What Matters in Hollywood Today

7:36 AM 5/9/2018

by Ray Rahman

Wesley Mann/A Serious Mann Inc.

What's news: NBC releases the findings from its internal Matt Lauer investigation. Plus: Disney's earnings report exceeds expectations, Academy members offer mixed reactions to the recent Cosby and Polanski expulsions and Rose McGowan opens up about leaving Hollywood behind. — Ray Rahman

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Cover: On the road with Rose McGowan. An actress-turned-activist leaves the "Hollywood bubble" behind. Chris Gardner writes: 

Six months since going public with rape accusations about Harvey Weinstein and helping to ignite the #MeToo movement, McGowan has been portrayed as both a fearless hero and flame-throwing narcissist.

Now, as her E! docuseries returns and she battles a cocaine charge (she says it's a setup), the actress-activist opens up about why she helped torpedo her story on NBC ("I'd heard about Lauer") and her decision to leave Hollywood: "I've been a lot happier in this last month than I have been in a long time."

Her words: "I'm with an activist and a very awake individual," she says of her new romantic partner. "When the wreckage of the past gets cleared away, you can see your future a lot more clearly. There are things I didn't really know about myself," she says, adding with a laugh: "It takes a very complex and adventurous human to want to be with me."

On the press: "If I was Reese Witherspoon, would I be treated like I am? The answer is no. But [the press] feels I'm fair game. I think it's because [Weinstein] paid off the media for 20 years to savage me."

On the Cosby verdict: "It felt like we'd won the Super Bowl of all Super Bowls.... When I saw those brave women crying and breaking down afterwards, I felt a sense of shame because I was both thrilled for them, but I was also jealous."

On Harvey Weinstein: "I hope I'm wrong when I say that I don't think he will go to prison. People do have to gather evidence, and that takes time. But if two women pointed somebody out that stole our purses, he'd be arrested. So how many women does it take to say he stole us? He stole our careers, stole our lives, stole our reputations. He stole how my family treats me, how men treat me, he stole all that."

On NBC not running Ronan Farrow's story: "NBC took a lot of heat for killing the story. But I actually served Ronan with a cease and desist — two of them.... I did not want my rape spoken about over breakfast cereal on the Today show. I'd heard about Matt Lauer. You can't tell me the people at the top of NBC aren't aware. Come on." Full cover story | Video.

+ How #MeToo accusers cope after going public: "My hatred has deepened." Anna Graham Hunter, who wrote a guest column for THR about being harassed by Dustin Hoffman, talks to other women about what life has been like since coming forward. Read more.

In other news...

Bankruptcy judge gives Harvey Weinstein access to accuser emails: Weinstein's lawyers had asked the court to force TWC to hand over emails, texts and other correspondence that they believe could exonerate him from sexual misconduct allegations. Full story.

  • James Murdoch's Next Move

    Getty Images

    With Lachlan Murdoch expected to be CEO of the remaining Fox, his younger brother is reported to be looking at other options, writes Abid Rahman:

    Parting ways? Per a Wall Street Journal report, James Murdoch will not move to The Walt Disney Co. if a $52.4 billion deal for 21st Century Fox's media assets is completed and will instead look to start a venture capital fund to invest in digital and international media businesses.

    If the deal closes, Murdoch could be the odd man out, as reports suggest that his older brother, Lachlan, and his father, Rupert, are expected to remain with what’s now being called New Fox, consisting of Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and the Fox broadcast network. Full story.

    Meanwhile at Fox...

    Buying from Sinclair: 21st Century Fox has struck a deal to acquire seven TV stations from Sinclair Broadcast Group for $910 million. The acquisition of the stations — located in key NFL markets such as Denver, Miami and Seattle — is an effort to strengthen the post-Disney New Fox.

    The upside for Sinclair: The station sale could also help get regulators' approval for Sinclair's proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which would make it the largest U.S. TV station owner. Read mores.

    NBC releases Lauer findings...

    The report: NBC released results of its internal investigation of the Matt Lauer misconduct allegations. The report states that the investigation turned up no evidence that leadership at NBC News, Today or human resources "received complaints" about Lauer's "workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017.

    "We were also unable to establish that any of those interviewed, including NBC News and Today Show leadership, News HR and others in positions of authority in the News Division, knew that Lauer had engaged in sexual activity with other employees," the report continued. "Every such individual credibly responded that they had no such knowledge."

    "Most witnesses interviewed stated that they had heard or read rumors about Lauer’s personal life, including tabloid stories about the troubled state of his marriage and the possibility of extramarital affairs, but those witnesses believed, with limited exceptions, that the rumored extramarital affairs were with women outside of the Company..." Full story.

    Univision earnings...

    Down: Univision reported a first-quarter profit of $47.4 million, compared with a year-ago profit of $58.0 million, due in part to one-time restructuring and severance costs. 

    Christiane Amanpour heads to PBS...

    Late-night: The CNN vet will anchor a new late-night public affairs program on PBS stations beginning in July. Called Amanpour & Company, the show will feature interviews with global leaders and will have four contributors: Michel Martin, Walter Isaacson, Alicia Menendez and Hari Sreenivasan

    John Skipper's new job...

    He's back: Skipper, who abruptly resigned his position as president of ESPN last December, citing "substance addiction," is joining U.K.-based sports media company Perform Group as executive chairman. He’ll oversee all of Perform Group's strategy and operations, which include a streaming sports service and websites like SportingNews.com.

    MSNBC's Hugh Hewitt under fire...

    Drain the swamp? MSNBC is being forced to answer questions about the role Hewitt played in brokering a meeting between embattled EPA head Scott Pruitt and lawyers representing a California Superfund site.

    The lawyers, who work for the same firm as Hewitt  — Larson O’Brien — met with Pruitt in October and were successful in lobbying the EPA to put the Orange County North Basin site they represent on a list of locations targeted for “immediate and intense” action. Read more.

    ITV America launches crime label...

    Specialty: The stateside arm of the U.K. TV giant is looking to better define its many labels as buckets for specific genres, under newly minted CEO David George, including the launch of Good Caper Content — a shingle dedicated to crime programming. Details.

    Olivia Munn goes to Starz...

    New drama: The network’s forthcoming Stephenie Meyer paranormal thriller The Rook has set its cast. The roster: Munn, Emma Greenwell (The Path), Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck), Adrian Lester (Hustle), Ronan Raftery (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Catherine Steadman (Downton Abbey) and Jon Fletcher (Genius).

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Hulu's new supernatural thriller: The streamer has given a 10-episode straight-to-series order to Light as a Feather, based on a novel of the same name that’s received more than 2.9 million reads on self-publishing platform Wattpad.

    Fox's new drama: The network has given a series order to The Passage, a Mark-Paul Gosselaar-starring genre drama from Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights) and exec producers Matt Reeves and Ridley Scott. 

     Justice Dept. proposes Turner or DirecTV divestment if AT&T-Time Warner merger not blocked. In a post-trial brief, the government says the merged company would have too much power in negotiations with cable and satellite rivals. The analogy made is to the Cold War. Read more.

     

  • Disney's Big Quarter

    Kimberly White/Getty Images

    Bob Iger has a lot to be happy about, writes Paul Bond:

    The Black Panther bump: Walt Disney. Co. posted quarterly profit and sales that bested the expectations of analysts courtesy of Black Panther and strong financial results at the company's theme parks.

    Wrinkle in Time dip: Disney didn't say exactly how much that movie hurt the bottom line, but acknowledged that the success of Black Panther "was partially offset by the performance of A Wrinkle in Time."

    Breakdown: Studio entertainment boasted the most growth in operating income, at 29 percent, followed by parks and resorts at 27 percent.

    Soft spot: Operating income at the company's cable networks unit fell 4 percent due to some weakness at ESPN.

    Talking Fox: Iger also said Disney is "deep into the regulatory process" with the Fox deal and he therefore would not supply any details yet.

    He added that Disney isn't dependent on Fox content to launch its upcoming digital service, and said that if Disney acquires Fox it will suddenly become a 60 percent owner of Hulu and Disney will still fuel that platform as well. Read more.

    More Avengers movies? Bob Iger hinted that Avengers 4 may not be the last one: "We've plotted out Marvel movies that will take us well into the next decade. I'm guessing we will try our hand at what I'll call a new franchise beyond Avengers, but that doesn't necessarily mean you won't see more Avengers down the road." Full story.

    News from Cannes...

    The Man Who Killed Don Quixote updates: Amazon has pulled out of its distribution agreement for the embattled Terry Gilliam film, which is currently the subject of a legal bid to stop its planned Cannes world premiere. Additionally, Gilliam suffered a minor stroke over the weekend. Read more.

    Bill and Ted return: The much-discussed third Bill & Ted installment — Bill & Ted Face the Music — is now firmly in the works some 27 years later, with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter set to reprise their iconic roles as time-traveling metalheads. Original creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have penned the script, with Dean Parisot confirmed to direct. Read more.

    Focus Features buys opening-night film: Focus has acquired Everybody Knows (Todos Los Saben), directed by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and starring Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin.

    Cate Blanchett's opening speech: "Our job as a jury — our joyous task as a jury — is to open our hearts and minds and check our agendas and our preconceptions and our expectations at the door and be alive to the stories being told," said Blanchett, this year's jury president. Read more.

    Thierry Fremaux personally helps enforce selfie ban: The Cannes artistic director stood at the top of the Palais steps just after 6 p.m. during opening night to ensure his selfie ban was in effect. Read more.

    Cannes' "come to Jesus" moment? After years of being virtually ignored by the market, Christian-themed hits are converting international dealmakers into true believers (even in China). Read more.

    Extra! Download the THR day two daily edition, featuring an interview with first-time director Paul Dano about his film Wildlife. Download.

    MoviePass stock plunges...

    Running out of dough? MoviePass is taking a tremendous toll on parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, which said Tuesday its cash reserves are running low — a revelation that sent the stock reeling. In a filing, the company said it has $15.5 million in cash, with another $27.9 million owed to it by the merchant processors who have collected MoviePass payments, most of which come from subscribers who pay $9.95 per month.

    Next move: Helios and Matheson says it will sell stock to keep MoviePass afloat and that in May it enacted changes that it expects will save the company about 35 percent on those hefty costs it has been racking up, including initiatives to cut down on users sharing tickets and to prevent them from seeing the same movie twice. Read more.

    Cinemark earnings....

    Falling short: The cinema giant posted lower first-quarter earnings, despite Black Panther's performance in the latest quarter. Earnings fell to $62.0 million, compared with a year ago's $79.7 million.

    Six Billion Dollar Man loses its director...

    Out: Damian Szifron, who co-wrote the script and was to direct the movie, has fallen off the Warner Bros. project, set to star Mark Wahlberg as Col. Steve Austin. "Creative differences" are being blamed for the exit of Szifron, but the exact nature of the rift remains unknown.

    Replacement option: One candidate may already be in the wings: Mel Gibson has already been circling a key role in the film and could be conscripted to hop into the pilot’s seat.

    Jordan Peele's next movie...

    Casting buzz: Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss are circling to star in Peele’s latest movie project, the newly titled Us, for Universal.

    Details: Peele is once again directing from his own script. He is also producing via his Monkeypaw Productions alongside Sean McKittrick and Jason Blum. Universal has already dated the movie for a March 15, 2019, release.

    Plot: The pic is said to center on two couples, one white, one black. If a deal is made, Duke and Nyong’o would play one couple, while Moss would play part of the other duo. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    Burt Reynolds might join Quentin Tarantino's latest: The actor is in talks to join Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Michael Madsen, who all starred in Hateful Eight, also are in talks to play smaller or cameo-style roles in the film.

    Magnolia nabs Love, Gilda: Magnolia Pictures picked up the North American rights to Lisa D’Apolito’s film about comedy trailblazer Gilda Radner and is aiming for a theatrical release later this year.

    A24, Hereditary director team up for another horror film: Ari Aster, the filmmaker behind A24's buzzy Hereditary, is working with the company on a new horror project tentatively titled Midsommer, which he plans on shooting late summer or early fall.

    James Marsden in talks for Stephen King thriller: The actor is in talks to star in the Netflix adaptation of In the Tall Grass, based on the 2012 novella King wrote with son Joe Hill.

  • Oscar's Code of Conduct Questions

    Illustration by: Ryan Inzana

    The expulsion of Academy members Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski for criminal behavior raises the possibility of another purge (Spacey? Ratner?) even as other members go public with concerns about becoming "moral police." Scott Feinberg writes:

    The timing of the expulsions — seven days after Cosby was found guilty by a Pennsylvania jury of sexual assault and 41 years after Polanski pleaded guilty to sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 — has confused many Academy members who've been privately whispering about what comes next.

    If such expulsions for past behavior become the new normal, these members ask, would they become a regular event? Will the Academy get more attention for the members it expels than those it invites to join? And if so, how many more complaints could the Academy currently be considering?

    What the members think: "If there is no conviction, then you're expelling based on an opinion, and I don't think that's fair," says Rod Lurie, a member of the directors branch. "But both of these guys were convicted, and I think that having a conviction raises the credibility of an expulsion."

    Stu Zakim, a public relations branch member, questions the moves as well: "This was absolutely not the right way to handle it," he says. "I'm not standing up for what Cosby did in any way, shape or form — I think he's a piece of shit. But what is personal and what is business?" Full story.

    What else we're reading...

    — "What men should (and 100% shouldn't) do to support Time's Up, according to Scandal's Tony Goldwyn." The actor pens an essay on what the movement means for men. [InStyle]

    — "Is Comcast's Brian Roberts trying to kill net neutrality?" Lloyd Grove writes: "The Comcast boss likes to remain in the shadows, but some claim he is using the cover of darkness to plot the end of fair access to the Internet. " [Daily Beast]

    — "Stubborn? Arrogant? Irrelevant? The 2018 Cannes Film Festival weathers the storm." Justin Chang writes: "I can’t remember the last time Cannes commenced under such a cloud of grumbling, suspicion and all-around anxiety or any time the festival took such a widespread beating in the media before it even had a chance to roll out its famous (if now selfie-free) red carpet." [Los Angeles Times]

    — "Beyond TV and EVOO: Rachael Ray looks for her next act." Kim Severson writes: "The woman who made millions teaching America to cook dinner in a half-hour is facing 50, and a new digital world, with a pantry full of big plans." [The New York Times]

    — "Hari Kondabolu is done fighting The Simpsons on Apu." Steve Greene interviews the comedian: "Less than a year after his Simpsons documentary sparked a national conversation, his new Netflix standup special tackles much bigger ideas." [IndieWire]

    From the archives...

    Today in 1997: Luc Besson unveils The Fifth Element in theaters. THR's review: "This Luc Besson project is a generally dimwitted generic monstrosity of misconnected gadgetry and soulless techno-gunk. It's so chaotically clamorous that one fears its bombastic shock waves may have already caused the greats of French cinema (from Melies to Truffaut) to turn over in their graves." Full review.

    Today's Birthdays: Grace Gummer, 32, Rosario Dawson, 39, Dana Perino, 46, Ghostface Killah, 48, Billy Joel, 69, Candice Bergen, 72, James L. Brooks, 78.