Normally, I don’t care about upcoming projects and leave that to the trades. But a Peter Jackson writing/directing project is an event. Sources tell me that today certain Hollywood studios were given the big PJ spec script with Mr. Lord Of the Rings himself attached to helm. It’s an adaptation of The Lovely Bones, the bestseller penned by Alice Sebold. “It went out today to almost everybody and the offers are across the board,” a source tells me. “That’s because there was a cover letter laying out basics like approximate budget, start of photography, etc. It simply wants the studios to make a proposal with no ask. It also wants them as part of the proposal to make a recommendation about release date and inform what competitive titles they’ll have during the quarter of the release date they suggest.” If this sounds very unusual, it is. Because I’m told Jackson wanted the marketplace to determine what the deal should be. Imagine if this started a trend in Hollywood. Who didn’t get a shot at the project? New Line’s Bob Shaye since he’s still being a jerk to Jackson and won’t let him direct The Hobbit. (See my Peter Jackson Answers Lord Of The Rants.) Jackson had acquired the option to The Lovely Bones from UK’s Film Four in February 2004 with the intent to write the screenplay on spec with his partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Since …
To movie industry heathens like you and me, we’ll always remember where we were when Mel Gibson made his drunken anti-Semitic tirade, when Tom Cruise got fired by old coot Sumner Redstone, and when the 2007 Summer Movie Season made $4.5 billion. That’s how much I’m told box office gurus predict the mega-blockbusters about to flood U.S. mega-plexes from May through August will gross, becoming the highest summer on record. And many of the movies look to be not completely unwatchable. All of a sudden, we’re feeling the spirit of The Blockbusters Cometh. Starting this Friday, we’ll be living in a Promised Movieland: the popcorn will seem that much fresher, the seats that much plusher, the air conditioning that much chillier, the audience that much quieter. Now bow your heads and pray that the moronic moguls, and the overindulged directors, and the megalomaniac actors don’t louse it up and lead us back into the desert, aka the Summer of 2005 when the movies stunk and the audiences stayed away. Just to be safe, I’ll perform a few exorcisms since the devil is working overtime in Hollywood.
- Opening Wkd Estimate For ‘Spider-Man 3′
- Finke/LA Weekly: High Rollers — Hey, Big Spenders
- Hurry, Johnny, Hurry! ‘Pirates
- 300 (Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Blades of Glory (Paramount Pictures)
- Borat (20th Century Fox)
- Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
- Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (Disney)
- Gerard Butler 300
- Johnny Depp Pirates 2
- Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls
- Keira Knightley Pirates 2
- Beyoncé Knowles Dreamgirls
- Will Smith The Pursuit of Happyness
- Emily Blunt The Devil Wears Prada
- Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
- Lena Headey 300
- Columbus Short Stomp the Yard
- Jaden Smith The Pursuit of Happyness
- Justin Timberlake Alpha Dog
BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE
- Emily Blunt The Devil Wears
Given everyone’s horrible behavior in Hollywood, it’s rare to find something that scandalizes its denizens who’ve seen it all. But Michael Ovitz managed to do just that last week when he failed to show for longtime CAA colleague Ray Kurtzman’s funeral. Ray, one of the most respected guys in showbiz, died of complications from Alzheimer’s last Monday and was buried at Hillside Memorial Park. I’m told that as many as 600 to 700 people came to the service for Kurtzman — but not Ovitz who gave a lame excuse instead. “Bottom line? For a piece of art, Mike would have found a way to go there. But he couldn’t do the same for Ray,” an insider complained to me. Kurtzman was a TV and motion picture attorney and business affairs exec at William Morris Agency when he took a huge career gamble and decided in 1978 to throw in with the still fledgling agency started by Mike Ovitz, Ron Meyer, Bill Haber, Rowland Perkins and Mike Rosenfeld. Kurtzman’s arrival announced to Hollywood that CAA was serious about becoming a major tenpercentery, and it set the town talking. As head of business affairs at CAA, Ray was one of the first 20 employees and remained an integral part of the agency for 22 years until his retirement in 2001. A class act like Kurtzman should have motivated Ovitz to act classy in return. And Mike wonders why …
I can clear up all the rumors: I’m told definitively that Alec Baldwin left CAA only because he didn’t want to be at the same Hollywood agency as his ex, Kim Basinger.
In major cities around the country, Sony has quietly added lots of Thursday midnight showings of Spider-Man 3. Most of the sneaks start at 12:01 AM — so technically that’s Friday, which is the official day Spidey is released in U.S. venues. And in some major megaplexes, like Pacific’s The Grove Stadium 14 in Los Angeles, screenings will start at 12:01 AM, 12:05 AM, 12:10 AM, 12:15 AM and 12:20 AM. Obviously the studio is doing everything it can to ensure the threequel makes over $100+ mil its opening weekend May 4th-6th. (Spider-Man 1 took in $114 mil and Spider-Man 2 $88 mil). Sony needs to get those wheelbarrows for the cash, given that $300+ mil unofficial pricetag.
Obviously, Lionsgate has yet to find a horror flick too sick or twisted to sell. I’m told the indie studio is still going ahead with plans to release its bloodfest film about the torture and killings of college coeds on a trip to Europe even though the Virginia Tech tragedy is still fresh in the headlines. Hostel: Part II will open on June 8th. (It was originally supposed to open in January but was pushed back to March and then pushed back again.) The movie’s trailer notes the many shootings and stabbings in the U.S., and then the narrator laughs at how Americans “have no imagination”. I’ve already told you that its writer/director/producer Eli Roth (photo left) wants lots of violence… nudity… and sex and violence mixed together” in his films. ”Hopefully we’ll get to a point,” adds Roth, “where there are absolutely no restrictions on any kind of violence in movies.” Quentin Tarantino is the pic’s executive producer (and recently used a fake trailer from Roth in Grindhouse) showing he’ll do just about anything for money. Sends those protest letters straight to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. UPDATE: Here’s The New York Times catching up for Monday’s edition.
Obviously, Donald Trump and Arnold Schwarzenegger think we just fell off the turnip truck and are gullible as hell. Political campaign watchdogs are up in arms over the fact that The Donald just gave $10,000 to The Arnold to help pay off $2.3 million in campaign debts left over from his 2006 re-election bid and that the hand-out came after the Guvinator guest-starred on Trump’s disgusting TV show The Apprentice: Los Angeles. (Schwarzenegger hosted five of the show’s contestants in his private conference room at the state Capitol.) ”He’s clearly using his personal friendships and his celebrity to pay off his campaign debt, and that’s just wrong,” said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a group that tracks campaign donations. The donation to Schwarzenegger was Trump’s first, although the NYC billionaire has said in the past he admires Arnold. Ugh, all I can say is that, considering they’re both megalomaniacs, they deserve each other.
Hey, Donald, You Should Be Fired
Some Showbiz Dems Feel Used By Arnold
The CBS’ Nielsen-topping series CSI and its NYC and Miami spin-offs are having a profound effect on juries, trials and law enforcement. But is hair and fibre analysis actually passé in crime-fighting? That’s the basis for Jeffrey Toobin’s article in the upcoming New Yorker. because of the show, ”criminalists have acquired an air of glamour, and its practitioners an aura of infallibility … But the fictional criminalists speak with a certainty that their real-life counterparts do not,” Toobin writes. He quotes Lisa Faber, a criminalist and the supervisor of the N.Y.P.D. crime lab’s hair-and-fibre unit, as saying that, in her field, “The terminology is very important. On TV, they always like to say words like ‘match,’ but we say ‘similar,’ or ‘could have come from’ or ‘is associated with.’ The fact is that “virtually all the forensic-science tests depicted on CSI—including analyses of bite marks, blood spatter, handwriting, firearm and tool marks, and voices, as well as of hair and fibres—rely on the judgments of individual experts and cannot easily be subjected to statistical verification,” Toobin writes. And that’s coming under fire. ”Given the advent of DNA analysis, some legal scholars argue that older, less reliable tests, such as hair and fibre analysis, should no longer be allowed in court. Last week, a commission on forensic science sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences held an open session in Washington at which several participants questioned the validity of hair and fibre evidence.” But Faber said prosecutors …
SUNDAY AM: So Nicolas Cage is back to making bomb after bomb after bomb, with his Revolution / Paramount pic Next unable to open better than 4th place, behind a three-week-old teen/tween movie and a suspense film starring nobodies. With a paltry per screen average at 2,725 theaters, it was hard pressed to even make $7 mil this weekend. Clearly the only reason anyone went to see Cage’s Ghost Rider was because of the connection to the Marvel comic book. Other than that, he hasn’t starred in a movie that’s made money since 2004′s National Treasure, whose sequel comes out this Christmas. Really, Cage needs to take a long, hard look at his failed career; appearing in badly revewed pics like this is a price quote killer. (Same advice to director Lee Tamahori, who directed standout Mulholland Falls, after all. Ditto producer Joe Roth, responsible for yet another failure.) That said, DreamWorks’ Disturbia saved the day for Paramount, taking in $9 million from 3,047 theaters for its third No. 1 placement in a row and a new cume of $52 mil. (See my Paramount/DreamWorks Deal Looks Better With 20/20 Hindsight) Disney / Buena Vista’s newcomer The Invisible was No. 2, making $7.8 mil from 2,019 venues for Friday-Saturday-Sunday. New Line’s Fracture finished #3 with its Anthony Hopkins / Ryan Gosling cast, eking out $7 mil from 2,443 playdates for the weekend with a new cume of only $21.3 mil. The rest of the box office was stillborn: it’s almost cruel to list the earnings of the Top 10.
I’m told Frank Langella, who’s so brilliant as Tricky Dick in Peter Morgan’s Frost/Nixon play, is going to snag the movie version as well. This means Warren Beatty won’t be playing the role of the disgraced President interviewed by David Frost. (I already knocked down the Internet rumor that Imagine’s Ron Howard had a deal, or was close to a deal, with Warren.) Smart to go with the guy who originated the role in London and on Broadway. That almost never happens in Hollywood.
Think of it as the quiet before the storm: Expect a lackluster movie weekend before the sizzling Summer Movie Season officially kicks off the following Friday with Spider-Man 3. With no significant competition, Paramount’s Next with Nicolas Cage should finish this Friday-Saturday-Sunday as No. 1 with low teens, as in millions. But its reviews were lousy, so maybe not. (This is a Revolution / Paramount pic, as compared to the many DreamWorks pics which Paramount has been distributing with a lot of success lately.) How Next fares could be a referendum on Cage’s box office popularity. Ghost Rider, which did great biz, wasn’t because it was based on the Marvel comic character. Anyway, expect the overall box office to be way down again since nothing very exciting is opening or holding over. (Last weekend’s B.O. was -20% vs 2006). OK, I’m taking the rest of the day off.
Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, Warner Bros., issued this statement about Valenti’s passing: “Today, my heart is truly heavy. I have lost a dear friend and mentor — someone who not only made a mark in history, but also had a profound impact on my life. Jack Valenti was a true leader and gentleman whose wit, fire and passion for our business inspired everyone regardless of politics or opinion, background or belief. Jack’s love for his country and the entertainment industry was only overshadowed by his love for his family and the many charitable organizations to which he was devoted. On behalf of all my colleagues at Warner Bros, our heartfelt condolences are with Mary Margaret, his children, grandchildren and the millions and millions of people who were directly or indirectly touched by Jack.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairmen Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal issued this statement about Valenti’s passing: “Jack Valenti truly was a Renaissance man — a gifted orator, a brilliant political strategist, a visionary business leader. He certainly loved the movies and public service, and reached the pinnacle in both arenas. But most important, he loved life, and lived it to the fullest. Jack was eloquent, indefatigable, passionate and wise. Perhaps a fitting way to describe Jack is to say this man is rated “G” – for Greatness. We will miss him, and our prayers are with his family.”
(Refresh for latest…) Jack Valenti has died after falling into a coma following a series of strokes. The 85-year-old Valenti was the Washington D.C. lobbyist for Hollywood’s movie studios and independent producers from 1966 to 2004 as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, where under his supervision starting in 1968 the movie industry developed the ratings system for films. Because of that, Sony Pictures co-chairmen Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal said today, “Perhaps a fitting way to describe Jack is to say this man is rated “G” – for Greatness.”
EXCLUSIVE (refresh for latest): I’m told Larry Shapiro, who created and co-headed the Games Division of Creative Artists Agency, has just left, and the Hollywood agency is really, really pissed. “They were profoundly unhappy and made it very uncomfortable for him. You don’t leave the mother ship,” a source explained. Still at CAA is Seamus Blackley, who took the CAA gaming gig in 2003 after the demise of the boutique game funding agency, Capital Entertainment Group, he had co-founded. But I’m told Blackley went to CAA specifically to collaborate with Shapiro. This is the latest blow for the ten-percentery, which in one week has lost actor Alec Baldwin, director Lasse Halstrom and NFL star QB Matt Leinart. It also saw TV bigwig Lee Gabler announce his retirement and let go indie financing agent Kevin Iwashina. (By the way, I’m told Iwashina learned he was fired as he was giving a lecture to a UCLA film class. He answered his cell phone, then told the class he needed to step out for a minute to take the call. He came back a few minutes later and told the students class was cancelled and left. “Another example of a talent agency handling this type of thing with no class,” an insider explains.) Meanwhile, I hear CAA is in the midst not just of negotiating some more high-profile agent exits, but also quietly showing the door to some low-level and newly promoted agents and trainees. Reason? Cost-cutting. Here’s an example… Today, Reality TV agent Bryan Geers was let go by CAA. He’d only been upped from assistant to agent in 2002.
It’s today’s first-person Los Angeles Times story: “I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. I realize many readers and colleagues and friends will be shocked to read them. That’s OK. I understand that I am not the only one in transition as I move from Mike to Christine.” C’mon, is this great dialogue, or what: “When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, ‘Well, no one can ever say we don’t have diversity on this staff.’ When I told Robert, the soccer-loving lad from Wales who cuts my hair, he had to take a seat, blink hard a few times and ask, ‘Does this mean you don’t like football anymore, Mike?’”
When Hollywood options this (and you will), pitch this project as The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of The Desert meets Field Of Dreams meets Woman Of The Year.
Here’s Part II regarding my recent posting, Oy Vey! Israeli Film Critics Having Tsuris. Yael Shuv Of Time Out Tel Aviv writes me: ”I’ve read your entry titled “Oy Vey!…” and hope it will have some positive effect. As chief film critic and editor of the film section at Time Out Tel Aviv (affiliate of Time Out London), I wish to add my voice to Yair Raveh’s complaint about the two major Israeli film distributors, Matalon and Forum Film. I, too, am banned from their press screenings, because I do not succumb to their demand that I postpone publishing the reviews till after the weekend the film comes out. However, unlike Raveh’s claim that ‘Once you alienate all media outlets to your movies, and get almost zero press coverage on opening weekend, your movies become invisible’. I am afraid that the distributors do get all the press coverage they want. What they aim for, and get, is free publicity in the form of interviews and articles, that are not accompanied by (possibly negative) reviews. Though I do my best to publish reviews on time (if all else fails, I translate reviews from Time Out New York or Time Out London), sometimes I, too, am forced to play their game. For instance, this week we did a phone interview with Danny Boyle about Sunshine. The interviewer (who is also …
Retired New York Times Hollywood correspondent Bernie Weinraub today had his first play, The Accomplices, nominated for a prestigious Drama Desk Award. He was named in the “Outstanding Play” category alongside such theater luminaries as Terrence McNally (Some Men), Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Tom Stoppard (The Coast Of Utopia), August Wilson (Radio Golf) and David Harrower (Blackbird). ”I’m thrilled. To be in the company of these writers is a little overwhelming,” Weinraub told me. “This is such a validation of the play.” (Full Disclosure: Weinraub is one of my closest friends.) The nomination for this prestigious award certainly shows that The New York Times’ recent pan of his play by a freelancer was an anomaly since every other major media gave it raves, as I discussed here. Also nominated for “Outstanding Featured Actor In A Play” was The Accomplices‘ Andrew Polk. The Drama Desk, which presented its first awards in 1955, is an organization of theatre critics, writers and editors that honors all areas of New York theatre, including Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. The Accomplices is a New Group presentation about how U.S. leaders ignored the Holocaust and stymied the immigration of European Jews fleeing Hitler in the 1940s. It continues at NYC’s Acorn Theater through May 5.
I find this inexcusable: NBC is on the verge of forcing an actor to perform against his will. It’s not like the pain-in-the-ass Alec Baldwin wants to go off and do movies instead of TV. No, if he is to be taken at his word, Baldwin claims he wants to quit acting and take 3-to-5 years off from showbiz to focus on the problem of divorced parents and their children since he’s in the middle of that child custody battle with actress Kim Basinger. Baldwin told The View in a pre-taped interview airing tomorrow that he has asked NBC to let him out of his 30 Rock contract. But NBC is saying no. ”Alec Baldwin remains an important part of 30 Rock. We look forward to having him continue his role in the show,” the network said in a statement today. Yesterday the actor fired his agent CAA and told The View: “If I never acted again I couldn’t care less.” Baldwin’s extreme behavior follows the broadcast of that abusive voicemail message he left for his daughter calling her a “rude, thoughtless little pig” and other insults. On The View, the actor apologizes and says he doesn’t want his own scandal to affect the show or its cast and crew. But NBC shouldn’t refuse Baldwin’s request to walk. True, he may regret his decision to leave 30 Rock when the ruckus dies down. But that’s his problem, not the network’s. Baldwin is certainly not irreplaceable. (Hire Steven Weber.)