In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and host David Bloom assess the just-announced lineup for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which competing films have serious Oscar hopes and which pics Pete can’t wait to see when he hits the Croisette for Deadline next month. Today also was the last day for would-be Emmy voters to make themselves eligible with the TV Academy, and Pete and David take a look at the Emmy campaigns that are heating up, while also grumpily acknowledging the first Oscar campaign of the 2015 season. Finally, Pete gives his take on the weekend’s notable movie debuts, including Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence, the Woody Allen-John Tuturro collaboration Fading Gigolo and faith-based hit-in-the-making Heaven Is For Real.
Cannes Film Festival: Could This Year’s Croisette Lineup Of Big Names And Academy Favorites Lead All The Way To Oscar?
So what does today’s announcement of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival lineup mean for Oscar?
Who knows except that out of competition entry How To Train Your Dragon 2 will almost certainly be nominated for Best Animated Feature. Other than that we will have to wait and see until we actually view the films in Cannes next month. But there are good omens in this lineup (which could still see one or two more titles added) if you look at the impressive group of actors represented in these films: Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones (who directs the competition entry The Homesman), Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and director Michel Hazanivicius are among the prominent names and past nominees like Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Jessica Chastain, Hailee Steinfeld, Berenice Bejo, Ryan Gosling (who is making his directorial debut) are also represented.
My colleague Nancy Tartaglione did a great job predicting who would make — or not make — the cut and wrote an exhaustive overview earlier. Now it’s time to look at the awards implications outside of those that will be handed out May 24th at the Palais. I look at Cannes as a soft start to Hollywood’s awards season. There’s no question of its importance as the granddaddy of all film fests and as a key worldwide launch for a movie that has got the goods, but in the end the May date scares off some distributors who, by launching their fall Oscar hopefuls on the Croisette may feel it ultimately hurts their chances — and more importantly their momentum.
That’s no doubt a key reason Warner Bros chose to hold back past Cannes competitor and favorite Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and Fox Searchlight did the same with Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman even apart from the usual reasons that they may not “be ready.” Last year Paramount decided at the last minute to take Alexander Payne’s Nebraska to Cannes even though he initially favored more postproduction time. Payne had competed once before with About Schmidt, headed the Un Certain Regard jury, and served on the main competition jury so he was a favorite of Cannes’ chief programmer Thierry Fremaux. The film ended up winning Best Actor for Bruce Dern but after Cannes the director “tinkered” with it and made it tighter before hitting the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day with his final cut. It went on to win six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Director and Actor after finally opening November 15 (it didn’t win any Oscars, though). It’s not the first time a filmmaker has made changes after their film was shown to the world’s press and reviewed in Cannes. The growing feeling among distributors is it is best to wait until the movie is really locked before risking exposure at this most visible of all festivals.
The CW has unveiled its summer schedule, which includes originals on all five nights the network programs. That includes the reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? which originally launched last summer, now moving to a new night, Mondays. It will be joined by original episodes of Beauty And The Beast, which has been benched for the rest of the season; two new scripted offerings, Canadian comedy Seed and web-to-TV comedy Backpackers; docu-reality series Famous In 12; and two magic series, Penn & Teller: Fool Us and a Masters Of Illusion revival. Here is the CW summer schedule with premiere dates and descriptions of the new series:
The lines between TV comedy and drama get blurrier by the season with such genre-straddling shows as Nurse Jackie, Louie, Californication and Justified. Two hourlong series, Shameless and Orange Is the New Black, will compete as comedies at the Emmys this year after previously being submitted as dramas at awards shows. The subject was batted around during today’s HRTS Hitmakers panel at the Beverly Hilton, which featured Orange Is The New Black and Weeds creator Jenji Kohan as well as Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel, Lost) and Michelle Ashford (Masters Of Sex). Moderator Michael Schneider asked the trio if there’s such a thing as comedy and drama on TV anymore. “Only for the Emmys, apparently,” Cuse replied. Added Kohan, “I just wish there was an hourlong category and a half-hour category. I wish everyone wasn’t so focused on category.” For the record, the semi-word “dramedy” didn’t come up in the discussion.
Are you kidding?
Did Paramount just officially start the 2014 Oscar campaign even as we are barely getting the Emmys off the ground and the Tonys are two months away? Uh, yes. Looks like it. One top studio exec (not from Paramount) forwarded me an email he got yesterday from the Paramount Awards Office that pronounced free admission starting April 15th - two by two for Academy members and a guest- to screenings of Noah at theaters nationwide – but only Monday thru Thursday since most theater owners usually don’t like to give up seats on the weekends, especially to rich and famous movie types.
Emmy season is revving up already even though the primetime awards show won’t be happening until the end of summer (Monday August 25th on NBC). But if you want to vote, the first major deadline looms tomorrow April 17, the last day to join the Academy, renew your membership or apply for hyphenate ballots in order to cast a ballot in this year’s contest. There is always a surge of interest in joining the Academy around this time of year. In fact, last season there was a substantial increase in membership, primarily in order to cast an Emmy ballot. It’s not uncommon to see applications coming in bulk from staffs of shows that want those nominations, but unless these hopefuls apply by Thursday they will have to wait until next year.
In addition to the deadline, the Television Academy (as it now calls itself – and full disclosure I am on the Board Of Governors representing Writers) just sent out a formal letter this week to the eligible membership (now well over 16,000 and climbing) regarding instructions for online voting, which is being instituted for the first time this season.
The heralded, award-winning 28-year-old franchise will begin to chronicle not only American masters but also “emerging American masters,” Michael Kantor said in a New York Times interview — industry speak for “targeting younger viewers.” The franchise will stop emphasizing important cultural figures important to the baby boom generation, Kantor told NYT, which got first crack at the news. The series will redefine the word “masters” to include profiles of people in industry. Ditto science. That said, the series already has profiled Albert Einstein, as well as I.M. Pei, Billie Jean King, Walter Cronkite, etc. — in addition to more traditional subjects such as Arthur Miller, Georgia O’Keeffe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland, John James Audubon, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, etc.
More National Geographic Shakeup: David Lyle Exits, Courteney Monroe Upped To CEO, David Hill Named Chairman
Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society, and Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, today completed the sweeping changes at the top of the National Geographic Channels that started yesterday with the announcement that the channels’ president Howard Owens will be leaving in June. “Today, the worst kept secret is over — I am taking my leave as CEO of National Geographic Channels,” David Lyle, who had served as National Geographic Channels CEO since 2011, wrote in an internal memo (read it in full below the post.). “I am exhilarated but somewhat saddened also.” Lyle will be replaced by a marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, who has served as Chief Marketing Officer for National Geographic Channels’ domestic networks since 2012 and is now being upped to CEO. She will report to the Board of Directors of the National Geographic Channels. Additionally, David Hill, Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels Board of Directors, will now add the title of Chairman of National Geographic Channels U.S. His role is described as “providing counsel to the executive and programming leadership team.” Coming from marketing, Monroe has no production experience. Hill, who had an oversight of NGC prior to Lyle’s 2011 hire, will remain a member of the NGC Board and also continue to oversee production of American Idol.
The moves continue to expand the domain of Hill, who is one of Rupert Murdoch’s trusted lieutenants. In 2012, the long-time chairman and CEO of Fox Sports was elevated to senior EVP for News Corp. Then last summer, following the departure of Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell, he was put in charge of the network’s The X Factor and American Idol. Since then, X Factor has been cancelled while American Idol is finishing up its lowest-rated season. Meanwhile, the National Geographic Channels have done very well under Lyle and Owens. “I’m exhilarated that NGC and NG WILD are in rude health with EBITDAs (profits) at all-time highs, and with programming featuring the most watched specials, series and year in the channels’ history,” Lyle wrote in his memo. That makes the executive housecleaning puzzling. It follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years. When Hill gave up direct oversight of NGC in 2011, the move was explained with a clash of cultures between him and the team at National Geographic.
Paramount’s 2015 live-action animation hybrid pic Monster Trucks has cast Emmy-winner Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, True Grit) in a role that the studio’s keeping under wraps. Pepper, who next appears in Focus Features’ Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner and the romantic drama The Devil’s Harvest, had a busy last year with Broken City, Snitch, and The Lone Ranger. He joins Thomas Lennon, Danny Glover, Jane Levy, Amy Ryan, Lucas Till, and Holt McCallany in the Chris Wedge-helmed Monster Trucks, which hits the road May 29, 2015. Pepper is repped by The Kohner Agency and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.
An 18-year Discovery veteran, Rita Mullin is moving up from her role as EVP Programming and Development at OWN to General Manager of Science Channel. The announcement was made today by Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Velocity, to whom Mullin will report. Her new position is effective June 2. “I am excited to call myself the newest member of the Science Channel team,” Mullin said. “I want to ignite people’s passions with the stories we have to share. Science is now. We want to capitalize on people’s curiosity for the unknown with thought-provoking programming, bold talent and out-of-this-world entertainment.”
Tony-winning deaf actress Phyllis Frelich, who originated the lead role in Children of a Lesser God on Broadway, died Thursday of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). She was 70. Frelich’s husband Robert Steinberg told the AP of her passing. The two were married for 46 years, during which time their relationship inspired Mark Medoff to write Children of a Lesser God at New Mexico State University. When the play moved to Los Angeles and then Broadway Frelich played the lead role of Sarah Norman in the story of the relationship between a deaf woman and a hearing speech pathologist and won a Tony for the role in 1980. Marlee Matlin played the Sarah role in the 1986 film adaptation, for which she won the Oscar. Frelich, originally from Devils Lake, North Dakota, came from a family of deaf parents and siblings and began acting while studying at Gallaudet College. She met Steinberg in the National Theatre of the Deaf where he worked as a scene and lighting designer for playwright Medoff. Frelich also starred in Medoff’s In The Hands Of Its Enemy opposite Richard Dreyfuss and Jeffrey Tambor and was nominated for an Emmy for the 1985 TV movie Love Is Never Silent. She played Sister Sarah on soap opera Santa Barbara and had guest roles on CSI, ER, Gimme a Break, Diagnosis Murder, and more. “You paved so many roads for us, Phyllis. A leading light of our community has been …
EXCLUSIVE: Ann Peacock is staying in Africa for her next writing gig, signing on to pen the feature adaptation of Asher Naim‘s 2003 book Saving The Lost Tribe: The Rescue And Redemption Of The Ethiopian Jews. First Born Films has optioned the book and life rights to Naim, the one-time Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia. The book tells the true story of the rescue and redemption of the black Jews of Ethiopia, known as the Falashas, who in May 1991 with the country devolving into a brutal civil war were airlifted to Jerusalem by the Israeli air force in a plan Naim helped hatch that involved paying off brutal Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Meriam and raising cash mostly from the U.S. Jewish community. About 14,000 Falashas made the trip over the course of 25 harrowing hours in a coordinated effort known as Operation Solomon. The book’s main themes focused on the Falashas’ struggle to endure more than 3,000 years in Ethiopia amid famine and tribal wars and the true meaning of faith and identity.
Peacock, who is South African, has a diverse set of adaptations on her resume that includes her first pic, HBO’s A Lesson Before Dying, which won the Outstanding TV Movie Emmy in 1999 as well as the writing Emmy for her. She also adapted the first Chronicles of Narnia film based on the C.S. Lewis book series, Nicolas Sparks’ novel Nights In Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane and Valerie Tripp’s Kit Kittredge books into the 2008 feature starring Abigail Breslin. Peacock’s latest credit is also set in Africa: 2011′s The First Grader, the BBC Films pic based on the true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan and ex-Mau Mau freedom fighter who goes to school for the first time.
EXCLUSIVE: Voltage Films has set Jane Fonda and Bruce Greenwood to join Fathers And Daughters, the Gabriele Muccino-directed film that stars Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Quvenzhané Wallis and Octavia Spencer. Production just got underway in Pittsburgh. The film is a love story between a troubled father and his daughter who lives in New York 25 years after him, Crowe plays a famous novelist suffering from depression as he tries to raise his 5-year-old daughter. Seyfried plays the girl as an adult, who has struggles of her own, shrapnel from that childhood. Fonda will play the novelist’s longtime friend and literary agent while Greenwood will play the writer’s brother-in-law, who with his wife (Kruger) wages a legal battle to forcibly adopt the young daughter (Kylie Rogers).
In a competitive situation, Parenthood executive producer David Hudgins has signed an overall deal with Sony Pictures TV. Under the two-year pact, he will develop and potentially join existing studio projects. Hudgins is coming off a two-year overall deal at Universal TV where he worked on Jason Katims’ Parenthood, most recently as executive producer, in addition to developing a number of projects, including a legal drama that sold to CBS earlier this season. Before that, Hudgins worked on Friday Night Lights for the entire run of the series, serving as co-showrunner with Katims on the final season, which earned four Emmy nominations including best drama series. Hudgins, repped by WME and Bryan Wolf, previously created Fox’s short-lived drama Past Life and worked on the WB drama Everwood.
EXCLUSIVE: Gersh has signed Ron Perlman and his production company. After Hellboy and Sons Of Anarchy, Perlman is building the next chapter of his career. He’s not letting any moss grow under him since completing his superb turn as Sons biker club leader Clay Morrow. Perlman has optioned several screenplays, he is currently starring in and exec producing Hand Of God, a pilot for Amazon that Marc Forster is directing, and he has made a deal to co-write with Michael Largo the memoir Easy Street—The Hard Way that will be published by Perseus Books Group imprint Da Capo Press.
I had the honor of being asked by Kurt Sutter to moderate the Sons panel that closed San Diego Comic-Con, and found Perlman to be so subdued and fatalistic about his character’s future on the show, almost seeming ashamed of what his character had done. Feeling he was losing his grip on the club (and not just because of the arthritis he tried to hide), Clay backstabbed Jax (Charlie Hunnam), his wife Gemma (Katey Sagal), and just about everyone else in the club, leaving bloodshed and a trail of bodies in his wake. It was impossible for the Comic-Con crowd not to feel like this was going to be his last hurrah. Now, the Emmy voters have been snobbish about Sutter’s series creation and have almost made it seem …
Comedy Central’s Late-Night: From Minor Leagues To Major Player & Innovator With Deep Bench Of Talent Competitors Vie For
For years in the 1990s, Comedy Central was considered nothing more than an incubator for late-night talent. Its first notable weeknight late-night show, Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher, originated there and ran for three years — from 1993-96 — before ABC snatched it to get into the late-night talk-show game. Maher’s successor at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel, also is a Comedy Central discovery, having gotten his start as host on the network’s Win Ben Stein Money and then The Man Show. Before Politically Incorrect left Comedy Central, it helped launch The Daily Show, which premiered behind PI at 11:30 PM before moving to the tentpole 11 PM slot. Back then, the Daily Show had Craig Kilborn as a host. In 1998, he was poached by CBS as a host of the Late Late Show. Sixteen years later, CBS once again is reaching out to Comedy Central’s Daily Show franchise to replenish its late-night ranks, this time drafting the former Daily Show regular and current host of spinoff The Colbert Report to succeed David Letterman on the Late Show.
A lot has changed over those 16 years. Since Jon Stewart replaced Kilborn at the helm of The Daily Show in January 1999, the show has risen to become a late-night leader. It became a top late-night choice for younger viewers and, with the addition of spinoff The Colbert Report in 2005 to form a 11 PM-midnight block, Comedy Central evolved from a late-night poaching ground to a force to be reckoned with. The two shows became pop culture phenomenons and strengthened their hold on the younger crowds by embracing the Internet and social media before most of their late-night competitors. They have enjoyed buzz as well as critical acclaim, with their Emmy dominance nothing short of staggering. The Daily Show won the best variety series category for a record 10 consecutive times before its streak was ended last year by The Colbert Report to give Comedy Central 11 consecutive victories. (It’s worth mentioning that it was the man Colbert is replacing, David Letterman, who ruled the top variety category before Comedy Central’s dynamic duo kicked off their dominant run with five consecutive trophies.) In the variety series writing category, The Daily Show and Colbert Report have won 10 of the past 11 years.
With the openings of Draft Day and Joe this weekend we suddenly re-discover two Oscar winners from the ’90s who have found their groove again after years of cinematic disappointments. I can’t remember the last time either Kevin Costner and especially Nicolas Cage delivered performances worthy of their prime as Costner does in Summit’s Draft Day and Cage does in Roadside Attractions’ Joe. Both come from companies associated with Lionsgate and hopefully both will find some sort of audience this weekend as they reaffirm the power of great actors in the right role.
Costner, who won Oscars for directing and producing Dances With Wolves in 1990, is right in his wheelhouse playing the general manager who has the opportunity to turn a hapless Cleveland Browns football team around with a No. 1 draft pick of a hot Heisman Trophy winner. It’s reminiscent not only of Moneyball but more importantly, of the kind of sports-oriented movies like Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams that made him a star in the first place. And Cage, is playing a combustible ex-con who becomes a surrogate father figure to a troubled teen (Tye Sheridan) in the Southern-set drama Joe. Cage turns down his usual volume of late to deliver a performance of power and poignancy in a film that has much in common with last April’s surprise indie hit Mud (also from Roadside and also co-starring Sheridan) but even more akin to the 1953 George Stevens classic Shane. It is perhaps his best screen acting since winning the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas almost 20 years ago. And from what I can tell, both these stars clearly know they have again hit their mark.
UPDATED WITH NEW DETAILS: A week after David Letterman announced his retirement, CBS has named his successor. Stephen Colbert has inked a five-year deal to take over Late Show, a move that is effective as soon as Letterman officially steps aside from the late-night show he has headlined since its launch on CBS in 1993. CBS will own Late Show With Stephen Colbert, unlike Late Show With David Letterman, which is owned by Letterman’s Worldwide Pants. CBS Corp Chairman Leslie Moonves said no dates have been set and reiterated that Letterman’s last day is the host’s to choose. Colbert is host of Comedy Central‘s faux-news show The Colbert Report, which airs in the east at the same time as Late Show, 11:30 PM. Colbert had been on the radar of top CBS brass for awhile and was Moonves’s top choice. Colbert too had had an eye on the job for a long time, synching up his Comedy Central contracts with Letterman’s. His current one is coming up at the end of this year, making him available for the Late Show host transition, slated for sometime in 2015. “Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” said Moonves in today’s announcement. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”