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U2′s Bono Bails Out Of Forbes In Sale To Hong Kong-Based Investor Group

By | Friday July 18, 2014 @ 8:17am PDT

U2′s Bono Bails Out Of Forbes In Sale To Hong Kong-Based Investor GroupThe publication will continue to produce its famous scorecards of the rich and powerful, but without the backing of U2′s Bono. A new entity, called Integrated Whale Media Investments, just bought a majority stake in Forbes Media — including the preferred shares owned by Elevation Partners, the private equity firm the singer co-founded. The new ownership group pledges to “provide capital, as well as financial and operational expertise, and intends to leverage its international relationships to strategically enlarge Forbes Media’s reach on a global scale,” it says this morning.

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes hung out the for-sale sign late last year, seeking at least $400M. Today’s announcement does not disclose terms of the deal, but The New York Times reports that “a person close to the deal” says the purchase valued Forbes Media at $475M.

Elevation paid $264M in 2006 for its minority interest. The Forbes family will “retain a significant ownership stake, will stay actively involved,” the announcement says.

Steve Forbes calls the transaction “a major milestone for the company and our family.” The new owners “support our longstanding mission of championing entrepreneurship and free market capitalism.”

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Oscars: Mandela Family Coming To The Academy Awards For U2 Performance

By | Saturday February 22, 2014 @ 6:21pm PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: The Mandelas will be coming to the Oscars.

mandela-long-walkThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have invited Nelson and Winnie Mandela‘s daughters Zindzi and Zenani to attend the Oscars where U2 will be performing the Academy  Award-nominated song, “Ordinary Love” from the film  Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. Bono and U2 were personal friends of their father, and have been working in the Anti-Apartheid movement through their music since the late 1970s when the girls were only in their teens. In a statement the girls said, “This is especially meaningful to us because of how much our father loved watching movies. This song was inspired by the beautiful letters that my father and mother exchanged while he was imprisoned at Robben Island.”

In addition to the U2 performance the Academy has previously announced all the other nominated songs will also be performed live (by Pharrell Williams, Karen O and Idina Menzel) along with musical performances from Bette Midler and Pink. The Oscars will be held on Sunday March 2nd and aired live on ABC.

mandelaMeanwhile, the 45th annual NAACP Image Awards held tonight in Pasadena added a surprise tribute to the late South African leader with Oprah Winfrey leading the honors. Mandela star Idris Elba is set to join Winfrey in the tribute which will also … Read More »

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OSCARS: On The Scene As Nominees Lunch Brings Out Record Number And EVERYONE Is A Winner In This Room

By | Monday February 10, 2014 @ 6:17pm PST
Pete Hammond

No question the nominees lunch, which took place today at the Beverly Hilton, is the feel good event of a very long Oscar season — at least as far as the86th Oscars®, Nominees Luncheon, Group Photo nominees who have made it this far are concerned. If the Governors Awards in November is a great networking opportunity for contenders, this luncheon has become a “must attend” for nominees, who get their certificates, a goodie bag and the chance to meet their fellow nominees in a collegial atmosphere where everyone’s a winner. At least until March 2. Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made a point of telling them a billion people will be watching in more than 225 countries and that the time begins the moment they hit the microphone and they will have only 45 seconds. “But don’t be nervous,” smiled Zadan. “Just prepare”.

Related:
86th Academy Awards Nominees Photo
OSCARS: 86th Academy Award Nominations
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Oscars: U2 Writes One From The Heart For Nelson Mandela; Interview With Bono And The Edge

Pete Hammond

Although there was plenty of star wattage at the 25th Palm Springs International Film Festival Saturday nightCN8A9095 there was even more electricity than usual because some genuine rock royalty was in attendance. U2′s Bono and The Edge were on hand to accept the Sonny Bono Visionary Award, which acknowledged their major humanitarian work as well as their iconic musical contributions to the world.  The award was well-timed as, like the rest of the honorees, they also have a song that is making waves this awards season. And it’s a very personal one. The band, and particularly Bono, had a long friendship with Nelson Mandela — who died December 5 — and their work in the anti-apartheid movement goes back to their beginnings as a band in the 1970s. And now they have written a song, “Ordinary Love”  for the film of his life story, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. The Weinstein Company is hoping it will get the Oscar recognition that has eluded U2 before. They currently have a Golden Globe nomination for it, their sixth, with one win for 2002′s “The Hands That Built America” from Gangs Of New York. 

Related: Oscar Contenders Hit The Desert As Hollywood’s Awards Season Moves to Palm Springs

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Oscars: Ballots Due In Less Than 48 Hours As Contenders Keep The Campaigns Hot And Voters Try To Keep Pace

Pete Hammond

The clock is ticking, Academy members.

As the deadline looms for the close of Oscar nomination polls at 5 PM Wednesday, I  have talked to a largeOscar_Logo110922004651__120227115551 number of potential voters who are still not even close to seeing the key movies, whether in theaters or making a dent in that pile of screeners at home. A more limited voting pool could lead to a surprising outcome, and this year it seems there are many members struggling to check out all the contenders. Last year then-Academy President Hawk Koch boasted to me on the day of nominations that with the help of the (then-controversial) new online voting system, turnout was the largest in recent Academy history. Hoping not to fall off the pace, new President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been sending recorded messages urging voters who haven’t marked their ballots yet to get them in before the deadline.

Related: OSCARS: Ballots Are Out And The Race Is On, But Will Voters See The Movies In Time?
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‘Spider-Man’ Lawsuit Web Thickens As Stage Producers Countersue Julie Taymor

By | Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 2:02pm PST
Mike Fleming

The musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is thriving on Broadway, but now there’s more negative attention. The producers of the musical have answered the original lawsuit filed by director and book co-writer Julie Taymor after she was fired. The producers have also launched their own counter suit that challenges her contention she should be paid full royalties despite being sacked. In particular, they are challenging her assertion filed in court last November that the revamped version of the musical infringes on her copyrights, and they are trying to thwart her attempt to bar them from taking the musical to other venues. Even though the musical is grossing well, its $1.2 million weekly running costs mean that recouping of the $75 million budget will happen as slow as molasses–unless the producers take a version of the show on the road, and perhaps to Las Vegas.

The producers charge that while Taymor was contracted to co-write and collaborate on the musical that has music from U2′s Bono and The Edge, she refuses “to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do.” The producers claim her stubbornness left them no choice but to replace her with Philip Wm. McKinley, whose vast background with Barnum & Bailey Circus helped curb the aerial mishaps, and a rewrite by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen … Read More »

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Toronto: Distribution Deal For Luc Besson’s ‘The Lady’ Puts Michelle Yeoh And David Thewlis In Oscar Race

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady, the story of Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Upstart Cohen Media Group plans to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year to capitalize on strong performances by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis, who plays her Oxford professor husband Michael Aris. The film will get a wider release in early 2012. Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest by the repressive Burmese military-controlled government. Leaders cruelly barred her husband and two sons from visiting her, thinking that it would drive her to leave. Because she knew that once gone she would never be permitted re-entry, Suu Kyi sacrificed everything to stay and become an iconic symbol of democracy and human rights. Her husband and sons bolstered her spirit and campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. The distribution deals came quickly after the film premiered Monday evening at Roy Thomson Hall, where Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis received a rousing standing ovation. The deal was brokered by EuropaCorp Group CEO Christophe Lambert and Cohen Media Group CEO Charles S. Cohen.

The Lady becomes the second Toronto title to become an instant entry into upcoming awards season, after Fox Searchlight acquired the NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed Shame with plans to campaign for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

After establishing himself as France’s answer to Steven Spielberg directing hits like La Femme Nikita and The Professional and co-writing and producing action films like Taken, Besson has become very selective in the projects he directs. While he has always had a soft spot for strong female protagonists, it has always been in action settings. The Lady is a decided departure and certainly his most personal film to date. Besson made it to refocus the world’s attention on an activist whose continuing plight gets easily forgotten in a turbulent world, even though she won that Nobel Peace Prize and U2′s Bono and The Edge wrote the song Walk On about her sacrifice (which got U2′s album banned in Burma). Read More »

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Holy Moses! ‘Spider-Man’ Stage Helmer Tackles Old Testament And Swears Spidey Won’t Go Down As Flop Of Biblical Proportions

By | Tuesday August 16, 2011 @ 1:29pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Philip William McKinley, the stage director who replaced Julie Taymor and stopped the bleeding — literally and figuratively — on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, will next tackle something even more iconic than a superhero saga: The Old Testament. He’s directing The Bible: The Beginning, a live show scaled for arena-sized venues that will use music, dialogue, tumblers, jugglers, singers, aerialists and fighters to re-enact the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, Moses and his clash with the Pharaoah, the plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, all culminating in the delivery of The Ten Commandments. The musical will be narrated by Gabriel the Messenger; Raphael the Healer; and Michael, Leader of God’s armies.

The show will be more logistically complex than Spider-Man, which, McKinley swears, won’t need a miracle to recoup a mammoth budget pegged at $70 million before it opened. “We are selling out every night, consistently drawing $1.7 million each week and finishing behind Wicked and The Lion King,” he said. “Right now, it’s all about maintenance and being incredibly conscientious. We’ve got the New York Department of Labor in the building for every show still, but we’ve taken safety to heart.”

Since the show’s operating costs are in the range of $1.2 million per week, Spider-Man will need a loooong run for its investors to be made whole. That effort to recoup will be helped by broadening beyond Broadway, something McKinley said he’ll help facilitate when the time is right. While Spider-Man hardly drew raves when it opened after umpteenth delays — including a three-week shutdown McKinley needed to implement changes — the director feels that the musical that was driven as much by visual effects as music by U2′s Bono and The Edge has turned a corner from being a cautionary tale about the limits of live theater to a model for what is possible. The Bible will push that envelope further, even though it’s too large to fit in a Broadway venue. Read More »

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Jeff Buckley Pic Rivalry Heats As Broadway Spidey Reeve Carney Commits To Star

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark star Reeve Carney has signed on to play Jeff Buckley in the untitled film about the late musician that Welcome to the Rileys helmer Jake Scott is putting together for a November shoot. Carney, who performed the Bono/The Edge-penned Spider-Man single Rise Above 1 at the American Idol finale, will do all the singing to bring to life the music of Buckley, who was just getting started as a solo artist when he drowned at age 30.

Considering that Buckley had only released a single album when he died in 1997 after getting caught in the wake of a passing boat in Tennessee’s Wolf River, it seems amazing that there are not one but three feature films about him. The first one to start production will be Greetings From Tim Buckley, the Dan Algrant-directed indie film that starts a four-week shoot Monday in Brooklyn. Conventional wisdom that the first film out of the gate wins doesn’t necessarily apply here; these two projects tell very different stories about Buckley. Scott is making a biopic, while Greetings From Tim Buckley stars Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley as a pre-fame Jeff Buckley who reconnects with his estranged father Tim by singing at a tribute concert for his folk-singer dad. In Algrant’s film, that short adventure forged Jeff Buckley’s own solo aspirations. The other Buckley film is called A Pure Drop and it is being mounted by Mad Bastards director Brendan Fletcher. The title comes from the book A Pure Drop: The Life of Jeff Buckley. Read More »

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Is ‘Spider-Man’ Biggest Broadway Debacle?

By | Wednesday June 15, 2011 @ 6:48am PDT
Mike Fleming

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opened on Broadway on Tuesday night. There was a star-studded crowd that included Bill Clinton, a 10-minute standing ovation, and even deposed director Julie Taymor got up to take a bow. And, thank goodness, no actors fell from the rafters. A press release from the show’s reps reports that “critics and audiences cheer[ed] the opening,” and offered a few effusive blurbs from USA Today, MTV and NY1 News. Well, first of all, they weren’t reading the reviews I saw. In The New York Times (generally the review that helps a show fly or die), Ben Brantley compared its earlier incarnation to now as an “ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity,” but that isn’t a rave since he likened that earlier version to “watching the Hindenburg crash and burn.” The Wall Street Journal called the book “flabby and witless” and, as for the plot, “everything that happens is utterly familiar and utterly predictable.” To sum up, the WSJ offers that “$70 million and nearly nine years of effort, all squandered on a damp squib. … Never in the history of Broadway has so much been spent to so little effect.” The other Gotham papers basically said it was better than it was when Taymor was calling the shots, but essentially that its edge (not to be confused with U2′s The Edge) had been varnished away, leaving blandness and U2 songs that aren’t the catchiest that Bono and The Edge ever came up with. Read More »

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Elton John Takes Swipe At ‘Spider-Man’ Musical: “Can You Smell A Bomb Tonight?”

By | Sunday April 3, 2011 @ 9:15am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Elton John hosted Saturday Night Live last night with help from several guest stars like Tom Hanks, who appeared in three skits, including one that featured John presiding over an emergency meeting of Knights of the Realm (aka knighted British celebrities) mulling ways to thwart a dragon attack on London. “When artists put their souls together they can accomplish anything,” says Andy Samberg as Bono. “Except a Spider-Man musical,” retorts John before crooning “Can you smell a bomb tonight” to the tune of one of the songs from his blockbuster musical The Lion King, which was directed by the same helmer that was recently fired by Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, Julie Taymor.

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Broadway ‘Spider-Man’ Producers Announce Retooling And New Director, With Bogus Claim Julie Taymor Isn’t Out

By | Wednesday March 9, 2011 @ 5:11pm PST
Mike Fleming

New York, NY – Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has a newly expanded creative team in place. The team will be implementing a new plan to make significant and exciting revisions to the production. Opening night (previously set for March 15, 2011) has been rescheduled to an evening in early summer, 2011. This amended schedule will allow the time necessary to execute the plan, which will include revisions to the script.

The additional time commitment required by this new plan will make it impossible for director and co-book writer Julie Taymor to continue on in her day-to-day duties with the production. Philip William McKinley and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the creative team to help implement new staging and book rewrites, respectively. McKinley has vast experience directing technically complex productions on Broadway and beyond. Aguirre-Sacasa is both an acclaimed playwright and a noted writer of Spider-Man comic books. The expanded creative team also includes musical consultant Paul Bogaev (Tarzan, Bombay Dreams, Aida, Sunset Boulevard) and sound designer Peter Hylenski (Elf, Scottsboro Boys, Rock of Ages, Shrek), both of whom have already been working on improving the musical arrangements and sound quality (respectively) over the past few weeks, thereby vastly enhancing the audience experience.

Producers Cohl and Harris said, in a joint statement, “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous

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In Other Deals: French Paper Taps Marion Cotillard For Batflick; Javier Bardem Wins Goya; Broadway Spider-Man Gets SNL Parody, More Bad Press

Mike Fleming

French newspaper Le Figaro reported Marion Cotillard is set for Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. We’ll get some clarity today, but the move makes sense given that most everyone in that cast but Anne Hathaway (Catwoman) worked with Nolan on a previous film, including Christian Bale (The Prestige), and Cotillard’s Inception cohorts Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt…

While industry attention on the weekend was mostly on the BAFTA wins by Colin Firth and The King’s Speech, Javier Bardem won Best Actor for his Biutiful performance at the Goya Awards, Spain’s version of the Oscars. The King’s Speech won Best European Film but the big winner was Agusti Villaronga’s Black Bread, which won Best Picture and eight other awards. Bardem seems like a dark horse in this race, but it sure does seem like it’s Firth’s year…

Magnolia Pictures acquired North American rights to Headhunters, the Morten Tyldum-directed adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s novel. Magnolia is likening it to another The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That is easy hype because of the geographical proximity to Sweden. But nobody in the movie business cared much about fiction that came from this region until Larsson, and it’s possible nobody will care about any of the work written by anyone but Larsson…

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‘Spider-Man’s’ Broadway Bow Delayed Until February 7

Mike Fleming

As expected, the much-troubled Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night from January 11, 2011 to Monday, February 7. The $65 million musical, which has found itself more under a microscope than just about any Broadway-bound musical because of the record price tag and star creatives, has been plagued by injuries to cast members taking part in acrobatics scenes. The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor is directing a book she wrote with Glen Berger, with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Preview performances will continue at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street, but the creatives continue to tweak both the songs and the book, per  The New York Times. Pushing until they’re absolutely ready is smart; beyond Spider-Man, only a musical like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s delayed Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies will be welcomed with such an intense level of media and critical scrutiny.

Here is the official release:

New York, NY – Lead producer Michael Cohl announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night (previously set for January 11, 2011) to Monday, February 7. Directed by Julie Taymor and featuring a book by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger, and new music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is now in previews at Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre (213 West 42nd Street). All performances prior to the new opening night

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Spidey Gets Broadway Opening Date

Mike Fleming

Despite all the skepticism it would ever get to Broadway because of its prohibitive running costs, Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has been set to begin preview performances on November 14, with opening night set for December 21. Julie Taymor will direct from the book she wrote with Glen Berger, with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. The musical will play the Foxwoods Theatre on West 42nd Street. Reeve Carney plays Peter Parker, Jennifer Damiano plays Mary Jane Watson and Patrick Page plays The Green Goblin. The musical shapes up as one of the costliest ever to hit Broadway, and tickets top out at $140. Carney, a rock musician, plays a lead role in the Taymor-directed The Tempest, a film that will play both the Toronto and Venice festivals.

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FCC’s Indecency Policy Struck Down

By | Tuesday July 13, 2010 @ 11:50am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

bonoI know what Bono and the broadcast networks will call today’s ruling on FCC’s policy on fleeting expletives by a federal appeals court – “f**king brilliant.” In a major victory for the U.S. broadcasters, the three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal tossed the FCC indecency rules, claiming that it “violates the First Amendment because it is unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.” The FCC policy was put in place after NBC’s broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globes Awards, in which U2 lead singer Bono used the phrase “f**king brilliant” in his acceptance speech. The FCC said at the time that the F-word in any context “inherently has a sexual connotation” and can lead to enforcement.

Fox challenged the rules after becoming an early victim when the FCC found its 2002 and 2003 Billboard Awards broadcasts violated the new policy with profanity use onstage by Cher and Nicole Richie. The network was obviously pleased by today’s ruling. “We have always felt that the government’s position on fleeting expletives was unconstitutional,” it said in a statement. Who wasn’t happy? Conservative watchdog Parent’s Television Coincil. “For parents and families around the country, this ruling is nothing less than a slap in their face,” PTC president Tim Winter said.

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