What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:19 AM 3/20/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of Netflix

What's news: The Stranger Things cast is getting paid — but in different tiers. Plus: The Weinstein Co. cancels its NDAs in a new deal, The Crown's production company issues an apology about its pay gap and James Comey's book gets shopped in Hollywood. — Ray Rahman

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  • MGM Shake-Up

    Alex J. Berliner/ABImages/Courtesy of MGM

    Gary Barber is out as chairman-CEO, writes Pamela McClintock: 

    Exit: In yet another major leadership shake-up at a Hollywood studio, Gary Barber is out as CEO and chairman of MGM. He arrived at the company in 2010 after the once-storied studio emerged from bankruptcy.

    There was no explanation for Barber's abrupt ouster. Last October, Barber reupped with the studio and extended his contract for five years, through December 2022, making his exit all the more surprising across Hollywood. Full story.

    Kevin Ulrich: “Over the past eight years, MGM has successfully built a world class company and talented team,” Ulrich, chairman of the MGM board of directors, said Monday night in a statement. 

    Blindsided: Sources say Barber was blindsided by the board's decision to part ways and that Ulrich spearheaded the board’s move to oust him. Ulrich runs the hedge fund Anchorage Capital, MGM’s largest shareholder.

    Weinstein Co.'s next play...

    Agreement: The company filed for bankruptcy in Delaware and lined up Lantern Asset Management as the stalking horse bidder after coming to a purchase agreement. Other buyers will be able to bid at an auction once a bankruptcy judge approves. 

    NDAs released: The Weinstein Co. also announced that "Since October, it has been reported that Harvey Weinstein used non-disclosure agreements as a secret weapon to silence his accusers. Effective immediately, those 'agreements' end. The Company expressly releases any confidentiality provision to the extent it has prevented individuals who suffered or witnessed any form of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein from telling their stories."

    Grim last days: Business partners who refused to return calls. A fleeing work staff. No in-house lawyers. Not even enough money to continue an investigation into the Harvey Weinstein imbroglio. Robert Del Genio, chief restructuring officer at The Weinstein Company, went into detail about the embattled studio's terrifyingly dire situation in a statement filed in Delaware Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday morning. Read more.

    In related news...

    Andrew Cuomo's move: The New York governor ordered the state attorney general to review the 2015 decision by the Manhattan district attorney's office not to prosecute a sex abuse case against Harvey Weinstein. The directive came just hours after Time's Up called on him to investigate in an open letter.

    J.C. Chandor scores a couple stars...

    Finally: Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac are in negotiations to topline the J.C. Chandor project formerly known as Triple Frontier, the long-in-the-works crime drama that is now in preproduction at Netflix after a bit of a winding history.

    Backstory: In early 2017, Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy were in talks to star when the project was at Paramount. When it moved to Netflix last summer, Affleck was eyed to star. When he dropped out, Mark Wahlberg stepped in and was to star with Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal.

    Elsewhere in film...

    Elisabeth Moss enters The Kitchen: She'll join the 1970s-set crime drama, which already counts Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy as stars.

    Disney's live-action Lady and the Tramp: The studio's remake, which is being produced with Disney's future digital streaming service in mind, has nabbed Charlie Bean (The Lego Ninjago Movie) to direct the live-action/CG hybrid. 

    Tribeca update: The festival made some announcements about its upcoming 17th annual fest, including a trio of anniversary reunion screenings: Schindler's List, Scarface and In the Soup. On top of that, there's the Tribeca Talks lineup, which includes: Nancy Meyers, Jamie Foxx, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee and more.

    News from Filmart...

    Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson's much anticipated stop-motion animation film is heading to China. The Fox Searchlight film has secured a release date in the Middle Kingdom on April 20, making it the first Anderson movie to be distributed theatrically in China. Read more.

    The box office narrative....

    Faith-based genre gets a jolt: The $7 million indie movie I Can Only Imagine dramatically overperformed in its U.S. debut, and the good news continued on Monday when more than 1,000 theaters were added. The film earned an estimated $1.7 million Monday, almost as much as Tomb Raider ($1.8 million), and not that far behind Black Panther ($2.2 million). Read more.

  • 'Stranger Things' Payday

    Illustration By Matt Collins

    The kids are alright, writes Bryn Elise Sandberg: 

    $$$: The cast of the Emmy-nominated show have scored major pay raises following an intense renegotiation ahead of the sci-fi drama's third season. Sources say the new deals for the kids actors are worth roughly 12 times their previous salaries, and that the streaming giant is ponying up as much as $350,000 an episode for each of the show's adult actors.

    Breakdown: Per sources, Winona Ryder and David Harbour are "A tier," making up to $350K per episode; Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp are "B tier" with $250K per; and Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton and Joe Keery are "C tier" with $150K per.

    The mystery: Where does 14-year-old breakout Millie Bobby Brown fit into this scheme? Still unclear, though some suggest it may be "A tier" level. Full story.

    About The Crown's pay gap...

    Apology: "We want to apologize to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, who have found themselves at the center of a media storm this week through no fault of their own," Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind The Crown, said in a statement. "As the producers of The Crown, we at Left Bank Pictures are responsible for budgets and salaries; the actors are not aware of who gets what and cannot be held personally responsible for the pay of their colleagues."

    She's running...

    Nixon's in: Sex and the City alum Cynthia Nixon officially announced her plans to run for governor of New York, setting up a primary battle against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Nixon launched a fundraising page for her campaign and put out a campaign video.

    The date to watch: The Democratic primary will be held Sept. 13, setting up a long summer of Nixon making news as she tries to unseat the incumbent political scion.

    Sneaky Pete sneaks to California...

    Moving: The Amazon series is relocating production from New York to the Golden State in its third season, though the show has yet to be officially renewed by the streamer. The crime drama, set mostly in Connecticut, marks the thirteenth TV series to relocate to California under the state's revamped tax incentives program, which has a separate pot of funding designated to relocating shows.

    What's up with Nightflyers...

    Out: Showrunner Daniel Cerone, who boarded the Syfy adaptation of George R.R. Martin's novella when it was officially picked up to series in January, has exited the drama. Sources say Cerone stepped away from the series after creative differences.

    The new guy: Exec producer Jeff Buhler, who penned the script to bring Nightflyers to TV, will take over as showrunner. 12 Monkeys showrunner Terry Matalas was also brought in briefly to consult on the series.

    Cheddar raises cheddar...

    $22 million: That's how much the digital business-news network raised in a new round that was led by Raine Ventures, fueling Cheddar's international expansion plans.

    Important question...

    Why are you still paying for cable? According to a new survey, the top three most common answers among American TV subscribers are: 1) To watch live broadcast content, 2) Because it's bundled with my internet and 3) DVR capability. 

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Cagney and Lacey and Ving Rhames: The Mission: Impossible and Pulp Fiction alum is joining the CBS reboot, where he'll play Police Capt. Stark, an unflappable, loyalty-inspiring leader of the LAPD's homicide group. He joins stars Sarah Drew (Cagney) and Michelle Hurd (Lacey).

    Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard head to Chernobyl: The actors are boarding HBO's five-part miniseries about the 1986 nuclear disaster alongside Mad Men star Jared Harris.

    Lena Dunham's HBO comedy adds five: Dunham and Jenni Konner's upcoming comedy Camping is tapping Janicza Bravo, Arturo Del Puerto, Brett Gelman, Bridget Everett and Juliette Lewis to fill out its cast, which already boasts Jennifer Garner and David Tennant.

    More Hollywood Game Night coming: NBC has renewed the Jane Lynch-hosted series for a sixth season. The show will return later this year with 13 new episodes.

    Roseanne's return...

    Review: "To address the elephant, politically speaking, in the room: Yes, the premiere episode spends a fair amount of time on the main character's support for Donald Trump," writes Daniel Fienberg. "And yes, the fights between Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Hillary supporter Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) over that vote are awkward and uncomfortably familiar." The takeaway: "Not as fresh as it once was, but John Goodman and Sara Gilbert shine." Full review.

  • Comey Does Hollywood

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Courtesy of Flatiron Books

    Former FBI Director James Comey is considering selling the option to his hotly anticipated memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which publishes April 17. Andy Lewis writes:

    Comey’s agents at DC-based Javelin, Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn, were in Los Angeles last week fielding pitches, according to a source with knowledge of the visit. A film or TV deal wasn’t something Comey even thought about until a flood of people in Hollywood called and expressed interest after the book was announced in early August . Comey is said to be unsure if he’ll sell the option in the end.

    Latimer and Urbahn met with agents, production companies and screenwriters to hear their pitches for the project, which involved both theatrical and television adaptations. Comey did not make the trip out last week, but if he decides to allow the project to advance, he’ll likely travel here sometime in the future. Read more.

    In other news...

    Tronc trouble: Michael Ferro stepped down as the chairman of Tronc just hours before Fortune published a story accusing him of inappropriate advances toward two women while at a previous job. 

    What else we're reading...

    — "YouTube may add to the burdens of humble Wikipedia." John Herrman writes: "From the Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia, the first response was confusion." [New York Times]

    — "Inside YouTube's fake views economy." Paris Martineau writes: "Views are currency on YouTube, and the existence of fake ones creates questions for all videos." [The Outline]

    — "WSJ's Ben Fritz weighs in on the present and future of movies." One newspaper reporter interviews another. [Los Angeles Times]

    — "Hundreds of start-ups tell investors: Diversify, or keep your money." Pui-Wing Tam writes: "Leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are forming a Founders for Change coalition to deliver a message to the white- and male-dominated world of venture capital." [New York Times]

    — "Kamala Harris has been shopping a book and fueling 2020 talk." Gideon Resnick and Max Tani write: "According to a copy of the proposal, the senator’s working title for the project was Speaking Truth: Hard Facts and Hope for America’s Future." [Daily Beast]

    — "'We showed those city slickers!' Inside Meredith, the triumphant Midwesterners have poured some salt in Time Inc.'s wounds." Joe Pompeo's headline says it all. [Vanity Fair]

    — "So, is Aubrey O'Day's song 'DJT' about Donald Trump Jr.?" The evidence is compelling. [Vulture]

    — "How the sound of country music changed." Jewly Hight writes: "It's taken years for the stylistic shifts anticipated by Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt and Maren Morris to actually arrive." [NPR]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Drew Barrymore recalls flashing David Letterman." [Late Show]

    + "Bill Hader reveals what made him break on SNL." [Late Night]

    + "Jenny Slate wants her cat back from Kumail Nanjiani." [Late Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Wild Wild Country and Rise." A discussion of the new Netflix docuseries and the NBC drama. [The Frame / KPCC]

    + "Would Black Panther work as TV?" An intriguing question. [The Watch / The Ringer]

    Today's Birthdays: Michael Rapaport, 48, David Thewlis, 55, Holly Hunter, 60, Spike Lee, 61, William Hurt, 68, Carl Reiner, 96.