Again via Twitter, this year’s Oscars host has turned down an offer extended by returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to take the gig again. Seth MacFarlane had already said immediately after the show in February that he wasn’t up to host the 2014 awards ceremony, but after Zadan and Meron re-upped last month in a surprisingly early decision by the Academy, the duo asked him anyway. MacFarlane had been silent publicly until he tweeted today: “Traumatized critics exhale: I’m unable to do the Oscars again. Tried to make it work schedule-wise, but I need sleep. However, I highly recommend the job, as Zadan and Meron are two of the most talented producers in the business. My suggestion for host is Joaquin Phoenix“. Whether he really wanted the job or not, he is plenty busy making his new cowboy comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West as well as working on a Ted sequel. The only question now is what comes next: MacFarlane’s third “please, stop asking me” tweet or somebody actually taking the job. Stay tuned.
First off, congratulations to all writers, producers, actors and agents who landed new series this week. I know it wasn’t easy. Here is Deadline’s annual list of those who excelled at the upfronts. I tried to be inclusive, but if I’ve missed anyone who’s had a banner week, let me know. I’ve also compiled a list of pods and independent producers with multiple broadcast series.
Cougar Town co-creator Bill Lawrence and his Doozer banner had three new series unveiled at the upfronts this week: comedies Undateable on NBC, Surviving Jack on Fox and Ground Floor on TBS. Also, TBS recently renewed Cougar Town for a fifth season.
J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot claimed one of the top new drama series last season with NBC’s Revolution and one of the hottest sophomore shows with CBS’ Person Of Interest. The company is keeping the momentum with two new series orders for next season: Almost Human at Fox and Believe at NBC.
Independent producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment received two new series orders from the broadcast networks: Back In The Game at ABC and Friends With Better Lives at CBS. Additionally, his freshman ABC comedy The Neighbors was renewed and his ABC pilot Bad Management is in serious contention for a series pickup. Kaplan also received two cable series orders in the past month, for Chasing Life on ABC Family and Instant Mom on NickMom, and also has comedy series Wendell & Vinnie on Nick at Nite and pilot HR at Lifetime.
Writer-producer Julie Plec also landed two new series this week, both at the CW: She wrote/executive produces the planted Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals and executive produces The Tomorrow People. Additionally, she executive produces TVD, giving her three series on the air next season. (Fellow Tomorrow People executive producer Greg Berlanti has two, including returning CW hit Arrow.)
BREAKING: Universal Pictures has formalized the much-expected arrangement to co-finance with Media Rights Capital and distribute worldwide Seth MacFarlane’s Western comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West. The studio has also set a May 30, 2014, North American release date. MacFarlane directs, produces and co-wrote the film and he plays sheep farmer Albert alongside a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Neil Patrick Harris. Scott Stuber and Jason Clark are producing with MacFarlane, who wrote the script with Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin. They along with Universal and MRC are responsible for the global juggernaut Ted.
He produces and voices a good chunk of Fox’s Sunday animation block but Seth MacFarlane has never been on The Simpsons until now. The multitasking MacFarlane will make his debut on TV longest running scripted series’ season finale on May 19. He will guest voice as “Ben,” a married man who Marge gets to know online on a swingers site. Lisa Lampanelli is also guest voicing on The Simpsons’ one-hour Season 24 ender. Oscar host and The Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show creator, EP and voice actor MacFarlane joins a long long line of exalted Simpsons guest stars including Thomas Pynchon, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Buzz Aldrin, John Waters and News Corp boss himself Rupert Murdoch, who appeared in Season 10.
Today’s first-ever Academy membership meeting was deemed a success by both Acad President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson, as well as a random sampling of several members with whom I spoke immediately following. Certainly the turnout was stellar with the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre (which has about 1000 seats) nearly full with members only (no guests) which Koch told me was the first time since it was built that the audience was near-SRO with only Academy members. Koch says New York and Bay Area venues were also well-attended which bodes well for continuing this as an annual event. “On a scale from one to ten, I give it a twelve”, said Koch who according to several attendees I talked to got lots of plaudits from those who asked questions in the audience. ”We’ll hear from our members. But in that room there was a lot of love for this event. I don’t think there has ever been an occasion where we just invited members. It was historic in that way. This kind of came out of the branch mixers we have done, and people asked about doing something cross-branches which was sort of the impetus for this meeting”, Hudson told me in a joint call with Koch shortly after the 12:35PM (PT) conclusion of the event.
Listen to (and share) episode 23 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Our awards columnist and host David Bloom talk about the call the Motion Picture Academy made to Seth MacFarlane to host the 2014 Oscars; what makes a major film studio now that Lionsgate has joined the $1 billion box-office club; and the highlights of this weekend’s TCM Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood. They also preview the week’s movie debuts, including Michael Bay‘s “small” film Pain & Gain, the big mystery that is The Big Wedding and two indie winners in Mud, featuring Matthew McConaughey, and the Oscar-nominated dramatized version of Kon-Tiki.
UPDATE, 12:12 PM: After an initial denial, Deadline can now confirm that Seth MacFarlane did indeed get a call about returning as host of next year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards but has not given an answer yet. The big problem for MacFarlane, we are told by highly reliable sources, is his already full plate with a new Western comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West, going into production soon as well as initial work on Universal’s sequel to Ted, which has amassed a worldwide gross of over half a billion dollars and is obviously a priority for the studio.
Despite saying after this year’s Oscars that he wouldn’t consider coming back, MacFarlane is mulling the offer but at this point isn’t sure he has the time to do it. For the 85th Oscar show, he was closely involved for four months, and that is a big-time commitment. The Academy, returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and MacFarlane’s PR reps aren’t commenting so far, and neither is Academy president Hawk Koch.
MacFarlane’s comic Western film is being produced by the Ted team of Media Rights Capital and producers Scott Stuber and Jason Clark. MacFarlane, who directs, co-writes with Ted and Family Guy colleagues Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, also stars as a bumbling sheep farmer in the comedy said to be in the vein of Blazing Saddles. Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Giovanni Ribisi co-star.
PREVIOUSLY, SATURDAY PM: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron aren’t talking yet (an Academy spokesperson said they are too busy at the moment producing their History Channel production of Bonnie And Clyde). But after the surprise announcement this week that they would be returning to produce the 2014 Oscar show, gossip blogs like HuffPo and others started spreading the obvious rumor that their handpicked — and controversial — 2013 Oscar host Seth MacFarlane already has been asked to do the gig again next year. Not true at all, Deadline has learned from MacFarlane’s reps. And shortly after the 85th Oscar show was over MacFarlane himself swore off any ambition to do the show again next year – or ever (of course never say ever). So with the false rumors out of the way let’s discuss what is true about the Academy’s Zadan/Meron play this week.
Even as much of the industry was in Las Vegas at CinemaCon for the past few days (including myself) seeing snippets of films still in production that could possibly turn up as Oscar contenders, the normally rigid Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences surprised us all by announcing 2013 show producers Zadan and Meron would be returning to produce the 2014 show as well, 11 months from now. Normally this is the first duty of an Academy President to choose after elections are held in August, and since current one-term President Hawk Koch will not be that person, it was quite unexpected to see him delivering this news in April, just a month and a half after the last show and before a new President would have any say in the matter, something Nikki specifically expressed shock at in her story on Tuesday.
After talking to numerous Academy insiders and board members this week who were directly involved in the process that led to this early bird choice, the word that comes up over and over is “continuity”. Other awards shows such as the Tonys, Grammys and even Emmys tend to go back to the same producers year after year, but as one former Academy President told me the Oscar show producing chores have lately been done “trial by fire”. Since the late Gil Cates produced his 14th and final Oscarcast in 2008, there has been a new team of producers every single year. The Board, which I am told was very much behind this decision, agreed that “continuity”, the kind they had in the Cates era, is important. That’s another reason the Academy has already announced show dates for both 2014 and even 2015 quelling any speculation the Oscars would move any earlier than the last Sunday in February (due to the Winter Olympics the 2014 show will be a week later on March 2).
Seth MacFarlane Rips Edited ‘Family Guy’ Clip That Depicts Boston Marathon Bombings; Original Episode Pulled
Fox has pulled the recent episode from its Fox.com and Hulu that depicted mass deaths at the Boston Marathon, and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is peeved that an edited clip from the episode is circulating that makes it appear there was a bomb attack at the marathon — much like the real events that occurred yesterday that killed three and wounded hundreds at the marathon’s finish line. A Fox spokesperson confirmed that it has pulled the episode, which is titled “Turban Cowboy” and first aired last month, was pulled down today. YouTube also has marked some of the edited clips and discussions about the issue as “being potentially offensive or inappropriate”. In the actual episode, Peter Griffin is asked by Bob Costas about his performance in the marathon, and a flashback reveals Peter driving his car in the race, hitting runners as he goes (not that that isn’t offensive or inappropriate in its unedited form). “I’ll tell ya, Bob, I just got in my car and drove it,” Griffin says. “And when there was a guy in my way, I killed him.” Later in the episode, Peter gets friendly with a terrorist who, unbeknownst to him, is plotting to blow up a bridge. When Peter dials a cell phone the friend gave him, explosions and screams are heard off camera. The edited clip puts the two scenes together, making it appear as if the explosions came …
Speculation has been swirling this Easter holiday weekend in the media and among Academy types just exactly what the Save The Date for the “special event” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just sent out to their members (in an email from President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson) actually means. In a highly unusual move for the Acad the organization is holding a general membership meeting for its approximately 6000 members on May 4. The bi-coastal event taking place simultaneously in L.A., NY and San Francisco at 10AM (PT) and 1PM (ET) is titled “The Future Of Our Academy” and will include questions and conversation among those attending either in L.A. or likely via satellite hookups in the other two cities from what I understand. The actual specifics are being worked out and will be detailed later but clearly the Academy wanted to get this on the out there now for planning purposes. Officially the Acad is mum on any of this except to acknowledge it is happening.
Since the Academy is prominently using the word “future” in promoting this fairly unprecedented event to its elite membership we can probably assume it will not be a post-mortem on the recent – and controversial - Oscar show hosted by Seth MacFarlane which drew strong ratings but a highly mixed response inside and out of the Academy. One member who showed me his “save the date” on his iphone yesterday described …
Seth Green, who has voiced Chris Griffin in all but one episode of Seth MacFarlane’s animated series Family Guy, is teaming with MacFarlane again. He’s now been set as the other lead in Dads, Fox‘s six-episode multi-camera comedy series. The project is from Ted‘s Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild and MacFarlane and centers on two successful guys in their 30s, Eli (Green) and Warner (Tommy Dewey), who have their lives turned upside down when their nightmare dads (Peter Riegert, Martin Mull) unexpectedly move in with them. Green’s Eli is a man who hasn’t grown up but who built a successful video game business with Warner. Brenda Song and Tonita Castro also co-star in the pilot. Green, also part of the braintrust behind Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken, is repped by UTA and Koopman Management.
EXCLUSIVE: Add Giovanni Ribisi to A Million Ways To Die In The West, the next film to star and be directed by Seth MacFarlane. Ribisi reteams with MacFarlane, who is once again teamed in this venture with Media Rights Capital, which finally rode in a big winner when it backed MacFarlane’s last film, Ted, the foul mouthed stuffed bear comedy that has now grossed over $543 million worldwide. Universal is expected to become the distributor of the Western, after releasing Ted. MacFarlane wrote the script with Ted and Family Guy cohorts Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, and Scott Stuber and Jason Clark are producing. They were producers on Ted with MacFarlane and John Jacobs.
Are the Oscars moving even later into March next year? All signs say ‘yes’ and the Academy would be wise to announce this sooner than later.
Despite annual (and always wrong) media speculation (including a recent column in a well-known show biz trade) that the Academy Awards are planning to move a month earlier into January insiders have repeatedly told me the Academy’s Board has no taste for that, and as at least one former top officer in the organization told me over the weekend, contractually they can’t do it.
Though they haven’t yet announced any dates for the next Oscar race, the schedule of the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia February 7 through the 23rd puts a big crimp in any plans to keep the Oscars even on in its current berth on the last Sunday of February where it would run smack into the Closing Night ceremonies. In the past when this has come up the Academy has always moved the Oscar show to the first Sunday in March which would be on the 2nd next year. Quite frankly there is nowhere else for the show to go. Do the math.
With the Super Bowl already claiming Sunday February 2nd and the Olympics taking the remaining three Sundays, the earliest date available would be January 26th and every source with whom I have spoken tells me that is the date CBS is claiming for the Grammys next year (moving two weeks earlier than their February 10, 2013 date). Also getting the message are the major show biz Guilds which have all already staked out their 2014 dates and sprayed the territory.
The debate rages on about this year’s Oscars. Not about the movies that won or lost, but the host. Poor Seth MacFarlane just can’t seem to catch a break. If you believe what you read he is either a misogynist, a gay basher, an anti-Semite hiding behind a stuffed teddy bear, or someone who is just downright disrespectful to Abraham Lincoln. And you thought hosting the Oscars was going to be all fun and glamour?
Somewhere along the way we seem to be losing our sense of humor. It’s just an awards show, folks. Even if you don’t think he was funny — and apparently many don’t — it’s no reason to completely eviscerate the guy. For fronting a show that was alternately class (Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, musical numbers) and crass, he has been getting bashed from the right and the left for his Oscar-night performance where his routines, among many other charges, have been blasted as sexist (particularly for the musical number, “We Saw Your Boobs” which was meant to be a tasteless parody of a bad Oscar song number). For MacFarlane, who is known for edgy humor, this was relatively mild material. Yet critics like Amy Davidson in the New Yorker called it his “ugly, sexist, racist Oscars” and his performance, “a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane”. Ouch. The Anti-Defamation League joined the chorus earlier this week protesting the appearance of MacFarlane’s Ted and what they said was anti-Semitic humor. Yesterday a couple of California female legislators even filed a formal protest with the Academy over what they saw as offensive treatment of women.
It’s ironic that several women are now coming to MacFarlane’s defense, including Victoria A. Brownworth today at the Advocate.com, who said his humor was pointing out Hollywood hypocrisy against women and in fact gave his performance a ringing endorsement. The Academy itself got pro-active in sending press members positive statements about MacFarlane’s Oscar gig, offering a strong defense. All of this brings up the point that perhaps a “double standard” was at work here when compared to the media’s effusive praise for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the two female hosts of this year’s rival show the Golden Globes — even though some of their comedy bits dealt with some of the same subject matter as MacFarlane’s including women’s difficulties with issues of weight. So is there a real double standard at work? Fey and Poehler gets raves, MacFarlane gets vilified.
The Academy leadership may have felt pretty good about the Oscars’ boost in ratings over the 2012 and 2011 ceremonies, but plenty of other folks weren’t too happy with Seth MacFarlane’s hosting. California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, both Democrats who lead the Legislature’s women’s caucus, have written Academy President Hawk Koch and requested that the organization disavow MacFarlane’s behavior. “On Oscar night, when Hollywood seeks to honor its best, Seth MacFarlane’s monologue reduced our finest female actresses to caricatures and stereotypes, degrading women as a whole and the filmmaking industry itself,” the lawmakers wrote. “From topical jabs about domestic violence to singing about ‘boobs’ during a film’s rape scene, Seth MacFarlane crossed the line from humor to misogyny.” Author and award-winning creator of HBO’s Girls Lena Dunham wasn’t pleased either. In tweets she suggested that critics who claim Anne Hathaway hurt the feminist “cause” should save their “bad attitudes for the ones who aren’t advancing the cause” who “aren’t always, or mostly, women. Case in point: I saw your boobs“.
Related: Nikki Finke’s 2013 Oscars Live Snark
MacFarlane wasn’t the only source of complaints. The always closely watched “In Memorium” homage to people who have died over the past always leaves people out.
The reviews were a bit less than mixed for Seth MacFarlane‘s turn as Oscar host Sunday, with our own Nikki Finke saying during her live-snark “He really is The Worst Oscar Host Ever”. If his answer to a fan on Twitter today is any indication, he isn’t planning a do-over: @SethMacFarlane Would you host the #Oscars again if asked? // No way. Lotta fun to have done it, though. Here’s a better question: If the Academy pulls a Golden Globes and invites MacFarlane back anyway — a la Ricky Gervais — should he say yes?
Even as tonight’s Governor’s Ball was winding down, Ben Affleck was still off in a corner of the room celebrating his Argo‘s most unlikely Best Picture victory in becoming only the second film in 80 years to win the top prize without even a nomination for its director. Affleck’s roller coaster ride has been remarkable this season and as he told me earlier this weekend, and tonight after the Best Pic triumph, it has been filled with hills and valleys, but it all came together at the Dolby Theatre when First Lady Michelle Obama (from the White House) opened the envelope and announced his film as the winner.
Related: Nikki Finke’s Oscar Live-Snark
When he was left off the list of Directing nominees on January 10th he said he was really depressed, but that same night he won the Critics Choice Movie Award as Director and Best Picture, then the Golden Globe three days later, then the PGA, SAG, DGA, WGA and BAFTA honors to name a few. Suddenly Argo was the one to beat and it never wavered. Affleck’s emotional acceptance was heartfelt and perfectly described the personal journey of this actor turned first-rate director. And his acknowledgement of Steven Spielberg from the stage was a nice touch. He won, with Matt Damon, for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Good Will Hunting, but this was different as Affleck told me and he was going to savor this moment as long as he could before moving on into the night. It was the same for Argo’s winning screenwriter Chris Terrio who also was hanging late at the Govs Ball even though he had to catch a flight back to his New York home where he is currently writing a new script based on the Greengrass story. As he was just exiting the Ball at the Hollywood and Highland Grand Ballroom, he told me someone gave him advice that he should just try to enjoy this moment first. He seemed to have a hard time soaking it in, but he was going to give it at least this one night before getting back to work.
Argo, after vitually a clean sweep of awards season since the directing snub (which in retrospect could not have hurt), won a respectable three Oscars (also for Editing and Adapted Screenplay), tying Les Misérables for that number of Oscars. But the big winner of the night (if you can call it that) was 20th’s risky box office success Life Of Pi which nabbed four statuettes including a biggie, Best Director for Ang Lee. Had Affleck been nominated, he likely would have won since Best Picture and Director usually go hand in hand, but for whatever reason in a year with an embarrassment of riches it somehow seems totally appropiate that there was a split and Lee was given this award. If anything, Life Of Pi was a directorial achievement like no other and this Oscar was acknowledgement of that. In fact, right after Affleck was snubbed, I predicted Lee would take it, and in the last couple of weeks it was apparent a tide was building for him among Academy voters. It became one of the easiest calls of the night despite the fact that many pundits were calling it for Lincoln‘s Steven Spielberg. At the Govs Ball, Lee, who has won two previous Oscars (for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Director for Brokeback Mountain), told me this one means as much or probably more because of the extreme challenges Pi provided. He was clearly thrilled with it and I told him he becomes the first director since George Stevens in the 50s with A Place In The Sun (1951) and Giant (1956) to win two Best Director Oscars for two films that did not win Best Picture, a rare occurence.
Seth MacFarlane sang, danced, and joked his way through the Oscars on Sunday night in his hosting debut with the help of Channing Tatum, Charlize Theron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Radcliffe, and William Shatner. The show’s 15-minute opening saw everything from a futuristic visit from Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner) to a song naming A-list actresses who’ve bared it all onscreen. (The Oscars telecast also plugged MacFarlane’s Best Song nominee Ted with a staged bit starring Mark Wahlberg and his furry co-star.) And just when the nearly four-hour telecast was all over, MacFarlane and Kristin Chenowith tacked on one last musical ode dedicated to the night’s losers. Watch all the comedic Oscar clips here:
William Shatner interrupts MacFarlane’s opening monologue from the future:
MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” opening song:
Mark Wahlberg and Ted’s appearance on this year’s Oscars presenting the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing awards may have only lasted nine minutes, but it was months in the making, I’ve learned. The decision to have the blockbuster hard-partying talking bear as part of the Oscarcast with his big screen co-star was made soon after Ted director Seth MacFarlane was named host of the 85th Academy Awards in October. MacFarlane and Oscar producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan approached Ted distributor Universal Pictures to pay for the high-tech appearance, to which the studio quickly agreed. “It’s a great platform for us and makes total promotional sense with a Ted 2 in the making,” an insider told me of the studio dolling out the cash. Wahlberg signed on immediately last fall after a call from his co-star MacFarlane.
After that, MacFarlane asked Ted co-writer Wellesley Wild to put the script together for the segment. The Oscar host himself then tweaked it, sources tells me. Just like when Ted appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! last December, the movie’s producer Jason Clark took over putting everything together. Tippet Studios’ Blair Clark, who also did the visual effects on the movie, oversaw the 3D animation/motion capture. The segment you saw tonight was actually taped in mid-January. People in the Dolby …