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Hugh Grant And J.K. Rowling To Join Other Celebs Testifying About News Corp Scandal

This will be another bad week for James Murdoch and News Corp as 21 witnesses including several celebs line up to tell a government inquiry how overzealous and unethical reporters turned their lives upside down. The investigation is led by Lord Justice Leveson who Prime Minister David Cameron asked to examine both the phone hacking at News Of The World, and problems with the country’s press culture. The parents of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who was murdered in 2002,  will kick things off tomorrow. The NOTW scandal broke open this past July when it was disclosed that after Dowler was missing the tabloid hacked into the girl’s phone and deleted messages, giving her parents false hope that she might still be alive. Grant will follow them, and is expected to continue his assault on reporting tactics used by NOTW and the Daily Mail. Also due on Monday is the lawyer for actor Jude Law. On Tuesday the panel will hear from actor Steve Coogan and soccer star Garry Flitcroft. On Thursday Harry Potter author Rowling and one time Formula One chief Max Mosley will testify. Next Monday singer Charlotte Church and UK TV personality Anne Diamond will appear.

Coogan outlined his views in a biting commentary he wrote for The Guardian on Friday. “No amount of respectable, well-modulated management-speak from James Murdoch can disguise the direct link between Read More »

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Hugh Grant In Real UK Political Activist Role

By | Wednesday October 5, 2011 @ 3:56am PDT

Hugh Grant, as Deadline revealed over the summer, backed out of replacing Charlie Sheen as the star of Two and a Half Men at the last minute. Now he is filming Cloud Atlas with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent for the Wachowski brothers. But he has reinvented himself over here as a justice campaigner on behalf of celebrities and civilians like himself who had their phones hacked in the News Corp scandal. He has always been ambivalent about being a movie star, and has long talked about doing something different. Asked if he had been wasting his life until now, Grant told The Guardian: “That is harsh, but yes. If I had been a complete failure until the age of 51, I would definitely go along with you but I suppose I have had a few successes. But yes, you are right. I have squandered my life.”

Britain is taking him seriously on the hacking scandal. Grant was giving interviews before meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in Manchester last night. He said he wanted to hear directly from the politician too close to Rupert Murdoch’s organisation. Following the meeting, Grant said that Cameron made “the right noises but I expected him to make the right noises”. Grant alleges that Cameron must have known disgraced Murdoch editor Andy Coulson oversaw a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World before hiring him as his chief PR flack. why he accepted Coulson’s explanation that … Read More »

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Paul Feig Exits ‘Bridget Jones 3′; Universal Looking For Brit Director For January Start

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures and Working Title Films will need a new director for Bridget Jones 3, and I hear they want a Brit. Paul Feig has withdrawn after developing the most recent draft of the script with the intention to direct. I’m told that both sides agreed it didn’t work out and that maybe this is just a quintessential British comedy that needs a British sensibility. They will set a director soon as they are still slated to start production in January, with Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant all eager to return.

Feig has enough to keep him busy at Universal, where he just directed the sleeper hit Bridesmaids. He’s got two projects there including an untitled comedy that he’s writing to direct for producer Judd Apatow, with the hope that Jon Hamm will play a guy obsessed with a woman who’ll be played by Melissa McCarthy. That certainly puts much of the Bridesmaids team together, and it will have to do until the studio figures out a way to get moving on a Bridesmaids sequel after the first one grossed $286 million worldwide on a $32 million budget. Read More »

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Hacking Update: UK Seeks Tighter Media Controls In Wake Of Scandal

By | Wednesday September 14, 2011 @ 4:49pm PDT

Chase Carey Says His Role “Hasn’t Changed” With Hacking Scandal

The fallout from News Corp’s phone-hacking scandal continued to reverberate today. U.K. Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt said he was backing new legislation that would tighten controls on cross-media ownership. Under the proposal, rolled out at the Royal Television Society Convention in Cambridge, politicians would be barred from approving major media deals and inquiries on media plurality could be launched by regulators Ofcom and the Competition Commission without the trigger of a takeover bid. Hunt said that News Corp’s near takeover of BSkyB in July, abandoned in the scandal’s wake, convinced him changes were needed. “I was very conscious in the recent BSkyB bid that however fairly I ran the process, people were always going to question my motives,” he said. Read More »

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Celebs Fight Murdochs Over Newspaper Phone Hacking

Hollywood isn’t famous for courage — especially when it means standing up to someone as powerful as Rupert Murdoch who owns one of the biggest movie and television companies. So it’ll be interesting to see how far actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant take their lawsuits charging that Murdoch papers hacked their phone conversations. There’ve been a few developments this week in those cases: The FBI plans to talk to Law about his suit last week alleging that News Of The World based a 2003 story about the actor on hacked phone messages, the BBC reports. The matter could go to U.S. courts because Law says the paper listened to mobile phone messages between him and an assistant made on a domestic network while both were at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. Last month Law’s former girlfriend, Sienna Miller, accepted a $164,000 settlement from NOTW from a different claim that the paper had hacked her phone. Law says that the problems at Murdoch’s newspaper empire weren’t limited to NOTW: Last month he sued the Sun for violating his privacy, alleging that it based four stories in 2005 and 2006 on his secret phone messages. The Sun fired back that Law’s charges are ”deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous” adding that the paper’s investigation found that Law’s claims “have no foundation whatsoever.” That case will go … Read More »

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DONE DEAL: Ashton Kutcher New Star Of ‘Two & A Half Men’ Replacing Charlie Sheen

UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just received word that negotiations have concluded, marking That ’70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher’s return to television after a brief movie career. He is replacing Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men. The deal made sense for series producer Warner Bros which already had an overall with Kutcher’s Katalyst production banner. In fact, an hour later, Ashton announced he was joining the show by tweeting to his 6.7 million Twitter followers: “What’s the square root of 6.25?”

Names like Woody Harrelson, Rob Lowe, John Stamos, and Jeremy Piven circulated in the blogosphere as possible replcements. But until this week, with Deadline’s scoop that the show was in final negotiations with Hugh Grant, there had been nothing concrete going on with any specific actor. Co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre only wanted to continue the show “if he can find the right actor and get excited about that,” sources told Deadline. What mattered most to Lorre was that Sheen’s replacement be “somebody Chuck can work with” after butting heads with Charlie for years in a situation that escalated into a very public and nasty feud this spring.

All along insiders at Warner Bros and CBS had been saying that they were going after “an A-lister” as the new star of the top-rated sitcom after Sheen was fired. The feeling was to contract with “an exciting actor who’d never done TV before,” and CBS chief Leslie Moonves especially was encouraging Lorre et al to “swing high”. As one insider told Deadline, “Everybody wants show back and to support Chuck creatively and to do something the advertising community will feel good about. The only issue was whether everyone could get the show up and running and right fast enough to make this fall’s schedule.”

Because Kutcher is both a producer as well as an actor, he has a good reputation as a responsible showbiz professional. Sure, the producers’ top choice, Hugh Grant, would have been a swing for the fences — a real coup that could have bought the aging comedy series another 3 or 4 seasons on the air. By contrast, Ashton, whose movie career went from warm to ice cold in just a few years, is a solid base hit.

PREVIOUS 4 PM: CBS’ Leslie Moonves is loving this media frenzy over Charlie Sheen’s potential replacement on Two and a Half Men. The latest name to enter the rumor mill, that of Ashton Kutcher today, is noteworthy. Like Grant, he has big screen rom-com credentials which could help attract women to watch the show. But he also has multicamera sitcom experience from That ’70s Show that would come in handy. And last but not least, he has 6.7 million Twitter followers. That’s more than the audience for the Two and a Half Men repeat this past Monday. Read More »

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MYSTERY MAN REVEALED: Hugh Grant Almost Replaced Charlie Sheen On ‘Men’

EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE WITH MORE DETAILS, 3:45 PM: We hear that the idea of Hugh Grant as a replacement for Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men was first pitched to CBS boss Les Moonves and CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler about a month ago. After a couple of weeks sorting out the Sheen lawsuit fallout, the two execs blessed the plan and Grant was approached by the producers at Warner Bros. We hear Hugh flew in and had 2 creative meetings. Things were progressing and he had all but a completed deal when he backed out unexpectedly. ‘It was not the money. He didn’t want to do TV because those 24 episodes are a grind and a lot of work. At the end he couldn’t get his head around doing a series.” Another insider tells us that, if Grant committed, “the show could have gotten another 3 to 4 more seasons”.

PREVIOUS FROM NIKKI FINKE: I’ve learned that one-time bad boy Hugh Grant was deep into final negotiations to replace Charlie Sheen as the lead on Two And A Half Men until he pulled out last night at the last minute due to creative differences. Insiders tell me he’d been offered more than $1 million an episode [UPDATE: but Warner Bros sources are now saying it was not that much], which is the sort of $25M-a-year payday Grant doesn’t get from movies anymore. All along insiders at Warner Bros and CBS had been saying that they were going after “an A-lister” as the new star of the top-rated sitcom after Sheen was fired, and Hugh sure fits the bill. (Let me tell you, I would have watched that show!) CBS has been working hard to announce the return of the show and its new star at next week’s upfronts. Maybe Grant will reconsider. Let’s hope. But it’s a decision that will affect not just CBS’ Nielsen ratings and advertising revenue but also billions of dollars of future syndication contracts for Warner Bros Television.

Insiders have been explaining to me that, at first, executive producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre wasn’t sure if he wanted to proceed with the show after Sheen’s implosion. With three successful sitcoms on CBS — Two And A Half Men, Mike & Molly, and The Big Bang Theory — Lorre was enjoying only showrunning two of them. But the problem, and it’s a very nice problem to have, is that there is so much moolah at stake because Two And A Half Men is a multibillion-dollar asset in syndication on terrestrial broadcast stations like the Fox station group, on cable with FX, as well as via multi foreign and DVD deals. The terrestrial contracts called for the stations to have to carry the show as long as Sheen was “of the essence” of each episode. Once Sheen left, the stations could get out of the contract. The hope was and still is that his replacement will be so compelling that the stations will want to continue the contract. Not so with the cable and foreign deals, where Charlie was not “of the essence”, meaning it didn’t matter to the contracts whether Sheen was in the show or not as long as the sitcom’s concept remained similar. This is why everybody have been working so hard to find a replacement, with names like Woody Harrelson, Rob Lowe, John Stamos and Jeremy Piven circulating in the blogosphere. But until now, with Deadline’s news about Hugh Grant, there’s been nothing concrete about actual negotiations going on with any specific actor to replace Sheen. Read More »

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Hugh Grant Takes On Animated Role In Aardman’s ‘The Pirates! Band Of Misfits’

Mike Fleming

Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations announced they’ve set Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey and Ashley Jenson to provide the voices in The Pirates! Band of Misfits, a stop-motion 3D animated pic that will be released March 30, 2012. Aardman’s Peter Lord is directing a script by Gideon Dafoe.

Grant’s character? A bearded pirate captain who is vying for the Pirate of the Year Award. When I got a missive about a Hugh Grant film, I got a little excited. Because he doesn’t work much and his last few films have been underwhelming Hollywood comedies like Did You Hear About the Morgans and Music and Lyrics. This is the guy who owns the British romantic comedy, from Four Weddings and a Funeral to Love Actually (his British prime minister character wears well even if you’ve seen the film 50 times), Notting Hill, About A Boy and those Bridget Jones films. So, great to see Grant working and who wouldn’t want to be a cartoon pirate? But can somebody please lock Grant and Richard Curtis in a room and not let them out until they’ve come up with something in the way of a live action British comedy?

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A 14-Year ‘Gambit’ Finally Provides a Big Payoff For Producer Mike Lobell

Mike Fleming

Production begins today on Gambit, a caper comedy that stars Colin Firth as a London art curator who plans to con England’s richest man into buying a phony Monet painting. To do it, he enlists a Texas steer roper (Cameron Diaz) to pose as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting at the end of WWII. Michael Hoffman is directing, Alan Rickman and Tom Courtenay also star, and it’s Firth’s first big job since winning the Best Actor Oscar for The King’s Speech. And the script was written by Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen. Isn’t Hollywood great, the way these things just magically come together?

Gambit actually took a remarkable 14 years to get to this point, a case study on how impossible it is for producers to succeed without infinite patience and an inability to comprehend the word “no.” These Don Quixote types are the only ones in the moviemaking equation who don’t cash big paychecks through the development process, collecting serious fees only when their movies get made. They have a harder road than ever, because cost-cutting studios have made first-look producer deals an endangered species. After all, producers are bringing them projects anyway. In the case of Gambit, the driving force has been producer Mike Lobell. A seasoned vet who has gotten 14 pictures made — The Freshman, Honeymoon in Vegas and Striptease among them — Lobell … Read More »

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Hugh Grant Turns Tables On UK Journo Phone Hacker

Mike Fleming

Hugh Grant, one of the many celebrities whose phone conversations were tapped and used for UK tabloid fodder, turned the tables. He secretly taped a former journalist from News of the World who tailed him when his car broke down, and then gave Grant a ride after snapping pictures. During the trip, the journo detailed how the recordings were secured and who was involved. Grant went the journalist route, transcribing the dialogue in an article he wrote for The Statesman. I’m told that it’s all legit, and it’s certainly worth a peek.

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Tom Harper To Direct ‘Lost For Words’

EXCLUSIVE: The young British director has just come off directing the This Is England TV series for Channel 4. Working Title is planning to shoot Lost For Words in January. Tom Cruise was going to play the lead at one point after Hugh Grant dropped out. Susanne Bier was set to direct. I’m hearing Working Title is rebooting with a younger cast. Lost For Words follows a movie star approached to star in a film by a Chinese director; after flirting with her translator, he falls for her director. The script is by Richard Curtis and his brother Jamie. Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title, tells me: “We are very excited about taking this back to roots and getting an exciting young director and British cast for a modestly budgeted Richard Curtis and WT romantic comedy.”

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