NBC News President's Writing Gigs Add Drama to Farrow Flap

Oppenheim Farrow - H - 2019

As Noah Oppenheim hits back at the allegation the network buried reporting on Harvey Weinstein, the exec's screenwriting career receives scrutiny.

With Noah Oppenheim on the hot seat as Ronan Farrow’s bombshell book Catch and Kill (out Oct. 15) dominates the news cycle, a closer look is being paid to the NBC News president’s gig as a screenwriter. In light of claims that Oppenheim and NBC News/MSNBC chairman Andy Lack squashed reporting carried out by Farrow and his NBC News producer, Rich McHugh, about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual predation, one question being asked around town is whether former scribe Oppenheim, 41, whose credits include the indie hit Jackie as well as several unproduced screenplays, was influenced by Weinstein’s presence in the prestige film space.

Back in 2016, Weinstein expressed interest in acquiring Jackie (starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy) when distribution rights were available, according to sources vying for the film at the time. At the Cannes Film Festival that year, the Jackie filmmakers presented footage to potential distributors. One buyer who was in the room recalls Weinstein being let in first before other suitors so that he could get the best seat. “I remember him leaving, in whispers, seemingly interested,” says this buyer. But another source says Weinstein never made a formal offer. (The film sold to Fox Searchlight.)

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Oppenheim says, “I’ve never had any relationship of any kind with Harvey Weinstein and never wanted one. Never worked for him, never tried to work for him, never wanted to work for him. I sold the script for Jackie to Fox Searchlight in 2010, six years prior to its release, and had zero subsequent role in seeking financing or distribution. I’ve never attended the Cannes festival, and to invoke someone’s alleged, unpursued interest there — a non-event completely outside my control or awareness — fuels the worst kind of conspiracy-mongering.”

Over the years, Oppenheim — a onetime development executive for the production company Reveille — landed some coveted screenwriting jobs, adapting YA tentpoles like 2014’s The Maze Runner for Fox and 2016’s Allegiant for Lionsgate. On the TV front, Oppenheim was hired to write and exec produce the biblical drama series Promised Land for Amazon. However, the project never got off the ground. He’s been repped by CAA and Management 360, and is a member of the WGA with several scripts in various stages of development, including The Secret Life of Houdini at Studio 8 and Citizen Ward (about the head of a struggling TV network who takes a chance on a news anchor in hopes of boosting his ratings).

The last thing that NBC News needs nearly two years after the tumult caused by Matt Lauer’s departure amid sexual misconduct claims is any further tarnishing of the Today brand, which is enormously profitable. The morning show outpaces CBS This Morning but trails rival Good Morning America among total viewers — 3.6 million to 3.7 million during the third quarter — while holding only a slight edge in the news demo of adults 25-to-54. It’s a similar scenario in primetime, where Lester Holt’s nightly news telecast manages a slight advantage in the demo despite placing a more distant second to ABC’s David Muir in audience rankings.

So far NBC News is doubling down on its offensive against Farrow, 31. In an Oct. 14 note to employees, Oppenheim called Farrow’s Weinstein accusation a “conspiracy theory” and the book a “smear.” Farrow, meanwhile, has been interviewed by both CBS This Morning and Good Morning America. Appearing on CBS on Oct. 14, Farrow described Catch and Kill as “an extraordinarily, meticulously fact-checked work of investigative journalism,” adding, “We’re very confident in it.”

This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.