The American Film Institute said today that its 28th annual AFI Fest will be held November 6-13 in Hollywood. Early submissions for narrative, documentary, experimental, animated and short films are being accepted through June 27, with a final deadline of August 8.
UPDATE, 9:30 AM: White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett tells CBS This Morning that Healthcare.gov’s traffic has increased 40% since the launch of the Funny or Die video featuring President Obama and Zach Galifianakis early yesterday morning. In an interview broadcast this morning, Jarrett told CBS morning show co-hosts Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King that the video campaign has been “overwhelmingly successful.” ”Zach and the guys at Funny or Die, they have huge followings. Every young person I know watches their videos on YouTube,” Jarrett said, adding, when asked, “No, it wasn’t hard to get [Obama] to participate.”
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY AM: A little more than a month after Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly landed his contentious pre-Super Bowl sit-down with President Obama, Zach Galifianakis scored an interview with the president on his Funny or Die show Between Two Ferns. In the interview, which was taped a couple weeks ago, the two men discussed why a third term would be as bad an idea as that third Hangover movie, Obama’s birth certificate, Obamacare, and the rash growing on Galifianakis’ arm. “That’s disgusting — how long have you had that? That’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen,” Obama said. Watch here:
After 300: Rise Of An Empire had an opening-week global gross of $136 million and resuscitated the franchise potential of a first film that ended with a bloody pile of 300 dead Spartans, the town is asking: who the heck is this Sullivan Stapleton, avenger of Spartans, scourge of Persians and the latest guy in town with a star look and a six-pack? And more importantly, when is he available to reinforce to Hollywood that he’s got the goods to become its next leading man?
I caught up with Stapleton as he was home in Melbourne, recuperating from a concussion suffered in Bangkok while he was there filming Strike Back, the Cinemax series he stars in with Philip Winchester. He has done barely any press. That knock on the head kept him from being able to fly, which knocked him out of the chance to do the tour for the 300 sequel. A few things about Stapleton: he’s Australian, and like most of the actors who grew up in the business there before coming to these shores, he’s got a working-class attitude and is not at all full of himself. When you speak to him, you call him Sully. He looks like an edgier version of Pierce Brosnan, and in an age where Hollywood continues to build franchises around young actors who’ve barely passed puberty, Stapleton is (gasp!) 36 years old and is the first new face to come along in the action game in awhile who actually looks like a man. Though he will the first to admit that getting older takes a toll.
“My head is good now, but I’ve been thinking I must be getting older, because I took a hit to the head that hurt a bit more than it did when I fell all the time when I was a kid,” he said. “It was an accident, my head hit the road, and they put me in a hospital in Bangkok and then I came here to my mom’s house for rest, relaxation and more tests. Unfortunately, it means that I couldn’t do the 300 tour, which was sad for me because I love that film. I am so thankful to the bosses at Warner Bros for giving me that job, and the guys from Strike Back who have allowed me time to get over this head wound. Obviously, that opening weekend helped the cause.”
Keke Palmer is set as a recurring for the second season of Showtime’s drama series Masters Of Sex, produced by Sony Pictures Television. Series centers on the pioneers of the science of human sexuality Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), whose research touched off the sexual revolution and took them from a mid-western teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time magazine. Palmer will play Coral, the nanny hired by the Masters’ to care for their new baby. Palmer, repped by WME and Laron Entertainment, can next be seen in Flower Films horror/thriller Animal, and indies Brotherly Love and Imperial Dreams.
Annie Thurman (The Hunger Games) is set as a series regular in TNT pilot Proof, a supernatural medical drama executive produced by Kyra Sedgwick. Written by Rob Bragin and directed by Alex Graves, Proof centers on Dr. Kathryn Russo (Jennifer Beals), a skeptical, hard-science, brilliant female surgeon with a caustic edge who has been struggling with the devastating loss of her teenage son and a growing estrangement from her surviving daughter. She is persuaded to investigate cases of reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, hauntings — all of it looking for verifiable proof to answer one of life’s greatest questions: Is death truly the end, or is there something else beyond? Thurman, repped by CESD and Treadwell Entertainment, will play Sophie, the surviving daughter.
TVGN has picked up Alan Thicke’s faux-reality series Unusually Thicke and will premiere it on Wednesday, April 16 at 10 PM ET/PT. The series stars the Growing Pains patriarch and his real-life family including wife Tanya and teenaged son Carter. Also showing up in the 14-episode run: Thicke’s son Robin, David Hasselhoff, Bob Saget, Jon Stamos, Bill Maher, Tom Green, Magic Johnson, and Wayne Gretsky, according to Toronto-based Peacock Alley Entertainment, which is producing. Canadian press has said the first season also will include cameos by Jay Leno, the entire cast of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, and Minnie Driver.
Rose McIver, who plays Tinker Bell on Once Upon A Time, has been cast as the lead in Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero’s CW drama pilot iZombie, from Warner Bros TV. Based on the DC comic, iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on med student-turned-zombie Olivia “Liv” Moore (McIver), who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity. But with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head. McIver, repped by WME and Principato Young, has been recurring on Showtime’s Masters of Sex.
House Of Cards‘ Sebastian Arcelus and Gerald McRaney are joining the cast of Relativity’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Best Of Me. Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, The Emperor’s Club), The Best Of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today.
Jay Leno was inducted last night into the Television Academy’s Hall Of Fame along with Rupert Murdoch, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David E Kelley, Ray Dolby and Brandon Stoddard. Here is Leno’s acceptance speech — if you’re missing his Tonight Show stand-ups, this will do nicely.
Bazinga! CBS and Warner Bros. Television have reached a deal for a three-year renewal of broadcast TV’s top entertainment series, The Big Bang Theory, that would keep the hit comedy on the air through the 2016-2017 season, the series’ 10th. No one is commenting, but I hear the license fee is in the $4 million-$5 million range per episode (closer to $4 million), a high number for a comedy series. This marks Big Bang‘s second consecutive three-season pickup, a commitment reserved only for the biggest shows on television. While it is the biggest deal by far, Big Bang is not the only WBTV comedy in renewal talks with CBS. I hear the network and the studio also are in discussions on the other three Chuck Lorre series, with a 13-episode final season of Two And A Half Men eyed along with renewals for next season of Mike & Molly and freshman Mom.
With the Big Bang license deal secured, WBTV and CBS will turn their attention to the cast. There had been some overtures but no real negotiations so far with original cast members Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, whose contracts are up at the end of this season. (Big Bang’s other regulars, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, closed new deals last fall.) Put on hold while license fee negotiations were going on, talks with Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco are expected to kick into gear soon. Currently at about $350,000 per episode, the three leads are projected to get to the Friends cast mark of $1 million an episode.
Silver Spring, Md. – Discovery Communications, the #1 pay-tv programmer in the world, announced today that it has promoted John Honeycutt to the role of Chief Technology Officer for the company. An award-winning cable industry technology executive and 11-year Discovery veteran, Honeycutt most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Discovery Networks International, based in London.
In the newly created position, Honeycutt will lead Discovery’s consolidated IT, media technology, production and operations functions globally. He will be charged with developing a long-term technology roadmap to enable Discovery’s growing pay-TV, digital terrestrial, free-to-air and online services.
Scott Cohen will star opposite Hope Davis in the NBC drama pilot Coercion. Based on an Israeli format, the project hails from Universal TV and Keshet Media Group. Written-directed by George Nolfi, the high-octane thriller revolves around the O’Connor family and their extremely intelligent son, Alex (Gavin Stenhouse), a decorated American war hero and newly minted CIA analyst who is a true patriot and loves his country and family. Unbeknownst to him, his father (Cohen), his mother (Davis) and his sister (Margarita Levieva) are part of a dormant Russian sleeper cell that has just been reactivated. Cohen, repped by Gersh, One Entertainment and Jackoway Tyerman, is coming off a starring turn on USA’s Necessary Roughness and has been recurring on the CW’s Carrie Diaries.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has set Chris McKay to direct its sequel to The LEGO Movie, the film that opened last month and has so far turned in a worldwide gross of $361 million. McKay was animation co-director on the first film that was made under the direction of Phil Lord & Chris Miller. That duo is producing, and Michelle Morgan & Jared Stern are writing a treatment for the next installment. Warner Animation Group is steering the franchise. They are still working all this out, but this will be straight sequel, even though the studio is contemplating a spinoff film that broadens the LEGO empire by focusing on the character Ninjago.
At the same time, McKay is also negotiating a first-look producer deal at the studio. Dan Lin & Roy Lee are also producing. Who’s McKay? The Chicago native cut his teeth mixing animation with irreverence on the small screen, winning an Emmy for his work on Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken, on which he has directed over 40 episodes, and the film Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 3. He also directed and produced Titan Maximum for Adult Swim. The sequel is being overseen by Courtenay Valenti for Warner Bros, and McKay is repped by UTA, Mosaic and attorney Jeff Endlich.
The terms of the deal are still squishy, but include the 1.6M Class B shares that Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway owns in Graham Holdings — the new name for the company that owned The Washington Post before it sold the paper to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos last year. Buffett’s stake accounted for about 23% of the voting shares in Graham as of the last proxy, out early last year. He will receive the ABC affiliate plus an unspecified amount of cash and shares that Graham owns in Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett was a long-time backer of the Post. “While this transaction will greatly reduce our position in Graham Holdings, our admiration for the company and its management is undiminished,” he says. Graham’s CEO Donald Graham assured WPLG employees that they are moving to “one of the greatest companies in America.” Graham shares are up 1.8% in early trading. The market values the company, which also owns Kaplan Test Preparation, at $5.3B.
Comedy Central‘s Key & Peele has been renewed for a fourth season, which will include 20 original and two “best of” episodes. Additionally, the cable network has given series creators/stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele a development deal for an animated series based on their Critiquer’s Corner “Vandaveon & Mike” characters from the duo’s YouTube videos, in which they critique Key & Peele episodes as their alter-egos Vandaveon Huggins and Mike Taylor (watch a video below). In the animated project, Vandaveon & Mike are 12-year-old hall monitors navigating their way through middle school. “Keegan and Jordan keep generating such a limitless supply of funny, inventive sketches, I’m starting to think they are not only 1/2 black and 1/2 white, but also 3/4 alien,” said Comedy Central’s president of original programming Kent Alterman. Key & Peele is executive produced by Key, Peele, Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Joel Zadak. The show’s third season, which concluded in December, averaged 2 million total viewers. Additionally, Key & Peele videos, including East/West College Bowl, Pizza Order and Obama Loses His S**t, have generated over 500 million total streams, claiming nine of the top ten clips on the Comedy Central YouTube channel, including No.1, Substitute Teacher, with over 44 million streams to date.
So far Time Warner Cable and closely allied Bright House Networks are the only pay TV distributors that have agreed to carry TWC’s new SportsNet LA which will feature the Dodgers. But TWC chief Rob Marcus says he isn’t worried: “Not surprisingly all of the action happens on the eve of opening day,” he told the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference this morning. “It’s the typical game that occurs.” He assured investors, though, that TWC won’t have to shell out big bucks if others play by different rules. “Our license fee to the Dodgers is not driven by subscriber volume,” he says. The deal that TWC signed last year requires it to shell out $8.5B over a 25 year period to offer the channel and handle distribution.
As you might expect, most of the questions Marcus fielded dealt with Comcast’s $45.2B plan to buy his company. He disputed the claim that the combination of the two largest cable companies would give Comcast too much leverage in negotiations with programmers. “I find that whole line to be ironic given the experience we’ve had over the last dozen years or so” — including the black eye TWC ended up with last year when it tangled with CBS in a carriage contract dispute. Some small cable operators worry that programmers that have to cut prices for Comcast will make up …
Jay Leno Reminds Bill Maher Of Israel As He’s Inducted Into TV Academy Hall Of Fame With Rupert Murdoch, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David E Kelley, Ray Dolby & Brandon Stoddard: Video
Jay Leno, being inducted into the TV Academy’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday night, said he’s glad he left NBC’s Tonight Show when he did because he was the oldest person on the show. Everyone else was 20 to 40 years younger than him and, while you may think you’re holding your own with them, “they’re really just laughing at you,” he explained. “You can’t be hip past a certain age. You have old guy gestures.” And when you make references to The Dick Van Dyke Show they think it’ s “a lesbian joke or something” — and they don’t understand what you’re talking about when you say the time is “Half past 2.”
Leno told the Beverly Wilshire Hotel gathering his favorite book is Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol — a searing indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism — and his favorite character in that classic work of literature, Mr. Fezziwig, who treated a young Ebenezer Scrooge like a son. Leno mentioned this by way of saying how proud he was that his Tonight Show was a place where people came to work hard during the day and, at 6, they went home to be with their family.
Even though he’s now “jobless and penniless” Leno still is a “fantastic stand-up,” said Bill Maher, who inducted Leno into the Hall, and the fact people are wondering what he will do next proves he’s still relevant, the HBO show host said. He described Leno’s more than two decades hosting Tonight as a drive down a highway in “some giant gleaming pristine luxury car with the competition far in the rearview mirror — except one time when NBC,” driving some beat-up clunker, “blindsided him and beat the sh*t out of his beautiful car.” Maher blamed TV critics for rewriting history to make Leno’s predecessor, Johnny Carson, out to be some guy who did a “rebellious, edgy, film noir version” of Tonight Show that by comparison made Jay look like a milquetoast. “That’s all bullsh*t — and I say that as a fan of Carson,” Maher said. Leno is the victim of “some bad publicity over the years” that he did not deserve — most famously how America got it into its head that “Jay Leno stole Conan O’Brien’s dream,” Maher complained, calling it, “the most hysterical thought I’ve ever heard, in a business known for bullsh*t.”
“Jay reminds me a little of Israel,” Maher continued. “He isn’t perfect but he’s held to standard I don’t think anybody in the world is expected to live up to but him,” he said, calling Leno “the most Machiavellian and also the most morally upright person I know in show business. He will hide in a closet but never needs a confessional booth.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The Inbetweeners 2′ Gets UK-Ireland Release Date; Amma Asante Set For ‘Brits To Watch’ Screenings; More
‘The Inbetweeners 2′ Coming To The UK & Ireland On August 6
Entertainment Film Distributors said Tuesday that The Inbetweeners 2 will hit theaters in the UK and Ireland on August 6. Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas are returning for the comedy sequel written and directed by Damon Beesley and Iain Morris — who created the series on which the films are based — and produced by Spencer Millman. The film, which sees the lads descend on Australia, also stars Emily Berrington, Freddie Stroma and David Field. The Inbetweeners Movie took in nearly £45 million at the UK box office in 2011.
Amma Asante Set For ‘Brits to Watch: The Screenings’ In U.S.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced Tuesday that it will profile director Amma Asante (A Way of Life, Belle) next month at the first of this year’s “Brits to Watch: The Screenings,” a series of showcase events in New York and Los Angeles that introduce outstanding British film talent to the US film industry. On April 1 in New York and April 3 in Los Angeles, Asante will be introduced at a screening of her second feature film Belle, which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and opened this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival. Belle is inspired by the true story of a mixed-race girl raised …
Amazon is officially an original drama series player. A month after Amazon Studios uploaded five pilots — two dramas and three comedies — for users to watch and comment on, the company has quietly notified the auspices of four of them that they are being picked up to series. That includes Amazon’s first dramas: The After from Chris Carter, marking The X-Files creator’s return to series television, and Eric Overmyer and Michael Connelly’s Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. Newly picked up half-hour comedy series include Gael Garcia Bernal starrer Mozart In The Jungle, from Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz, and Jill Soloway’s semi-autobiographical Transparent. Amazon’s fifth pilot, comedy The Rebels, from Ice Cube and Michael Strahan, is being put on hold. Five pilots yielding four series represents a much higher batting average than Amazon’s first pilot season, when it tested eight comedy pilots, picking up two — Alpha House and Betas — to series. Of them, Alpha House has been quietly renewed for a second season to begin film in July, while Betas will not be retuning. Here are descriptions of Amazon’s newly greenlighted series, whose pickup was first reported by Variety:
Related: 2014 Amazon Studios Pilots