What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:22 AM 4/10/2018

by Ray Rahman

Courtesy of DC Comics

What's news: An investigation into what's happening to Stan Lee. Plus: Anthony Scaramucci sings Roseanne's praises, the Batgirl movie is back on at Warner Bros. and Amazon restructures its TV team. — Ray Rahman

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  • Stan Lee Needs a Hero

    Illustration by Jeremy Enecio

    At 95 and reeling from his wife’s death and a feud with his daughter, the Marvel creator stands at the center of a nasty battle for his care (and estate). Gary Baum writes in a new report:

    Back in early February, fighting what he later called “a little bout of pneumonia,” 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.

    The comic book legend sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration. The Feb. 13 document begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. “It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more,” the document states.

    It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — “which is often” — she “typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate.”

    A few days after the declaration was notarized, however, Lee changed his mind — or someone did. Whatever happened, Lallas was soon out as Lee’s attorney in a confrontation that grew tense enough that the LAPD was called to the legend’s Hollywood Hills home.

    New "friends": The declaration explicates how three men with “bad intentions” — Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez, Keya Morgan and J.C.’s attorney, Kirk Schenck — had improperly influenced his daughter, a woman with “very few adult friends.” The document claims the trio has “insinuated themselves into relationships with J.C. for an ulterior motive and purpose”: to take advantage of Lee and “gain control over my assets, property and money.”

    Consolidation: Morgan and J.C. began consolidating their power over Lee. Lee’s assistant for nearly a quarter-century who used to come by the house most days for one-on-one meetings, was limited to weekly preapproved and supervised visits. A new accountant (Vince Maguire, Tobey’s brother and Morgan’s friend) was hired. The housekeeper and gardener, who had been with Lee for decades, were sent packing.

    Lee’s phone number has been changed, and his e-mails are being monitored and composed by Morgan. (“Stan Lee has macular degeneration and his eyes cannot see small letters,” Morgan explains. “I have been taking him to the eye doctor and reading his e-mails for him for many years. This is his request, and he thanks me for helping him.”)

    J.C.'s lawyer: “The story isn’t that J.C. is taking advantage of her father, but that she’s potentially being taken advantage of by multiple men.”

    Alleged goals: Max Anderson and Olivarez contend that now that J.C. and Morgan have established influence over Lee, they will pursue their respective goals: she, unfettered access to her inheritance; he, control over Lee’s intellectual property. (Sources say discussions about changing Lee’s trust are ongoing.)

    What's at stake: Lee’s estate is estimated to be worth between $50 million and $70 million (it’s been reported he receives $1 million a year for his Marvel ties). And while his primary role with the company is now mostly ceremonial — including a cameo in nearly every film — he remains a deity in fanboy culture. Full story | Stan Lee's video

    The James Toback cases... 

    Update: The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has declined to prosecute five cases brought forth against writer and director James Toback. In one case, the victim failed to appear for an interview, but could still come forward in the future. The rest were beyond the statute of limitations, according to the D.A.'s office. They were all declined Thursday.

    The Batgirl movie is back on...

    New writer: Two months after Joss Whedon left the project — due to, by his own account, failing to come up with a story — Warner Bros. is moving ahead on developing a new film project based on the DC Entertainment heroine. Christina Hodson, who wrote the upcoming Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, has been tapped to pen a new script featuring Barbra Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon. Read more.

    BlacKkKlansman is coming...

    Release date: The Spike Lee film — starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Topher Grace — will open in U.S. theaters Aug. 10, timed to the one-year anniversary of the protests in Charlottesville, N.C. The Focus Features movie (previously titled Black Klansman) is based on the real-life story of Ron Stallworth — the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colo. — who went undercover in 1978 to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.

    Saudi Arabia's Cannes debut...

    Festival time: The Saudi Film Council is set to have its own pavilion at the Marche du Film, and will organize several industry panels for networking between delegates and Saudi filmmakers. As part of the country's first trip to the Croisette, nine short films by young Saudi filmmakers will screen at Cannes' Short Film Corner.

    The evolving movie theater...

    Luring customers: Per a new WSJ report on how theaters are trying to bring in more people, "The nation’s three largest movie chains — AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Holdings Inc. — have each dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to the reseating efforts, saying between 40 and 55 percent of their auditoriums will be eventually renovated. AMC, the world’s largest exhibitor, said 247 of its 640 locations were outfitted with recliner seats at the end of last year."

    Elsewhere in film...

    James Franco's Future World drops a trailer: The post-apocalyptic thriller, starring Franco (who also co-directed) and Suki Waterhouse in a world where water and gasoline have long evaporated, includes appearances from Snoop Dogg and Method Man. Watch.

    Leslie Hope sets directorial debut: The actress, who played Jack Bauer's wife on the first season of 24, has chosen the indie romantic comedy The Swearing Jar as her feature directorial debut. She'll direct the indie film from a screenplay adapted by actress Kate Hewlett (The Girlfriend Experience) from her theatrical play.

    The Great Alone author Kristin Hannah opens up about having her books adapted into movies: Hannah, whose work is getting the big-screen treatment, has been impressed at how the debate about Hollywood gender equity has penetrated far and wide, noting she’s seen the impact at book tour events. “When I say I have this all-female team, they just gasp and burst into applause. It’s time for a movie like this.” Read more.

    [icon:esq] THR, Esq.: Disney looks to stop Redbox from selling Black Panther download codes. In a lawsuit, Disney contends that Redbox is violating its copyrights by disassembling "Combo Packs" — a Blu-ray disc, a DVD and a movie download code that can be redeemed through authorized digital outlets. Read more.

  • The Mooch on 'Roseanne'

    Greg Gayne/ABC; Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Tommy Lasorda

    In a guest column for THR, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci says Roseanne is the show the country needs right now:

    America needs Roseanne more than ever. Not because the lead actor and titular character is a Trump supporter. Not because she is a socially liberal LGBTQ rights pioneer. America needs Roseanne back on the air because she is unabashedly both. The show provides an opportunity for both liberals and conservatives to climb out of their respective bubbles and begin a much-needed reconciliation.

    Most of the press about Roseanne Barr and Roseanne Connor has related to their support of President Trump. However, the more important conversation regarding the show is about the spirit of diversity, acceptance and civility among its cast of characters. Full guest column.

    Jennifer Salke's Amazon restructure...

    New team: Salke, the former NBC Entertainment president who replaced the ousted Roy Price at the retailer and streamer, has tapped Albert Cheng to serve in the newly created position of co-head of television. COO Cheng had replaced Price on an interim basis and will now report directly to Salke.

    Cheng and his yet-to-be determined co-head will be jointly responsible for leading the TV division. Cheng will continue to serve as COO of all of Amazon Studios while also working on day-to-day oversight of the business, creative and production units on the TV side.

    Additionally, the scripted development team has been reorganized and will now report to Cheng and his fellow co-head. Full reorg.

    Hulu's and YouTube's live TV services may be getting ads...

    Near future: Per a Digiday report, "Both companies have set time frames for when they expect to open up their live TV inventory, according to an agency executive that has spoken with both.... Another person close to the matter said Hulu will start selling ads in its live service sometime this year that will be able to be targeted to specific audience segments.... Other agency execs expect the live TV inventory to be part of both companies’ NewFronts pitches this year."

    Sinclair resignation...

    Stepping down: Conservative commentator Jamie Allman, who hosted a nightly news show on local ABC affiliate KDNL in St. Louis and a morning FM radio show on 97.1, resigned Monday after advertisers began dropping his station following a March 26 tweet that made lewd references to violating Parkland teen David Hogg with a "hot poker." "He has resigned and his show is off the air immediately," a Sinclair spokesman says. Details.

    Hannity versus Kimmel continues...

    Hannity responds: A day after Jimmy Kimmel tweeted an apology, Sean Hannity kept the feud going on his Fox News show: "I read [Kimmel's] apology carefully," he said. "A couple of things are clear to me. On the surface, it seems to be a forced, Disney apology directed to the LGBT community rather than Kimmel’s comments about the first lady." Read more.

    The Simpsons-Apu situation...

    Fallout: Much of the 24 hours following Sunday's Simpsons episode were spent discussing the merits of the episode's attempt to address the Apu controversy. Not everyone was happy with what they had to say, including The Problem With Apu creator Hari Kondabolu.

    "Wow. 'Politically Incorrect?' That’s the takeaway from my movie & the discussion it sparked? Man, I really loved this show. This is sad," Kondabolu tweeted. "In 'The Problem with Apu,' I used Apu & The Simpsons as an entry point into a larger conversation about the representation of marginalized groups & why this is important. The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress." More reactions.

    More TRL changes afoot...

    Showrunner out: Total Request Live reboot showrunner Albert Lewitinn, who launched the MTV franchise last year, has exited the series. He is not being replaced as the internal production team will continue to run the franchise.

    "Albert was brought on to help launch TRL and now that it's underway, he has decided to return to news production," an MTV spokesperson said. The decision comes as the franchise expands to three day parts and bows a special today featuring Cardi B. Full story.

    Westworld season two intel...

    "Brutal and beautiful": That's how creator-showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have described the show's much-anticipated Shogun World in an interview with EW.

    Nolan added: "We want to try and gently temper expectations. Most of our season is spent in Westworld.... But we do get a chance to glimpse some of the other worlds.... I think the stuff we did for Shogun World is spectacular."

    Kevin Smith's Showtime special...

    Stand-up: The actor, comedian and producer has set a stand-up comedy special at the premium cable network. The show, Kevin Smith: Silent but Deadly, was taped hours before Smith's heart attack and was to have been the first of two planned stand-up shows. It is set to air Friday, May 11. Details.

    Oxygen's new slate...

    Murder-centric (plus Piers Morgan): The network continues to lean into true crime, announcing 10 new series on its already sizable slate — including Stateside rights to Piers Morgan's U.K. effort Serial Killer.

    The roster (in all its pulpy glory): Serial Killer; In Defense Of; The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers; Price of Duty; Abuse of Power; The Mark of a Killer (working title); License to Kill (working title); Dying to Belong; Buried in the Backyard; A Wedding and a Murder; Cult of Killers (working title). Full loglines.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Star Trek: Discovery enlists Anson Mount: Mount has boarded the CBS All Access series to take on a key role in the Trek mythology: Captain Christopher Pike. Pike was first introduced in the original Star Trek and led the USS Enterprise before William Shatner's famed Captain James T. Kirk.

    Arrow brings back Colton Haynes: The Teen Wolf alum has closed a new deal to return to The CW drama as a series regular in the Greg Berlanti-produced DC Comics drama's recently announced seventh season.

    HBO's Laura Dern drama The Tale drops a trailer: Jennifer Fox’s autobiographical film, a hit at Sundance, centers on a woman forced to reconsider the nature of her first sexual relationship and come to terms with her own molestation. Watch.

    Property Brothers star Drew Scott's new show: Scott and his fiancee, Linda Phan, are letting viewers get a look at their dream wedding via a new TLC series titled Drew and Linda Say I Do.

    Netflix re-ups Alexa & Katie: Not long after its March debut, the high school-set series — dubbed as Netflix's first "fully produced tween sitcom" — has been renewed for a second season.

    HBO's Bill Simmons-produced Andre the Giant debuts tonight...

    Review: "Perhaps ironically, Andre the Giant runs a diminutive 84 minutes — and perhaps predictably, it leans still too heavily on the myth at the expense of the real man," writes Daniel Fienberg. "But it's still incredibly entertaining, if not always as insightful as one might crave." The takeaway: "An engaging, if not always revealing, doc." Full review.

  • "No Progress"

    Courtesy of Tamara Mellon

    In this guest column for Equal Pay Day, the fashion founder and designer Tamara Mellon (who co-founded Jimmy Choo in 1996) reflects on her own experience with the gender pay gap and this historical moment of female empowerment:

    Last year, we made some bold statements about the pay gap, which is 80 cents on the dollar to men. We shared tips for women to negotiate raises and on Equal Pay Day, we reduced the prices on our website 20 percent to match the gender pay gap. The response from women was overwhelming: we’re all in this together, and should continue to talk about how to solve this. The first step is taking a stand and sharing our stories.

    That’s why I, a shoe designer and entrepreneur, am speaking out again about pay disparity on April 10, Equal Pay Day, and I’m reducing my prices by 20 percent to highlight how no progress has been made since last year. Full guest column.

    In other news...

    Mark Zuckerberg's testimony: In a prepared testimony released ahead of his Wednesday hearing before a House oversight panel, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg is apologizing on behalf of the social media company. Read the full text.

    And now for our 15th edition of...

    ↱The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Sean Rameswaram, host of Vox's daily news podcast Today, Explained.

    The daily-news podcast space is still growing. What are some of the format's main challenges right now? We aren't trying to make something that is irrelevant and un-listenable by tomorrow. We're trying to make stuff that explains the news that's important today but that is still important the day after. That's something we try to do every single day, and that's tricky — because we're trying to make something that has a long shelf life and is fact-checked thoroughly. Therein lies the challenge.

    The tone of Today, Explained is less dry than a lot of its peers — a bit more edgy. I'm curious how news audiences are responding to that tone. You know what they say — don't read the comments. (Laughs.) I don't know if we're making this show for everyone. We certainly aspire to make a show for everyone, but I think everyone on our team leans into his or her instincts. We all have our tastes and we trust those tastes. If we think something is worth doing or if it's worth cracking a joke, that someone is going to appreciate it out there. And I'm sure some people don't.

    What non-news podcast do you listen to when you want to unwind? Song Exploder with Hrishikesh Hirway. It's a podcast I listen to religiously. It's the thing I would dream of doing: hanging out with musicians and finding out what their processes of writing songs are.

    What else we're reading...

    — "'I walked away from the table, left my job, and went public': My battle with the mom tax." Catt Sadler writes about her experiences in an essay for Equal Pay Day. [Vanity Fair]

    — "Netflix v. Cannes: What the film festival feud means for the future of cinema." Damon Wise writes: "It’s not unthinkable to suggest that, in time, these digital platforms might yet team up to found their own festival." [The Guardian]

    — "CBS-backed startup to help advertisers donate to charities through digital ad buys." Alexandra Bruell writes: "Givewith helps marketers create ads that trigger donations to select nonprofits when a consumer clicks on or views a digital ad, in hopes of boosting brand sentiment or sales." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "The impossible duality of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." Caitlin Flanagan writes: "The Amazon show’s star may be the first woman who really does have it all." [The Atlantic]

    — "Inside the world of Amal Clooney." Nathan Heller's cover profile: "A breeze is up; the air is bracing. Amal Clooney swings open the door and gathers me inside." [Vogue]

    — "New Girl made a home at the end of one TV era and the beginning of another." Erik Adams writes: "When they tore down the New Girl apartment, the set that had served as the emotional, narrative, and locational hub of the Fox sitcom, creator Liz Meriwether wasn’t there." [AV Club]

    — "Cardi B's money moves." Caity Weaver profiles the woman of the moment: "The rapper responsible for last year’s most unexpected hit emerged from a singular New York City story of strip clubs, gangs, and below-board basement butt injections." [GQ]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Cardi B tells John Mulaney what happened to her at prom." [Tonight Show]

    + "Seth is a dad! Again." [Late Night]

    + "Madeline Albright says 'See something, say something, do something." [Late Show]

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Broadcast TV's roadmap to survival." From Roseanne to Jesus Christ Superstar. [Screen Grab/KCRW]

    + "Chrissy Metz." The This Is Us star sits down for an interview. [It's Been a Minute / NPR]

    [icon:birthday] Today's Birthdays: Daisy Ridley, 26, Haley Joel Osment, 30, Mandy Moore, 34, Jordan Horowitz, 38, Charlie Hunnam, 38, David Harbour, 43, Peter Morgan, 55, Steven Seagal, 66, John Madden, 82, Max von Sydow, 89.