    Comparison: Based on the number of people Reuters reports were watching Amazon originals in early 2017, the company would fall second behind Netflix in terms of total audience. At the end of March 2017, Netflix had nearly 48 million paid members in the U.S., while Hulu ended 2017 with a total of 17 million U.S. subscribers to both its on-demand and live TV offerings.

    Strategy: According to the company's internal reasoning, the Amazon documents reveal that its originals helped draw more than 5 million members to Prime between late 2014 and early 2017. Full story.

    Another reboot is coming...

    Clarissa's back: Nickelodeon is in early discussions to reboot its '90s sitcom Clarissa Explains It All, with Melissa Joan Hart reprising her role as Clarissa Darling — only this time, she would play the mother of the family. Series creator Mitchell Kriegman is also in talks to return to write and exec produce. 

    Some Shep Smith news...

    New contract: Fox News has signed anchor Smith to a new multiyear contract, the network announced on Thursday afternoon. The length of Smith's new contract was not disclosed.

    What he really thinks: In a Time magazine profile, Smith offered his thoughts on Sean Hannity and others in his network's opinion wing: "We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want, if it’s their opinion. I don’t really watch a lot of opinion programming. I’m busy."

    Did he almost leave the network? From the profile: "Being the old-fashioned anchorman and reporter at a network known for new-fashioned provocation and opinion may be the hardest job at Fox News, and one Smith mused about walking away from over the course of two interviews this winter."

    Royal wedding update...

    It's official: The Queen officially blessed the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle yesterday, ensuring that the mammoth TV event of the spring will go on as planned. The wedding will take place May 19 at Windsor Castle. 

    Walking Dead hits theaters...

    Grab some popcorn: AMC is teaming up with Fathom Events to bring both the The Walking Dead season eight finale and fourth season premiere of spinoff Fear the Walking Dead — aka the franchise's first-ever crossover — to 750 theaters nationwide on April 15, the same night both episodes air on AMC. Both episodes air back-to-back without commercials. 

    Some Game of Thrones intel...

    The finale: What will is be like? Let actor Iain Glen tell you: "When I read it, I thought it was rather brilliant. I am a bit of a fan of the series as well, and it satiated my expectation and hopes," he told IndianExpress.com. "But we will just have to see. You know with something this big like Game of Thrones, you cannot please everyone."

    The Ranch's new hand...

    It's Dax Shepard: The actor will has booked an arc as a recurring guest-star in the Netflix series' upcoming third season, thus helping fill the void that'll be left by Danny Masterson's departure. 

    Hulu's new show...

    Demons: That's the name of the new drama the streamer has put into development. Inspired by true events, the drama revolves around Marilyn Jones, the "patient zero" in the "Satanic Panic" of 1980s and 90s, and her husband, Bennett Lewis, a manipulative psychiatrist. The series comes from newcomer Juliet Lashinsky-Revene,

    Elsewhere in TV...

    60 Minutes sets Stormy Daniels interview date: The CBS new program will air its recently taped interview with the adult film star on Sunday, March 25. According to The Washington Post, no one from the Trump Organization or the White House has attempted to stop it from airing. 

    Starz orders The Spanish Queen: The network is adding a third limited series in Philippa Gregory's franchise (preceded by The White Queen and The White Princess). This one will focus on Catherine of Aragon's story, with Emma Frost and Matthew Graham as showrunners.

    Epix nabs Deep State: The network will air the previously commissioned European series — an espionage thriller starring Mark Strong — with an eight-episode order slated to begin June 17.

    Lifetime deals: Both Queen Latifah and Toni Braxton inked production deals with Lifetime, which were announced at the network's upfront presentation yesterday. 

    Luke Cage adds Sopranos alum: Netflix's Marvel series has cast Annabella Sciorra as a new villain for the show's upcoming second season. She'll play Rosalie Carbone, a mobster with ties to Punisher.

    Down at SXSW...

    Krypton, reviewed: "Any series that looks and feels, at least 50 percent of the time, like a spoof is already in a pretty bad spot," Tim Goodman writes of Syfy's Superman-genesis story. "But if that series gives off the vibe that the characters inside it look completely uninspired, then you have a whopper of a problem." The takeaway: "For die-hards only." Full review.

  • 'Margaritaville' on Broadway

    Matthew Murphy

    You don't have to be a Parrothead to enjoy the new musical Escape to Margaritaville — but it won't hurt, Frank Scheck writes:

    Here's a quick test to determine if you're the target audience for the new musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett. If you're immediately able to add the words "and screw" to the song title "Why Don't We Get Drunk" then it's a pretty safe bet you'll enjoy Escape to Margaritaville.

    That a fairly large percentage of the crowd at a recent Wednesday matinee enthusiastically shouted out those lyrics indicates that the show may find its audience, even if New York is probably not the epicenter.

    But even those unfamiliar with Buffett's songwriting oeuvre (I know, not a word usually associated with the composer of "Cheeseburger in Paradise") should find the proceedings relaxedly enjoyable. This jukebox musical is the theatrical equivalent of sipping on a frozen drink while lying on a beach chair in the blazing sun. It's not good for you, but it feels good. Full review.

    In other news...

    L.A.'s best restaurants: The Hollywood Reporter's original restaurant series THR Eats highlights the who, what and where of Los Angeles dining for the upper crust. Watch every episode here.

    And now for our 14th edition of...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Scott Woodward, evp programming and production at the arts-focused network Ovation.

    Who is the Ovation viewer? What kind of content do they like? As an independent network, we have a very upscale, highly educated and — we accept the fact — older audience. We kind of go after them. We’ve got a lot of classic mysteries on our network that they like. It’s a mature audience.

    The network carries a fair share of European-based scripted shows like Versailles and Riviera, which Netflix is also known for. Are they one of Ovation’s main competitors? I see them as almost a partner. In many cases, we’re getting the first window, and I think they’re happy about that because we'll do the marketing for it. And we both get benefits — when they stack it and replay season one when we’re airing season two, we get the benefit of that. You could say we compete with PBS a little bit, but we are much stronger in the art space than they are. That would be the closest competition for us, I think.

    Bravo was once an arts-focused network before it changed course. Are there any lessons to learn there for Ovation? I think the interesting thing for us is that we’re an independent network, so we don’t have to play by the same rules that a company that’s owned by Comcast/NBCU does.  Our advantage is being nimble and smaller. They have to be a big, broad-audience network. We hopefully can find our niche.↲

    What else we're reading...

    — "Inside Telemundo's battle with Univision for American Hispanics." Keach Hagey writes: "Telemundo, backed by the firepower of its corporate parent, has seized on shifting preferences among the U.S. Hispanic population to claim market share from its closest competitor." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "What Hollywood can gain by placing the 'queer gaze' in the spotlight." Tre'vell Anderson writes: "A direct response to the oft unspoken of yet ever-present 'straight gaze,' the queer gaze recognizes how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people create and view art. " [Los Angeles Times]

    — "At SXSW, creep-outs, belly laughs and digital spectacle." Mekado Murphy evaluates the festival's most notable offerings so far. [New York Times]

    — "How Atlanta, the most innovative show on TV, reinvented itself again." Jason Parham writes: "In season two, the FX show is transforming TV again — by turning the camera on the prejudices and motivations of its audience. " [Wired]

    — "Elon Musk vs. The Onion." Megh Wright outlines the tragicomic rivalry brewing between the entrepreneur and the comedy publication. [Splitsider]

    — "LinkedIn's $27 billion challenge: Get people to use it more." Jay Greene writes: "For LinkedIn to justify the $27 billion that Microsoft Corp. paid for it in 2016, the professional social network must convince its 546 million members that it is more than a place to find jobs or pitch customers." [Wall Street Journal]

    What else we're seeing...

    "Bill Hader shares his first time getting high." [Tonight Show]

    + "Zach Braff's unbelievable dinner with Al Pacino." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "John Cleese did not enjoy filming Monty Python and the Holy Grail." [Late Night]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Eating well and making hit TV shows with Phil Rosenthal." An interview with the Everybody Loves Raymond creator. [Black on the Air / The Ringer]

    + "All the buzz out of SXSW." From Blockers to American Animals. [Little Gold Men / Vanity Fair]

    Today's birthdays: Alexandria Daddario, 31, Alan Tudyk, 47, Judah Friedlander, 49, Lauren Graham, 51, Gore Verbinski, 54, Flavor Flav, 59, Isabelle Huppert, 65, Victor Garber, 69.