What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:15 AM 5/1/2018

by Ray Rahman

Spongebob Squarepants Production Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

What's news: Ashley Judd says in a lawsuit that Harvey Weinstein "torpedoed" her career. Plus: Some of TV's biggest comedies head toward their end, late-night hosts defend Michelle Wolf, and the Tony nominations are here, topped by Mean Girls and SpongeBob. — Ray Rahman

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

The Tonys...

Nominations are in: Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants topped the nominations for the 72nd annual Tony Awards, which were unveiled Tuesday morning. Both scored 12 noms apiece, including best musical, where they will vie for that honor alongside The Band's Visit and Disney's Frozen.

Meanwhile, Angels in America, The Band's Visit and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel each landed 11 noms, while Harry Potter and My Fair Lady followed with 10 nominations each.

Special awards: Bruce Springsteen and John Leguizamo will be honored with special Tonys, the former for his ongoing show Springsteen on Broadway — bringing him that much closer to an EGOTFull nominees list.

  • Judd Sues Weinstein

    The actress says Harvey Weinstein cost her an important role in a lucrative franchise, writes Ashley Cullins:

    Ashley Judd is suing Harvey Weinstein for defamation and sexual harassment, claiming, among other allegations, that the embattled mogul badmouthed her to filmmaker Peter Jackson and cost her a role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    According to a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Judd felt something "unseen" had been holding her career back, but she didn't realize until December that it was Weinstein.

    The claim: The actress says she was in talks with Jackson and his team in 1998 to play one of two major roles in the fantasy trilogy, but Weinstein "torpedoed" the opportunity by telling them she "was a 'nightmare' to work with and should be avoided 'at all costs.'"

    "The pathetic reality, however, was that Weinstein was retaliating against Ms. Judd for rejecting his sexual demands approximately one year earlier, when he cornered her in a hotel room under the guise of discussing business," writes Judd's attorney.

    Not alone: The suit also details allegations made by others, including Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman, who say the mogul threatened their careers after they rejected him sexually. It also alleges that Mira Sorvino was passed up for a Lord of the Rings role for the same reason as Judd. Full story.

    Quentin Tarantino also has a Weinstein claim...

    Owed royalties: The Weinstein Co. is currently taking bids for its assets, and the winner will be putting up at least $310 million, but Tarantino says none of his agreements should be assigned because he's owed massive royalties.

    Breakdown: Tarantino wants $300,000 for Grindhouse, $575,000 for Inglourious Basterds, $1.25 million for Django Unchained and nearly $2.5 million for Hateful Eight. He is demanding an accounting for each of these films as well. Read more.

    Movie ticket price report...

    Rising overall: Fueled largely by box-office blockbuster Black Panther, the average price of going to the movies clocked in at $9.16 during the first quarter of 2018.

    That's down 2 cents from the final quarter of 2017, but up 32 cents — or 3.6 percent — over the same quarter in 2017, when the average price was $8.84. And it's up 19 cents — or 2 percent — from the average price for all of 2018, or $8.97. Full story.

    Imax earnings...

    Good news: Imax posted a big rise in first-quarter earnings this morning. The giant-screen exhibitor's quarterly revenue came in at $84.9 million, against $68.6 million a year earlier. The analyst forecast was for $81.2 million.

    Passing the lightsaber...

    Lucasfilm congratulates Marvel: Kathleen Kennedy signed a special note to Marvel on its record-breaking opening for Avengers: Infinity War, complete with a picture of a lightsaber being symbolically handed to Iron Man. 

    Kate Winslet talks Avatar 2...

    Working with James Cameron again: "The most I’m allowed to tell you is that I am blue, and a lot of water is involved,” Winslet hints to THR. “It was a really wonderful experience to work with Jim again. He seemed to really want to include me with the children. I enjoy working with kids, especially when they’re young and eager and so keen on wanting Jim to be impressed with them." Full interview.

    Together at last...

    John Cena and Dwayne Johnson: Johnson is teaming with Hollywood's other wrestler-turned-actor, Cena, for the action thriller The Janson Directive, based on the best-selling novel by Jason Bourne author Robert Ludlum. Cena would play lead role Paul Janson, while Johnson, originally set to star, would executive produce.

    Elsewhere in film...

    ? Mel Gibson's next directing gig: Gibson will helm Destroyer, a World War II naval war movie from Hollywood Gang Productions, making the movie his follow-up to Hacksaw Ridge, the 2016 war drama that served as his directorial comeback.

    ? Lupita Nyong'o teams up with John Woo: The actress is in negotiations to star in Woo's new project, a remake of his classic action movie The Killer, this time with a female twist. Woo will direct the film, being described as a "blistering thriller that blends espionage with extraordinary stunts."

    ? Jack O'Connell, Lily Collins join The Cradle: The duo will play a couple not ready to expect their first baby as they track down a childhood cradle, only to make a discovery that will change their family forever.

    ? Betty Gilpin and Jacki Weaver join The Grudge reboot: The stars join John Cho and Demian Bichir in Sony's reimagining of the Japanese video game.

    ? Charlotte Rampling joins Paul Verhoeven's lesbian nun drama: The Oscar nominee is attached to join the erotically charged drama Blessed Virgin, telling the real-life story of a visionary nun whose illicit relationship with another nun led to her execution.

    ? Walking Dead star's directorial debut: Pollyanna McIntosh has wrapped production on her debut feature Darlin', which is now set to make its market debut in Cannes.

    Galloway on film...

    Tone-deaf: "Bernardo Bertolucci lashes out at Ridley Scott as if he’s the villain, completely ignoring the alleged crime the man has perpetrated," Stephen Galloway writes of Bertolucci's comments on Scott.

    "To say he’s ashamed of Scott, without saying he’s also ashamed of Kevin Spacey, is such a purblind distortion it makes you wonder when the director went wrong. It’s not Scott but Bertolucci who ought to feel ashamed." Read more.

  • End of an Era?

    Heading into upfronts, CBS and ABC will have big decisions to make about the future of the three comedy heavyweights. Lesley Goldberg writes:

    CBS' The Big Bang Theory, ABC's Modern Family and The Goldbergs are heading into the final year of their multiple-season renewal deals and, sources say, both networks have begun talks to determine if all three of the top 10 comedies will continue on beyond their existing deals.

    Big Bang Theory: Sources say WBTV and CBS have had some conversations about potentially continuing the series beyond season 12, which would require signing the stars to new mega-deals to return. "We know we have season 12, we don't know what we have beyond there," showrunner Steve Holland tells THR. "Our goal of doing season 12 is to not leave anything on the table." 

    Modern Family: The pending Fox-Disney deal is expected to play a larger role about whether the Emmy-winning comedy runs beyond its upcoming 10th season. Co-creator Steve Levitan previously has said the "plan is to end it at 10" but now says, "the answer is I don't know" if the Disney deal may result in more seasons. Full story.

    + Here are all the broadcast shows canceled this year (and why). THR breaks down why some of your favorite shows, from New Girl to Shades of Blue, won't return for the 2018-19 season. Full list.

    Michelle Wolf talks...

    Defiant: "I wouldn't change a single word that I said," Wolf told NPR in an interview that will air Tuesday. "I'm very happy with what I said, and I'm glad I stuck to my guns." The comedian said she "wasn't expecting" the level of controversy that has swirled since her hosting performance, but added, "'I'm also not disappointed there's this level."

    She continued: "I knew what I was doing going in. I wanted to do something different. I didn't want to cater to the room. I wanted to cater to the outside audience, and not betray my brand of comedy."

    About the Sarah Sanders issue: Wolf said that some of the criticisms of her comments, particularly about Sanders and her "appearance," were misinformed. "I think they didn't pay attention to what was said," she added. Read more.

    Late night comes to her defense: "Michelle should have had the decency to not comment on women's appearances in any way, shape or form," Trevor Noah quipped. "She's a comedian for God's sake, not the president." Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and more also chimed in. Watch

    What Mike Huckabee thinks...

    Interview: "She's moved on," Huckabee tells THR. "My daughter's a remarkable person and she's strong. Things like that aren't going to cause her to lose sleep."

    He continued: "I think she was just disappointed that she was subjected to that and felt that it was just inappropriate to invite her as the guest of the association, as the representative of the White House, put her in that very public, prominent position, and then to have her essentially bullied in front of 3,000 people and millions on television. How would anyone feel?" Full Q&A.

    Megyn Kelly weighs in on Tom Brokaw...

    Comparing to Fox News: “I understand that, because when you love the person being under attack, you want to say, ‘This has been my experience,’” Kelly said on her show yesterday, referring to the letter of support from many NBC News employees. “I will say that the same thing happened at Fox, and the truth is that you don’t know what you don’t know.... I think letters like that can be dicey.” Read more.

    Gayle King talks #MeToo...

    Backlash warning: “I worry sometimes that women make an accusation and men instantly get the death penalty,” the CBS This Morning host said during a Milken Institute panel on the topic of corporate culture in the media industry. “I think we have to be very careful; that there has to be a due process for all involved — so I do worry of a backlash to the #MeToo movement.” Read more.

    American Idol ratings pop...

    Big jump: Now airing just one nationally live episode a week, the two-hour show jumped to a six-week high 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 8 million viewers. That's a 20 percent lift in the key demo compared with the previous week and the best Sunday showing it's seen since its March premiere.

    Twitter's new deals:

    TV friends: Twitter is growing its live content offerings with the help of Disney and NBCUniversal. The pact with Disney includes plans to create live shows from across the media company's portfolio of brands beginning with ESPN.

    The distribution deal with NBCUniversal will see the media company publish live video and clips from its portfolio of brands — including NBC, NBC News, Telemundo and E! News — on Twitter.

    Sports Programming: As part of the Disney deal, ESPN will bring Twitter SportsCenter Live, featuring a mix of analysis and reporting, and Fantasy Focus Live, a video version of the ESPN podcast. Read more.

    Megan Amram's new web series...

    Shameless awards grab: "I really just thought that it was my time to transition into a multihyphenate, out of a single hyphenate," says the heretofore writer-comedian about her new series, An Emmy for Megan, her bold play for the outstanding actress in a shortform comedy or drama Emmy. Q&A.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    ? NBCUniversal CEO's pay rise: Steve Burke's compensation for 2017 amounted to $46.5 million, just up from $46 million in 2016. Meanwhile, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts saw his overall pay dip slightly to $32.5 million, compared with $32.9 in 2016. Read more.

    ? Viacom unveils digital studio and a new series slate: The media conglomerate has launched Viacom Digital Studios to develop original digital programming and branded content to help BET, Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central reach mobile-first viewers. Details.

    ? Jimmy Kimmel boards ABC's Man of the House pilot: The network's late-night personality and go-to host will lend his voice to the Alyson Hannigan and Leslie Bibb vehicle, serving as the off-camera narrator.

    ? Riz Ahmed's next drama: The actor is working with the BBC on his first self-penned TV drama, Englistan, a nine-part series telling the story of three generations of a British-Pakistani family.

    ? 13 Reasons Why trailer: The first preview of the Netflix show's second season is here. Watch.

    + Interview — serial sexual assault will be at the center of season two: Creator Brian Yorkey tells THR about why his controversial Netflix drama will not feature another suicide in season two and how Hannah's death will play a role. Q&A.

    ? Watch Tina Fey and David Letterman perform improv: The duo treat an audience to some entertaining banter, all in the name of Letterman's Netflix show. Watch.

    Emmy standings right now: Can SMILF become a frontrunner? Is Westworld a favorite? Where does Killing Eve stand? See the Feinberg Forecast.


  • Murdoch on Broadway

    Buoyed by rave reviews in London, James Graham's lively flashback to the Australian media tycoon's early days is crossing the Atlantic. David Rooney writes:

    Rupert Murdoch is bound for Broadway next spring. Not the Australian media tycoon himself, but Ink, British playwright James Graham's rollicking depiction of Murdoch's initial assault on Fleet Street.

    Timeline: The play premiered in June last year at London's Almeida Theatre and jumped to a West End run, propelled by rave reviews. The American premiere will begin previews April 2, with the play's official opening scheduled for April 24 at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

    Plot: Graham chronicles the brash young Murdoch's purchase of The Sun in 1969 and his successful mission to reinvent the failing tabloid by plunging down-market, making it a must-read daily that would trample the competition and thumb its nose at the fusty British establishment press. Read more.

    And now for our 19th edition of...

    ?The Three-Question Interview: a series of short Q&As with interesting executives and personalities. Next up: Natasha Mulla, chief marketing officer of MoviePass.

    So tell me about the evolution of MoviePass’ marketing strategy. Before I arrived, there wasn’t a lot of paid marketing that MoviePass was doing — it was a lot of organic growth. What I’ve been trying to do is find new ways to share what MoviePass is across the country into areas where we don’t currently have a large base.

    Where is the MoviePass consumer, generally? We see a lot of growth in and near major cities like New York, L.A., San Francisco. And it’s been phenomenal. So to help spread it out more, we’re marketing through a lot of social and advertising, and we have great new partners we’ve been working with and marketing through. But we’re still building the full strategy.

    How do you convince people who are already paying for multiple streaming services and can stay home for a movie that it's worth paying monthly for MoviePass as well? I think people do like going to the movies. We definitely notice that there is an interest and excitement in that event of seeing a movie in a theater surrounded by people who are laughing along with you or scared along with you. I think reminding them of that excitement has been something they've been responsive to, because they do want to do it. People do still enjoy going to the movies.?

    What else we're reading...

    — "Michelle Wolf did her job. It's the Correspondents' Dinner that is the problem." James Poniewozik weighs in on the debate. [The New York Times]

    — "Why the WHCD should go on." Nell Scovell provides the counterpoint. [Vulture]

    — "Next hurdle for T-Mobile-Sprint merger: Trump administration." Drew FitzGerald and Brent Kendall write: "The would-be partners have some new arguments to sway regulators, including more choices for wireless phone service from cable companies." [Wall Street Journal]

    — "Avengers: Infinity War is like a really short season of a TV show." Todd VanDerWerff writes: "One of the most remarkable things about Infinity War is that it works at all." [Vox]

    — "As Oscars pile up, Iranian film grows up." Thomas Erdbrink writes: "Iranians often suffer from the image presented by 'death-to-America' shouting hard-liners, an extremist view not shared by the majority of Iranians." [The New York Times]

    — "Why Megan Amram's devious, totally by-the-rules bid to win a best actress Emmy could work." Robert Lloyd writes: "Anyone with a smart phone and the most basic internet skills can produce an Emmy-eligible series, in a couple of minutes." [Los Angeles Times]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Jake Tapper on sources & WHCD." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    + "David Duchovny: The note a director should never give." [Late Show]

    + "Roseanne Barr remembers the Tonight Show appearance that launched her career." [Tonight Show]

    Today's Birthdays: Jamie Dornan, 36, Wes Anderson, 49, Tim McGraw, 51, Joanna Lumley, 72.