What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:16 AM 4/4/2018

by Ray Rahman

THR Ryan Murphy_Splash - THR - H 2018
Ruven Afanador

What's news: The inside story of Ryan Murphy's blockbuster Netflix deal. Plus: Details emerge on the YouTube shooting, the CBS-Viacom merger proposal enters the spotlight and MGM uses James Bond to lure buyers. — Ray Rahman

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On the cover: Ryan Murphy, TV's $300 million man. Murphy tells Lacey Rose the wild and weepy backstory of how the streamer lured him into the biggest producer deal in TV history.

On a stormy afternoon in January at Netflix's Hollywood headquarters, Murphy was whisked to a theater on the top floor of the 14-story building, where content chief Ted Sarandos along with his heads of marketing, social media, scripted and young adults programming awaited. "We want you to know what you mean to us," Sarandos told Murphy.

Over the next two hours, the group dazzled him with highly confidential data on the viewing habits of its 117 million global subscribers and lit up a world map on which the countries where his programs were most popular shined brightest. "I left that meeting feeling that I had seen the future," says Murphy.

The Disney factor: "If the Disney transaction had been consummated," says FX chief John Landgraf, "I think the outcome with Ryan probably would have been different." But in that moment of uncertainty, the streaming service swooped in and offered Murphy his own galaxy within the Netflix universe.

The process: A few weeks after Shonda Rhimes' deal was announced, the pilot script for Murphy's Ratched, a prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Sarah Paulson attached to star, was sent to each of the streaming giants: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple. All four were desperate to move forward, and so began Murphy's tour of the streaming world. He went office to office, where executives pitched themselves to him, not the other way around.

Ideas for Netflix: "What if I do some cool thing," he says, "like a variety special with Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga?" There's one [idea] from transgender rights activist and Pose writer Janet Mock, too, and, if he can crack it, a health and wellness version of Chef's Table, one of Murphy's latest Netflix obsessions. Full cover story.

+ Ryan Murphy on American Crime Story's future and scrapping a Monica Lewinsky season. And the showrunner also reveals that he has cast Joan Collins in the eighth season of American Horror Story. Details.

  • Shooting at YouTube

    More details from yesterday's shooting are coming to light:

    What happened: A female shooter opened fire at YouTube's headquarters midday Tuesday. Several hundred employees evacuated from the premises and multiple victims of gunshot wounds were transported to area hospitals. The suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    The suspect: Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego, has been identified as the alleged female shooter at YouTube headquarters, the San Bruno Police Department confirmed Tuesday evening.

    All social media accounts for Aghdam had been taken down as of Tuesday evening, including a YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram account. Her website, on which she had posted several of her videos, is still online.

    Possible motive: On her website, she claims that YouTube "filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!" She also has a lengthy statement warning, "Dictatorship exists in all countries but with different tactics!" She goes on to say: "There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube or any other video sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to!!!!!" Full story.

    CBS-Viacom merger offer...

    The first pitch: CBS Corp. has shared its first merger proposal with Viacom, kicking off negotiations between the two entertainment companies.

    Analysis: Viacom and CBS Corp. vice chair Shari Redstone, whose family controls both via National Amusements, is understood to want executives from both firms, namely Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, to have roles after a potential deal to leverage the expertise and knowledge available on both sides. It is widely known that she has been high on Bakish's work and his people- and creativity-centric management style since his rise to the CEO role.

    Wall Street: Close watchers predict tough negotiations to come. One banker said the below-market proposal was a surprise in so far as offers usually come with a price premium, but he highlighted that it was just the opening move in a longer game of chess. Full story.

    Stranger Things lawsuit....

    Stolen idea? Charlie Kessler is suing the Duffer brothers for breach of implied contract, claiming he pitched them his concept for a sci-fi story set near an abandoned military base during a party at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Kessler says Stranger Things is based on his short film Montauk and a feature film script titled The Montauk Project. Read more.

    The BAFTA TV nominations have arrived...

    The contenders: The Crown, Catastrophe and Black Mirror were among the list of nominees, but no single title emerged as a clear favorite. One notable detail: Claire Foy was nominated for lead actress, while Matt Smith was left out of the actor category. Full list.

    Exporting Roseanne...

    Can the reboot also be an overseas hit? "The show would fit nicely alongside fellow American sitcoms Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon on Channel 4's U.S.-heavy E4 network in the U.K. or on Dutch channel Veronica, which airs Big Bang and Two and a Half Men reruns back-to-back," writes Scott Roxborough

    "But a big question is whether Roseanne — which has sparked debate due to star-creator Roseanne Barr's pro-Trump politics and incendiary tweets — will play as well in Berlin, Lisbon and Bristol as it has stateside." Full story.

    The producer interview: "I don't discuss her politics, that's her private business," Roseanne co-showrunner Bruce Helford says of the show's star. "There's Roseanne Barr and then there's Roseanne Conner. There are some similarities and plenty of differences." Full Q&A.

    Kathy Griffin's new act...

    Kellyanne Conway: The comedian debuted her impression of the counselor to the president last night on Comedy Central's Make America Great-a-Thon: A President Show Special. Her introduction? "She's the cockroach of my administration, please welcome the lone survivor of the Bowling Green massacre," Anthony Atamanuik's Trump said. Watch.

    Dirty John will be played by...

    Eric Bana: In another casting "get" for Bravo, Bana has been tapped to star opposite Connie Britton in the first season of the anthology, which will be based on Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Goffard's reporting and podcast about "Dirty" John Meehan, his relationship with Debra Newell and his exploits. Dirty John serves as Bana's U.S. television debut.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? Hugh Laurie joins George Clooney's Catch-22: The former House and Chance star will return to Hulu to co-star in the Clooney-led adaptation of the classic Joseph Heller novel. Laurie will take on the role of Major de Coverley, the squadron executive officer on Pianosa air base.

    ? Kathryn Hahn will star in Tom Perrotta's HBO comedy: The premium cable network has handed out a formal pilot order to half-hour comedy Mrs. Fletcher, based on Perrotta's book of the same name, with Hahn set to take on the title role. Nicole Holofcener will direct the pilot.

    ? Kenneth Branagh's next costume drama: Branagh is set to star in and produce Entertainment One's TV adaptation of A Gentleman in Moscow, based on the Amor Towles novel of the same name.

    ? Jimmy Fallon gets a co-host: For one night only, at least. Cardi B will serve as The Tonight Show's first-ever co-host April 9, marking her third appearance on the show. 

    The Purge series has a director: It'll be Anthony Hemingway, the star TV helmer whose previous credits include The People v. O.J. Simpson and Orange is the New Black. He'll direct the USA and Syfy show's premiere episode. 

    Hollywood remembers Steven Bochco...

    Dick Wolf: "When he was dealing with the studio, he could be a little prickly, but I learned a lot watching him at that time. I learned that when you offer [the studio] your pinky, they’ll take your whole arm." Read more.

    Dennis Franz: "I consider Steven to be a leader and a visionary in television. He left such a beautiful legacy of so much memorable work, which to me puts him in an icon status." Read more.

    Amy Brenneman: "In life, we all have those 'before/after' moments. Life is one thing before, and another thing after. I met Steven Bochco in a small room in Manhattan in the mid-1990s, and that meeting was one of those times for me." Read more.

    Sharon Lawrence: "My [NYPD Blue] role was written as a man. But when Steven saw that there weren’t enough females in the pilot, he shifted the gender. This was not because of a mandate. There was no social action around this topic at the time. It was just something he saw and was moved to do." Read more.

  • MGM's James Bond Play

    MGM is using James Bond rights as leverage for a possible sale, writes Tatiana Siegel:

    As the dust settles on MGM CEO Gary Barber's sudden March 19 ouster, eyes are turning to the studio's future, a possible sale and what happens to the James Bond franchise.

    Many observers assumed that Megan Ellison's Annapurna had long ago locked up a domestic rights deal to the mega-franchise, but insiders say that is not the case. Neither domestic nor international rights (where Warners' Kevin Tsujihara is said to be the frontrunner) have been closed, leaving a question mark with only 19 months until the Nov. 8, 2019, release.

    The plan: MGM is holding off because it is using the Bond rights as a carrot for whoever wants to buy the studio. After Barber's exit, MGM has been coy about whether or not it's for sale or if the company is finding a new CEO (the fact that there is no urgency in replacing Barber would signal that MGM is, in fact, in sale mode). Full story.

    Guillermo del Toro's new deal...

    Signed: Coming off of multiple Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, the filmmaker has inked an overall deal with Fox Searchlight that will see him write, produce and direct live-action feature projects. At the same time, the Fox division will create a new label that will “serve as a home for projects in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres, including those produced and curated by del Toro." 

    More gender pay gap reports...

    Across the pond: Time Warner's Warner Bros. and Turner units as well as Sony revealed considerable pay gaps between their male and female employees across their U.K. operations.

    The numbers: For Warner Bros., men on average made 30.9 percent more than women in 2017, and this number rose to 67.3 percent after taking into account bonuses. At Columbia Pictures Corp/Sony, the figures were 23.5 percent (45.8 percent including bonuses). Turner, meanwhile, reported a pay gap of 30.2 percent (bonus gap: 66.1 percent). Details.

    China-Japan co-production treaty...

    Agreement: China and Japan, Asia's two largest economies, are set to sign a landmark bilateral film co-production treaty when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Tokyo in May, Japanese government sources told the press Wednesday.

    Harvey Weinstein update...

    Dropped: Crisis PR firm Sitrick and Company will no longer serve as spokesmen for the fallen film mogul. The firm declined to discuss why it resigned from representing him, citing that it doesn't discuss clients and client matters. Sitrick has worked with Weinstein since October, when stories from The New York Times and New Yorker first published allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Adam Sandler teams up with the Safdie Brothers: He'll star in A24's Uncut Gems, the next film from the Good Time director duo; Martin Scorsese is executive producing. 

    The Hate U Give's new star: K.J. Apa, the star of The CW's Riverdale, will replace disgraced actor Kian Lawley in the Fox 2000 feature. In February, Lawley was cut from the film after a video of him making racially charged jokes and using racist slurs surfaced online.

    ? Cannes: Benicio Del Toro named Un Certain Regard jury president. "The man who will preside over the fate of the Un Certain Regard jury is not only a film lover but a brilliant actor, entirely devoted to his art," festival organizers said. "Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Pennsylvania, he is an artist who knows no boundaries."

  • Power Lawyers 2018

    The lawyers on The Hollywood Reporter's 12th annual list have nothing to feel insecure about: Hollywood's top legal pros help rising stars like Issa Rae capitalize on their success, guide industry-shaping mergers and deal with high-profile disputes amid the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. See the full list.

    + How Donald Trump propelled Showtime's top attorney to spend her vacation "screening up the wazoo." Gwen Marcus, the network's longtime general counsel and THR's 2018 Raising the Bar honoree, fields questions around the clock thanks to the current administration. Read more.

    + Meet six Hollywood lawyers at the center of the anti-harassment movement. THR breaks down the legal pros tackling the #MeToo culture, from spearheading the Time's Up legal defense to Bill O'Reilly's defamation suit. Meet the lawyers.

    + 11 top music attorneys for John Legend, BTS and more. Meet the lawyers behind the deals for classic crooners and breakout bands. Full list.

    In other news...

    Mark Zuckerberg will testify: Per the AP, "The leaders of a House oversight committee say Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the panel on April 11.... The hearing will focus on Facebook's 'use and protection of user data.'" Read more.

    Spotify's stock market debut: Spotify Technology shares made their debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning, opening at $165.90 per share after taking an unusual path to their first day of trading — giving it a market capitalization of $30 billion.

    Shares settled throughout the day, but still closed Tuesday up nearly 13 percent from the reference point to $149.01. At that price, Spotify is valued at over $26 billion. Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "ABC scored with Roseanne. But where are TV's black working-class shows?" Ira Madison III writes: "The assumption that Roseanne represents the working-class voters who helped put Trump in office is frankly ludicrous, no matter what ABC — and Trump himself — says. " [Daily Beast]

    — "Roseanne is a political series and let's not pretend otherwise." Jen Chaney writes: "For some reason in this country, unless we’re explicitly talking about elections or using the word Congress, we act like we’re not talking about politics." [Vulture]

    — "Jon Hamm is ready to break free from Don Draper." Maximillian Potter's profile: "Hamm arrives looking less than Draper-iffic. It’s not likely that he’s hungover — he had a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse three years ago — but he’s battling the onset of a cold." [Esquire]

    — "Evan Rachel Wood turns her trauma into good. On Westworld and in life." Melena Ryzik writes: "Wood, who has testified before Congress about surviving rape, discusses the power of going public in the #MeToo era and how her TV character inspired her." [New York Times]

    — "'I'm still full of stories.' Werner Herzog reflects on 50 years of filmmaking." Joseph Hincks writes: "In the popular imagination, Herzog is hardly known for his restraint." [Time]

    — "'Journalism is not about creating safe spaces': Inside the woke civil war at the New York Times." Joe Pompeo writes: "Catalyzed by the Trump presidency, roiled by flash points like Glenn Thrush, Bret Stephens, and Bari Weiss, a generational conflict not seen since the '60s is besetting the Times." [Vanity Fair]

    — "Did we create this monster?" How Twitter turned toxic." Austin Carr and Harry McCracken write: "For years, the company’s zeal for free speech blinded it to safety concerns. Now it’s scrambling to make up for lost time." [Fast Company]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Dwayne Johnson on rivalry with John Cena." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "Emily Blunt tells the story of how she met John Krasinski." [Late Night]

    + "London customs agent couldn't believe John Krasinski is married to Emily Blunt." [Tonight Show

    What else we're hearing...

    + "Live Nation under the microscope." A look at the company's practices. [The Frame/KPCC]

    + "Sinclair's scripted message." A look at the company's blowback. [On Point/WBUR]

    Today's Birthdays: Natasha Lyonne, 39, David Blaine, 45, Greg Garcia, 48, Robert Downey Jr., 53, David Cross, 54, Graham Norton, 55, David E. Kelley, 62, Craig T. Nelson, 74.