How ironic is it that Hollywood studios walk on eggshells with faith-based groups hoping their religious epics like Noah do a fraction of the business Mel Gibson did with The Passion Of The Christ, while those studios continue to shun Gibson like a leper? What better way to commemorate Passion‘s 10th anniversary than journalist Allison Hope Weiner‘s examination of her relationship with Gibson and how it evolved from harsh coverage to the point where she feels strongly enough about his good qualities and recovery to urge Hollywood to consider giving him another chance. Weiner has written about Gibson for Deadline before, as well as The New York Times and other national magazines. – MF
It has been a decade since Mel Gibson made The Passion Of The Christ and watched it become the biggest-grossing independent film with $612 million in worldwide ticket sales. In the years that followed, Gibson made several comments that went public, made him seem anti-Semitic and racist. They made him persona non grata at major studios and agencies, the same ones that work with others who’ve committed felonies and done things far more serious than Gibson, who essentially used his tongue as a lethal weapon. As a journalist who vilified Gibson in The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly until my coverage allowed me to get to know him, I want to make the case here that it is time for those Hollywood agencies and studios to end their quiet blacklisting of Mel Gibson. Once Hollywood’s biggest movie star whose film Braveheart won five Oscars and whose collective box office totals $3.6 billion, Gibson hasn’t been directly employed by a studio since Passion Of The Christ was released in 2004.
The Gibson I’ve come to know isn’t a man who’ll shout from the rooftops that he’s not anti-Semitic, or hold a press conference to tell media those audiotapes were released as part of a shakedown, and that he never assaulted the mother of his infant daughter. He won’t explain to people that he first got himself into a career spiral because he’s a long struggling alcoholic who fell off the wagon and spewed hateful anti-Semitic remarks to an arresting officer who was Jewish. He won’t tell you that he’s still got a lot to offer Hollywood as a filmmaker.
The fact that he won’t jump to his own defense is part of his problem, but also part of why I have grown to respect him. That is why on the occasion of this 10th anniversary of Passion, a film about an innocent man’s willingness to forgive the greatest injustice, I propose to Hollywood that it’s time to forgive Mel Gibson. He has been in the doghouse long enough. It’s time to give the guy another chance. Read More »
This is the movie that features Michael Fassbender wearing an enormous head throughout. The 12 Years A Slave Oscar nominee plays the title character in Frank, the mysterious and enigmatic lead singer in a band of eccentrics. Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Carla Azar also star. Lenny Abrahamson directed the film from a script by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan. Frank, which Magnolia picked up after its Sundance premiere, bows May 2 in the UK and Ireland. Here’s the trailer:
Related: Sundance: ‘Frank’s Lenny Abrahamson Makes Element Pictures First-Look Deal
EXCLUSIVE: Big In Japan is a documentary-style feature about a Seattle band that makes one last stab at making it by going on tour you know where. It’s a good example of how music and film converge at SXSW, and this one plays in the 24 Beats Per Second sidebar along with pics like docu Pulp that also premiered this week. Check it out:
UPDATE, 2:40 PM: Comcast’s Sena Fitzmaurice just responded to the Tennis Channel’s petition, urging the FCC to reject it as “baseless litigation” that “simply reiterates arguments that the court of appeals and the Supreme Court have already rejected.” In 2005 the companies “negotiated and signed an arm’s length contract” that Comcast has fulfilled “in exactly the way the contract requires.” The DC Court of Appeals agreed that Tennis Channel’s plea to be carried as a basic service would have “immense costs and no benefits for Comcast and that, therefore, Comcast’s carriage decision was appropriate and non-discriminatory. When given the opportunity to pursue the case at the Supreme Court, the government’s own lawyers chose not to do so.”
PREVIOUS, 12:55 PM: Tennis Channel has lost a game and a set in its discrimination cases against Comcast, but it still believes that it can win the match if the FCC agrees with a new petition asking it to review the matter again. The filing follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month not to review an appeals court decision that vacated a 2012 FCC order. The regulators agreed that Comcast had discriminated against Tennis Channel by putting it on an extra-fee sports tier while putting similar channels that it owns — Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network — on the expanded basic tier. The appeals court concluded that the FCC offered no evidence to refute Comcast’s position that it made a simple financial judgment that few subscribers wanted to watch tennis. Tennis Channel says that the FCC now can return to the case because “there is considerable evidence in the record that satisfies the new tests” the appeals court used to vacate the FCC’s order. If regulators look again, they “will once again conclude that Tennis Channel is correct in its view that Comcast has illegally discriminated against it.” Read More »
Paramount has released the second trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic Noah starring Russell Crowe. Co-star Emma Watson intros the latest look at the pic after the trailer debuted earlier in the day on her social media feeds. There’s been plenty of back and forth on the Paramount-New Regency pic in a long lead-up, and now the release date of March 28 is just a couple weeks away. Until then check out the trailer, complete with the new explanatory message it is attaching to marketing material after consultation with the National Religious Broadcasters group:
EXCLUSIVE: Provocative British reality format Sex Box is getting a U.S. adaptation. WE tv has ordered an hourlong pilot for the project from Relativity TV. In Sex Box, real couples whose relationships are on the rocks enter a soundproof box to have sex and, upon exit, immediately address their issues with a panel of experts. According to the producers, the “in the moment” approach “fosters conversations about intimacy that are completely filterless and emotionally honest.” This marks one of the first major green lights for Marc Juris, who took the reins of WE in October as president. “Sex Box is an intriguing and original concept from a top production partner and we’re very excited about its potential, which has already been clearly demonstrated overseas – where it’s a hit,” he said.
Sex Box originated as a reality special on UK’s Channel 4 (watch it below) where it drew an overnight audience of 906,000 last October (1.2 million cumed) and attracted a lot of traditional media and social media attention. It was produced by Clearstory, with Relativity acquiring the rights and pitching it to U.S. networks. WE tv is coming off a solid first season for its newest series, SWV Reunited, which averaged 1.2 million viewers.
After 18 years at Disney, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, will be stepping down at the end of her current contract in January 2015 to pursue a career as a TV director. “The past 18 years at Disney have been the highlight of my executive career,” Sweeney said. “But as wonderful as the experience has been, there has always been a nagging voice in the back of my head pushing me to step out of the comfort zone of the executive ranks and more directly into the creative arena that enticed me to TV in the first place. I finally listened to that voice and thought, ‘if not now, when?’ I know my decision to step back from all of this to learn the art of Directing may seem surprising, but to me it’s a long realized dream.”
Sweeney’s exit, which had been rumored on and off for the past several years, comes as the group’s flagship network, ABC, has been going through rough times. Sweeney brought in current ABC president Paul Lee who may be losing his biggest supporter at the company with her departure. Said Disney topper Bob Iger, “Over the years, Anne grew our Disney Channel business into a global powerhouse and the main brand driver of our Company around the world; built ABC Family into a top cable network … Read More »
The deal isn’t set, but if it makes, it would represent the biggest bet yet that a Hollywood studio has made in a company built on YouTube, the world’s largest video site. Disney reportedly is in talks to buy Maker Studios for at least $500 million, Re/Code reports, citing people familiar with the negotiations. According to Maker Studios, the multichannel network generates 5.5 billion video views a month, with almost all of its content on YouTube. This is the latest move by a traditional media company to expand its focus on digital content. Just yesterday we reported on Warner Bros leading an $18 million financing effort for Machinima. a YouTube network aimed at gamers and other young men. Online video company FullScreen also scored an investment led by Comcast and others, and in May DreamWorks Animation agreed to pay $33 million for YouTube destination AwesomenessTV. The reported talks also come after Disney’s announcement last week that it was laying off 26% of its interactive division.
Related: Is Google Growing Its Own Online Video Competition?
Fox’s Empire has rounded out its cast with the signing of Kaitlin Doubleday (Catch Me If You Can) as a series regular. The hip-hop industry drama pilot from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer centers on Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Doubleday will play Rhonda, the wife of Lucious’ oldest son Andre (Trai Byers), a sexy, manipulative woman who shares Andre’s Ivy League background and intends to help him scrap his way to the head of Empire. Doubleday, repped by Paradigm and MPG Management, appeared in features Home Of Phobia and Waiting and ABC’s Cavemen.
Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
Read More »
Starz Digital has sealed the deal on Zeke and Simon Hawkins’ directorial debut We Gotta Get Out Of This Place after a courtship that began last September at the Toronto Film Festival. The gritty South Texas-set thriller premiered at TIFF before winning the Audience Award at AFI Fest and stars up-and-comers Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment, AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire), and Logan Huffman (V) as teenage pals in a dead-end town who are forced to pull off a heist by a brutal cotton farmer (Lost‘s Mark Pellegrino). William Devane and Jon Gries also co-star in the pic, which was scripted by Dutch Southern and produced by Justin Duprie and Brian Udovich for Rough & Tumble Films. “I hope this can become a Red Rock West kind of film, where a kid coming up 20 years from now says they saw it and it inspired them to become a filmmaker,” Udovich told Deadline. Starz acquired all rights for the U.S. and Canada and is plotting a late summer/early fall limited theatrical run and multiplatform digital and VOD release. The company’s been pacting left and right on TV and film projects; this marks the second feature acquisition announced during SXSW by Starz’s head … Read More »
Lionsgate’s Rob Friedman is losing an executive assistant but Pantelion Films is gaining a new Director of Production and Development. Auri Maruri has joined the Latino audience oriented company, Pantelion announced today. Charged with developing high concept comedies and family films, Maruri will report to Ben Odell, President of Production. The new exec will also work closely with CEO Paul Presburger on new co-production opportunities with Lionsgate. Previously Maruri was the executive assistant to Lionsgate co-chairman Friedman for 3 years. Pantelion was formed in 2010 with joint financial backing from Grupo Televisa and Lionsgate. Debuting last Fall, Pantelion’s Instructions Not Included has proved the highest grossing Spanish language film ever released in the U.S.
On the heels of getting her first pilot order, drama writer-producer Nikki Toscano also has landed her first overall deal. Toscano has signed a two-year overall pact with Universal TV, the studio behind her pilot as well as the series she has been working on, A&E’s Bates Motel. Toscano’s drama pilot at CBS, which she is executive producing with Bates Motel co-showrunner Kerry Ehrin, centers on a retired CIA operative who, when a terrorist event rocks Washington D.C., is pulled back into action, forced to investigate closer to home where the next generation of terrorists are being bred. “We have greatly valued the work of Nikki on Universal Television’s Bates Motel this season and it’s been a terrific experience developing a new drama pilot with her for CBS,” Uni TV EVP Bela Bajaria said. “We’re eager to work for many years to come with this talented writer-producer.” Toscano, repped by UTA, manager Carel Cutler and attorney Patti Felker, previously worked as a producer on the first two seasons of ABC’s Revenge.
The legal standoff between director Lynne Ramsay and the producers of Jane Got A Gun has ended in a draw, almost a year after the helmer abruptly left the pic on the first day of production. “Jane Got a Gun Production LLC and Lynne Ramsay announce the pending civil action and all other disputes between the parties associated with Jane Got a Gun Motion Picture have been resolved privately and to their mutual satisfaction,” the producers of the indie Western and Ramsay said today. While no details of a settlement are known, the plaintiffs last month halted their breach of contract and fraud complaint filed against Ramsay in federal court (read that order here). In the original filing last November, Jane Got A Gun Production sought an injunction to force Ramsay’s agency WME to hand back $360,000 it claimed was being held in escrow. They also asked for more than $500,000 in damages to be determined at trial for Ramsay’s conduct on the film and her quick exit before filming started.
Ramsay abruptly left Jane Got A Gun on March 18, 2013, after supposedly delaying the start of filming twice on the pic produced by and starring Natalie Portman. The producers said WME didn’t return their money despite “multiple requests” and that Ramsay told the agency not to hand over the cash. Soon after the complaint was filed, Ramsay said in a … Read More »
I’ve learned that NBC’s multi-camera comedy pilot The Money Pit has been shelved, at least for now, after difficulties casting the leads. Inspired by the 1986 feature starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, the project revolves around a newlywed couple that navigates the challenges of modern romance while their house crumbles around them. Amblin Television — the TV division of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, which produced the movie with Universal Pictures — is producing with Universal Television. Former The Office writer-producer Justin Spitzer wrote the adaptation and executive produces with Amblin TV’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. This is the second pilot so far this season to get pushed for casting reasons. The other one was also an NBC multi-camera comedy, Fifth Wheel. There are hardly reasons for concern as NBC had ordered the most comedy pilots, 14, for next season. It already has two comedy series, Tooken and Mr. Robinson on tap, plus 13-episode Canadian import Working The Engels.
Related: 2014 NBC Pilots
Pay TV is “a pretty imperfect market. It isn’t like anything sold at Walmart, I can tell you that,” DirecTV CEO Michael White said as he outlined his initiatives to an investor group. By mid-year he plans to “simplify our offer structure” and also provide his satellite customers with “a two-page bill that you can actually understand.” The change is partly an outgrowth of his view that the pay TV industry is “not very good….There’s a lot of ways to do things better.” That’s important because, now that the industry’s mature, “it’s harder and harder for things not to devolve into price competition….We’ve all made our business more complicated than the average consumer understands and that creates challenges for the bill down the road.” White reiterated his view that consumers are getting squeezed as programming prices rise. “In an economy where consumer incomes for the bottom 60% are flat and content costs are growing double digits….consumers wouldn’t sign up for that if they had a choice. But they don’t have a choice.” White pointedly noted that mergers of distributors — including DirecTV and Dish Network — “would create a new balance of power.” Still, he isn’t confident that federal regulators would allow the satellite companies to combine, which would reduce the number of pay TV choices from three to two for about 40% of the population.
While Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time … Read More »
Tonight at the the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony, chairman Bruce Rosenblum will detail plans of a major makeover for the organization, including an expansion of its North Hollywood headquarters, a $40 million fundraising drive, a spiffing up of its Emmy statuette logo – the org is even changing its name to the more straightforward “Television Academy.”
The Academy says it will break ground on a dramatic expansion of its NoHo Arts District campus the day after this year’s Emmycast on August 25. This state-of-the-art facility will enable the Academy to host “even more events with television’s game-changers,” Rosenblum said in this morning’s announcement (see his letter to members bel0w). In addition to the construction, the fundraising will be put to use boosting educational work and scholarship program.
Beyond simplifying its name, the TV Academy also retained brand-strategy firm Siegel+Gale to revise its logo. The Emmy trophy itself will not change, but its graphic depiction will. The new look is “a symbolic representation of where we’re headed,” Rosenblum told Deadline. ”If you look at the new image – it’s cleaner, a bit tighter and more contemporary. It was in alignment with an evaluation of our name. We looked at the name Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and it was a bit dated, a bit old fashioned.” The Academy even mulled dropping “television” from its name. “After a lot of thought and discussion what became clear to all of us that while the word ‘television’ means something different than it did 70 years ago when our academy was founded, the word continues to haves significant resonance and importance among people who enjoy what television is – it’s a reference to the content itself,” Rosenblum said. “When you talk about ‘watching television’ you’re talking about watching Breaking Bad or Walking Dead or The Big Bang Theory – you’re not talking about the box you used to watch in your living room.”
Here’s Rosenblum’s letter to members today: Read More »
Aussie-U.S. production company GRACE has acquired worldwide rights from Sony/ATV Music Publishing to The Beatles‘ catalog, a rare rights deal for the iconic band’s music that will be used to make the animated children’s series Beat Bugs, which is currently in development. The project is from GRACE principal Josh Wakely, who pitched Sony/ATV with the idea for the series, which uses original narratives interwoven with Beatles songs to tell the story of young bugs that live and learn life lessons in the magical universe of an overgrown backyard. Talks are underway with animation studios and licensees for distribution, with worldwide rights being sold by CAA and Hirsch, Wallerstein, Hayum, Matlof & Fishman. ”Josh’s ingenuity and creative exploration of these iconic songs in a wholly imaginative world was too good to pass up and the idea of opening up the single greatest music catalogue of the 20th Century to the next generation is something we are particularly excited about”, Sony/ATV managing director Damian Trotter said in a release announcing the tie-up.
Related: CBS To Salute The Beatles’ U.S. Debut In Grammy Special
The deal is a rarity for a catalog that has always been particular about how it is deployed — the band’s albums were slow in CD adaptation in the 1980s and weren’t available on iTunes until 2010. The Beatles are no strangers to … Read More »
True Blood‘s Anna Camp has closed a deal for what is considered the lead role in Lauren Iungerich’s ABC comedy pilot Damaged Goods, from WBTV. It revolves around damaged men and damaged women who explore the minutiae of love and relationships. A smart and successful lawyer, Nicole (Camp) is totally bewildered and betrayed when her boyfriend Tim (Justin Hartley) tells her he can’t be happy for her or continue to date if she takes the promotion she was offered at the law firm where they both work — the promotion he expected to get. Steve Talley and Kellee Stewart co-star. Camp was very busy last season, juggling roles on HBO’s True Blood, Fox’s The Mindy Project and CBS’ Vegas.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots