NBC set a date for its three-hour bash — February 15, 2015 — but did not say which past and present cast members, musical guests, etc. would appear. NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt said the “special is just one of many ways we plan to celebrate ‘SNL’s historic 40th season next year.” Today’s announcement:
Organizers have treated Film Independent’s staged reading of Quentin Tarantino’s latest script The Hateful Eight like a national security matter, restricting things like cell phones and computers and staying mum on casting ahead of Saturday night’s event. But I have confirmed that Tarantino staple Samuel L Jackson will play a part at reading set for the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown LA. What role he might read remains unknown, but it begs the question what other Tarantino regulars might also participate in the event. (Any guesses, Deadline readers?) Tarantino is casting and directing the show, whose $200 tickets are the hottest in town. That’s no doubt because of the heat surrounding the Western screenplay, which was leaked prematurely and ended up on Gawker — much to the consternation of Tarantino, who then told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr that because of the breaches he wasn’t going to turn the script into a movie. He later sued Gawker for posting it and a January 27, 2015 trial date has been set; the two sides are currently in court-ordered mediation. Film Independent first fueled the Jackson speculation with a tweet just now:
— Film Independent (@filmindependent) April 18, 2014
Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
Burying his lead, new ABC News division president James Goldston sent around a memo to staff today — in paragraph six of which was the announcement he’d promoted Good Morning America‘s Lara Spencer to co-host of the program along with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos. Roberts recently signed a new contract to stay with the show; ditto Spencer. Stephanopoulos’ contract was due to come up later this year — his reps are in talks with ABC News now.
Spencer was the only one of three GMA-ers whose contracts came up around the same time as Roberts’ who re-signed. The two guys — Sam Champion and Josh Elliott – both got poached by NBC, whose Today show saw its longtime ratings record snapped two years ago by GMA. Which brings us to Goldston’s memo: celebrating tomorrow’s anniversary of GMA ending Today’s 852-week winning streak. Here’s the memo:
Eion Bailey (Fight Club, Almost Famous) has booked a recurring role on Showtime‘s Ray Donovan. Bailey, repped by Paradigm and Industry Entertainment, will play a charismatic motivational speaker/self-help guru who needs Ray’s help. Ray Donovan stars Liev Schreiber as LA’s best professional fixer, the man called in to make the city’s celebrities, superstar athletes, and business moguls’ most complicated and combustible situations go away. Bailey most recently recurred on ABC’s Once Upon A Time. His other TV credits include Band Of Brothers miniseries, Dirty Little Secrets, Covert Affairs, Law & Order: SVU and ER. The 12-episode second season of the Mark Gordon-produced Ray Donovan is set to premiere Sunday, July 13.
NBC News, whose Peacock Productions is producing Discovery’s Mount Everest live jump, said this morning “the future of the production will be assessed at the appropriate time” after the deadliest disaster ever recorded at the peak killed 13 Sherpa guides last night. The guides were carrying equipment and supplies to camps for climbers getting ready for peak trekking season — including those preparing to participate in Discovery Channel‘s Everest Jump Live, produced by the NBC News division.
Discovery, which had just announced Monday the live two-hour event would air May 11, said this morning its star Joby Ogwyn was at base came at the time of the avalanche, which struck a group of about 50 — mostly Nepalese sherpas — at more than 20,000 feet. Four people remain missing, according to Nepal’s Tourism Ministry. Discovery said it has has not had conversations as to how the disaster might impact its plans. ”The avalanche last night on Mt. Everest is a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are lost and with their families. The immediate priority for Joby and the team is to assist the search and rescue efforts in anyway possible.”
NBC News said its crews were on Mt. Everest preparing for Discovery’s special — in which Ogwyn is scheduled to climb Everest and leap from the summit wearing only a winged suit equipped with cameras – when the avalanche struck.
“The biggest tragedy of this is that it’s the very beginning of the [climbing] season and to lose this number of people at the very beginning of the season may be the end of the season here,” cameraman Ed Wardle told NBC’s Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie.
“I think a lot of people are wondering whether it’s appropriate to go on, given the scale of this tragedy,” Guthrie quickly jumped in when Wardle’s “biggest tragedy” talk took that cold turn. (Video after the jump)
NBC News issued a statement this morning saying, “We are grateful and relieved that the seven NBC News staffers on site are all accounted for and unharmed. Tragically, 13 Nepalese sherpas from a number of expedition companies who prepare the mountain each year for climbing season lost their lives, and the rescue mission continues. We are working closely with the team on the ground to assist however we can, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families.”
The ABCs Of Aereo: Future of TV & Internet At Stake In Battle With Broadcasters, Says Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia
Editors Note: This is the last of three Deadline posts that lay out the issues in the Aereo case, which Deadline Legal Editor Dominic Patten will cover from the Supreme Court next week. Today: An interview with Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia.
Previous ABCs Of Aereo Reports:
What Is Aereo And Why Are Broadcasters Taking It To Supreme Court?
Aereo Wants “Something For Nothing”, Former U.S. Lawyer Says
Broadcasters challenged Aereo‘s legality almost from the moment in early 2012 when it launched in NYC. It is a David and Goliath contest: the tiny, Barry Diller-backed streaming service defending itself against attacks from CBS, Disney, Fox, and Comcast’s NBCUniversal among other companies as well as the federal government’s Office of the Solicitor General. The plaintiffs say Aereo steals their property by selling their over-the-air programming without paying them. They liken it to a cable or satellite distributor and say that it packages channels and then redistributes them — in legal terms creating a public performance that, since it isn’t authorized by the broadcasters, violates the “transmit clause” of the Copyright Act of 1976. But Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia says there’s no violation. He simply leases to consumers the antennas and technologies they need to privately exercise their right to watch broadcast signals for free. He sees next week’s Supreme Court hearing as a fight for his company, as well as a struggle to protect public control of the airwaves, and consumers’ ability to harness the power of the Internet.
DEADLINE: Barry Diller has said that if you guys lose at the Supreme Court, it’s basically game over. Are you turning off the lights if the Supreme Court rules against you?
KANOJIA: It’s going to depend on what the nature of the scope of the conclusions from the Supreme Court happens to be. If it’s a straight up, wipeout loss — and the Supreme Court shows the 2nd Circuit’s analysis of the transmit laws and, as a result, the idea was private performance is incorrect — then it will be very difficult for Aereo to be in business. For us, along with a lot of other companies that buy DVRs or cloud solutions, it will be a very difficult climate for sure. One result may very well be that we cease to operate.
DEADLINE: What if it goes in your favor?
KANOJIA: It’ll mean business as usual for everybody. I think the broadcasters will continue to grow and succeed. I think Aereo will continue to sell to consumers who don’t consume broadcast TV from cable or satellite but use antennas or are not part of the system. Then I think overall the pie will continue to grow.
DEADLINE: What do you think the broadcasters will do if they lose?
KANOJIA: Oh, they’re going to come back for a Round 2. They may go to Congress. The strategy of this industry is, “Let’s litigate, legislate. And if you can’t figure that out, then see how to make money from basic knowledge.”
The financial and technological proposals are incredibly complicated, but they provide the kinds of details that broadcasters have wanted to see before they decide whether to let the federal government auction to broadband providers some of the airwaves now used for TV. The process being circulated by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler includes a reverse auction, where station owners would indicate how much cash they want for their spectrum and can drop out if the bidding is too low. There’s also a forward auction, where wireless companies would raise their offers in successive rounds. When it’s all done, the FCC will repack the spectrum — making usage efficient by assigning new channels to the broadcasters who stay on the air. There’s also a plan to accommodate low-power TV, translators, and wireless microphones that will be affected by the changes. “Whether television broadcasters participate in the Incentive Auction will be purely voluntary, but participation in the Incentive Auction does not mean they have to leave the TV business,” Wheeler says in a blog post. “New channel-sharing technologies offer broadcasters a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an infusion of cash to expand their business model and explore new innovations, while continuing to provide their traditional services to consumers. We will ensure that broadcasters have all of the information they need to make informed business decisions …
Box Office: ‘Transcendence’ Lukewarm Thursday Bow, ‘Rio 2′ Might Get Its No. 1 Weekend Yet; ‘Heaven Is For Real’ May Surprise
Even with taking over Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s IMAX theaters this weekend, the fact that it is a new sci-fi thriller, Johnny Depp’s the lead and it’s the only real newcomer with a shot at No. 1, Transcendence‘s debut near the top of the box office is doubtful this weekend based on Thursday night’s grosses. Bets are on that Fox’s Rio 2 may end up with around $26M, Disney/Marvel’s Captain America 2 next with $22M-$23M and Warner Bros.’ Transcendence at No. 3 with around $18M-$20M. Those predictions come as Transcendence grossed only $850K on Thursday.
A question mark is Sony’s Heaven Is For Real and how many infrequent moviegoers (i.e. faith-based crowd) may boost attendance numbers. Sony noted this morning that it seems to be crossing over to a faith-based crowd and word is spreading on social media. It certainly seems to be. The film has an overall CinemaScore of A and an A+ with the under-35 demo. Right now the Greg-Kinnear-starring film based on the bestselling book is tracking around $12M-$14M for the three-day, similar to Marlon Wayans’ Haunted House 2 from Open Road. Heaven Is For Real took in a stellar $3.7M — on a Wednesday — and last night took in another $1.37M for a two-day cume so far of $7M, which puts it in line for a 5-day gross of around $20M for the Randall Wallace-directed drama.
Tonight’s business should be strong because today is Good Friday, but come Easter Sunday, moviegoing traditionally slows on the Christian holy holiday. Easter is unlike strong holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Paramount Pictures and China Film Co Ltd have inked a deal to produce the 3D fastasy/action feature film Marco Polo. It was announced today by China Film Co’s Zhang Qiang and Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore at the signing during the Beijing International Film Festival. This is a first-time venture between between CFC and Paramount but the second deal in days for China Film Co and a U.S. studio. On Monday, the Chinese group announced it had made an eight-figure equity investment in two Legendary Entertainment pics: the Jeff Bridges starrer Seventh Son and Warcraft, the pic based on the Blizzard online game that Duncan Jones is writing and directing.
Paramount and China Film Co said they felt Marco Polo was something that would appeal to both the Chinese and overseas markets. The adaptation will be based on historical context of the famed 13th century explorer but will go beyond the traditional “biographic” type story by positioning it as a fantasy action movie. Shooting is planned to begin in October in conjunction with Yuehua Entertainment, Phoenix Entertainment, and Huahua Film & Media Culture.
Few other details were revealed, but Moore and Zhang said the movie will be directed by an experienced action adventure director from the U.S. and feature a top-tier cast from the U.S. and China. Zhang emphasized the significance of this first-time cooperation between the two companies and hopefully the beginning of a series of future co-production films between China and Hollywood.
Actress-director-screenwriter Nicole Garcia will preside over the jury for this year’s Caméra d’Or award, given to the best debut film at the Cannes Film Festival. In this opportunity to champion an up-and-coming director she joins the ranks of previous jury presidents Bong Joon-ho, Gael García Bernal, Carlos Diegues and Agnès Varda, who have all in the past contributed their experience and passion for cinema to the deliberations. “Presiding over the Caméra d’Or is an honour, a joy and a mission,” she said. “I hope to be worthy of the honour, bask in the joy and do my best to deliver on the mission.”
Since 1978, the Caméra d’Or has awarded the best debut film presented in the Official Selection (Competition, Out of Competition, or Un Certain Regard), Critics’ Week or Directors’ Fortnight.
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Jimmy Kimmel gamely interviewed Shonda Rhimes — “the woman whose brain gave birth” to ABC’s primetime soap Scandal – in a full episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight, while viewers attempted to recover from the dizzying Scandal season finale. Chatting with Rhimes on the show set, Kimmel noted the season wrapper was really about three finales’ worth of action. “I always want to make the show something you can’t do other stuff while it’s on…You can’t fold laundry, you can’t yell at your husband,” Rhimes explained. Kimmel said that was noble of her. And so, the night wore on, Shonda calmly declining to cough up any dirt about future plans for the show, Kimmel trying to liven things up by noting the conference table at which they were seated was the one on which two of the show’s characters had sex in the finale and hoping someone had cleaned it before this interview.
“You know I can’t tell you whether or not he’s dead,” Rhimes said when asked about the fate of Columbus Short’s character, who was last seen at B613 with a gun to his head. Short made his own headlines this week when his wife accused him of threatening to kill her and himself with a knife. There had been speculation that he may be gone from Scandal.
Rhimes did tell a story about the time she could not make up her mind whether Scott Foley’s Jake Ballard should become POTUS’ new running mate — or head of a covert CIA operation — deciding to shoot it both ways and look at the footage to see which storyline “feels stupid’ and which “feels good.” Extra points if you went with “Veep” for Feels Stupid. Assisting Kimmel greatly in the Liven Things Up category were the actors of Scandal, who performed most of the parts in Kimmel’s Spanish-language spinoff Escandalo, which created the strong impression the ensemble cast of this drama was born to make single-camera comedy.
Video after the jump.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tom Jones To Star In ‘Under Milk Wood’; Marco Frazier Upped To SVP At AMC/Sundance Channel Global
Tom Jones, Sian Phillips & Michael Sheen Join ‘Under Milk Wood’ Cast
Tom Jones, Sian Phillips and Michael Sheen have joined the cast of Under Milk Wood, BBC Wales TV’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ “play for voices.” Jones stars as the blind and tormented Captain Cat, with Sheen among several actors playing First Voice and Second Voice, including Matthew Rhys and John Rhys Davies. The cast also includes Jonathan Pryce, Ioan Gruffudd and opera star Bryn Terfel. Since its debut on radio 60 years ago, the tale of the residents of the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub has been adapted as a stage play, an opera, and a 1972 starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
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.
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: This story contains many details of Thursday’s season finale episode of ABC’s Scandal.
ABC’s D.C. drama, created by Shonda Rhimes, has grabbed big ratings over three seasons with a potent mix of wild plot twists and savvy use of social media. In another signature Shonda shocker, Washington fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) tonight watched POTUS Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) become a virtual certainty to lose his re-election bid when a bomb intended for him goes off at the funeral of a U.S. senator who’d been assassinated by Olivia’s terrorist mom Maya Lewis (Khandi Alexander) in order to get Grant at the funeral, only POTUS isn’t there. But his chief presidential-race rival — and VPOTUS – Sally Langston (Kate Burton) was there, and survived, and becomes simultaneous ministering angel and Irony Lady at the scene of the blast. President Grant’s day gets considerably worse when he suggests to Olivia that they run away together, marry, move to Vermont and have babies, causing Olivia to have pangs of conscience and spill the beans that Grant’s dad had raped his wife, First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), years ago.
Ronnie Gene Blevins (Joe) has been cast in New Line’s genre pic Crawlspace, directed by Vampire Killers helmer Phil Claydon. He’ll play Ray Walsh, the gruff and mysterious next-door neighbor of widower (Michael Vartan), who moves into a new home in the suburbs with his daughter and new wife. Peter Safran and Rick Alvarez are producing the pic which began filming last month in L.A. Blevins is repped by Pure Arts.
Reiley McClendon has booked a role in Shangri-La Suite opposite Luke Grimes and Emily Browning. The indie drama is set in 1974 and focuses on two troubled 20-year-olds who set out to kill Elvis Presley. McClendon will play young Elvis. The actor, who recurs on ABC Family’s The Fosters and next appears in the feature Outpost 37, is repped by Innovative Artists and Zero Gravity Management.
EXCLUSIVE: In the wake of shocking allegations of sexual abuse against Bryan Singer that surfaced five weeks before the launch of the new X-Men film, Singer has cancelled a scheduled appearance at this weekend’s WonderCon in Anaheim, Deadline hears. Fox instead will send Simon Kinberg as the studio prepares to launch the Singer-directed blockbuster X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Kinberg wrote and produced the film and has been a part of the X-Men universe since the beginning.
Singer had been scheduled to be on hand to do interviews for the film that Fox opens May 23. It seems fairly obvious that right now he’s not going to get the kind of questions that will help the movie, or that he could answer. Singer had been scheduled to represent X-Men among a bunch of big Fox movies vamping this weekend, appearing along with Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and director Matt Reeves from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes; Jay Baruchel and writer-director Dean DeBlois from How To Train Your Dragon 2; and Dylan O’Brien, writer James Dashner and director Wes Ball from The Maze Runner.