The Television Academy has delayed the Emmys voting schedule and banned all “for your consideration” events. The Tony Awards have been postponed. And with the global economy tanking, a big chunk of Hollywood out of work and a pandemic disrupting nearly every facet of everyday life, the Oscar season that would normally kick into high gear in September may well be thrown into chaos.
While movie awards obviously don’t occupy a spot very high on anybody’s priority list at this point, the damage could include the number of films that qualify for awards, the opportunities for contending films to be seen and the ways in which awards season itself will play out.
“This is a situation no one could have imagined,” Film Independent President Josh Welsh told TheWrap. “It’s having unparalleled impacts on filmmakers, festivals and our community as a whole.”
Kathleen McInnis, who programs film festivals and consults with independent filmmakers on release and awards strategy, compared the pitfalls to a favorite movie.
“It’s a dangerous position for everybody,” she said. “I feel like in ‘The Princess Bride,’ when they wander into the Fire Swamp with all sorts of dangers. I think we’re either about to run into flame spurts or lightning sand or be attacked by rodents of unusual size.”
Here are some possible areas that could be dramatically affected, with the caveat that things are clearly in flux on every front.
1. ELIGIBILITY RULES
Film Independent, which produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, moved immediately to change its eligibility rules so that films would qualify for consideration simply by being chosen for one of several film festivals, whether or not those festivals actually took place. (More than 200 films have now qualified even though their SXSW, New Directors/New Films and Tribeca premieres were canceled.)
The Golden Globes followed suit, suspending two rules to allow films that lost their theatrical premieres to qualify, and substituting screeners and links for the HFPA screenings that once were required. And other awards shows, including the Critics’ Choice Awards, have told TheWrap that they are studying the landscape and determining if they need to make their own rule changes.
For its part, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement that said, in part, “We are in the process of evaluating all aspects of this uncertain landscape and what changes may need to be made.” The organization’s Board of Governors is due to consider vote on new Oscar rules in April; the current rules require a seven-day theatrical run in Los Angeles County for a film to be eligible for the awards.
And according to the South by Southwest Film Festival, the Oscars already made an exception for that festival, which was canceled but still convened juries and gave out awards. A SXSW spokesperson said that the festival was assured by the Academy that its short-film winners still qualified for the Oscars in those categories, even though the festival did not take place.
2. FESTIVAL PREMIERES
Of last year’s 39 Oscar-nominated feature films, for example, 25 first played at film festivals. Three, all documentaries, premiered at Sundance, one at South by Southwest, seven at Cannes (including Best Picture winner “Parasite”), four at Venice, three at Telluride, five at Toronto, one at the New York Film Festival and one at the AFI Fest.
So far this year, Sundance took place but SXSW was canceled and Cannes was postponed, with no way to know if can actually take place in the late June/early July time slot it is eyeing. Given the cancellation of the 2020 Olympic Games, which was scheduled to begin in late July, it seems unlikely: “Everybody in the industry is thinking, ‘How can they possibly go on in June?'” one festival veteran admitted.
An awards consultant who has used Cannes to premiere Hollywood films thinks the major studios will stay away even if the festival does go on. “Who’s going to want to go there in June or July?” the consultant said of the festival that last year launched Sony’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and Paramount’s “Rocketman.” “I understand that they’d still get international films, but the studios aren’t going to want to go there this year.”
If Cannes is moved, it will disrupt other festival schedules — and if does ends up being canceled, the likeliest destination for many of its films would be the Venice Film Festival in late August and early September. But with the entire country of Italy on lockdown, is that festival any more apt to take place than Cannes is?
What’s more, Venice simply doesn’t have the capacity to absorb significantly more films. That would push additional films to the Toronto International Film Festival, which has been undergoing internal changes and has tried to trim its enormous slate in the past few years, and the New York Film Festival, which typically programs the cream of earlier festivals with no more than three high-profile world premieres of its own.
Another factor is that Cannes helps countries identify the best films to submit to the Oscars’ Best International Film category. Out of last year’s entries from around the world, 15 were films that had screened in Cannes, including three of the five nominees: France’s “Les Misérables,” Spain’s “Pain and Glory” and the Oscar winner, South Korea’s “Parasite.” And with an Oct. 1 deadline in this category (at least for now), the submissions have to be made earlier than other categories.
“What’s happening with the festivals has to change awards season,” McInnis said. “It has to. For so many films, especially documentaries and short films, you use the festival circuit to your advantage, to have people track you and to build excitement and energy. What do you do now? How do you engineer awareness and excitement about titles and move them in front of people who make decisions about awards?”
3. RELEASE SCHEDULES
Assuming that U.S. movie theaters are open in the fall and release schedules are restored, though, more mainstream movies could be released at that time, making what might be a constricted theatrical market more challenging for indies and awards movies. McInnis calls it “a snowball effect,” as films whose spring and summer festivals were canceled will end up competing with films that were always planned for the fall, films that were shifted from summer to fall and films whose production was halted, but who managed to finish in time for 2020 releases. “There will be all these pipelines of films literally falling over each other to get to an audience,” she said.
Waiting for later in the year, another executive speculated, might be a better move this year: “I think November and December releases will have a better chance, because if we’re lucky, they’ll be coming out when things are righting themselves.”
Of course, this assumes that those end-of-year movies can actually be finished in time to meet their current release dates. One studio executive pointed out that while editing can be done in isolation, with an editor and director sharing work without being in the same room, one of the final stages is often recording the film’s musical score — and in most cases, that requires an orchestra sitting in close quarters and playing together.
The question now is how much of that will return, and whether the coronavirus fallout will hasten the Academy’s move to its members-only streaming platform. One potential change could be to the Oscars’ international category, where until now members could only vote in the first round after seeing the films in theaters. That may well change if people are still reluctant to congregate in the fall.
“I know they are delaying official screenings, thinking about VOD and streaming lending an assist,” one Academy member said, noting the high stakes since the awards broadcast is by far the Academy’s largest source of income. “They have to find a way to make the show viable.”
(According to its 2019 financial statement, the organization received $131 million from “Academy Awards and related activities,” about $3.6 million from membership dues and theater rentals, $12 million from net contributions and $23 million from investment income.)
During the days of isolation, the Academy has also been very active on social media, but some members are hoping for more activity on the members’ site. “I’m surprised the Academy portal is not showing movies and doing its own festivals,” one voter said.
“I think it will change for a while,” said Christine La Monte, an Academy member and movie producer who frequents campaign events, particularly for international films. “People might be a little more hesitant at first, but maybe it’ll go back to normal. The need to be with your creative community may eventually outweigh other things.”
Still, few people expect the upcoming season to be as much of a social whirlwind as Oscar season usually is — and some expect the tenor of the campaigns to be more subdued as well.
“The big question is how do you campaign respectfully?” asked one studio executive who has been in the thick of awards campaigns for years. “How do we support our filmmakers while being respectful of everything that is going on? From our perspective, it’s definitely going to change. It might take some of the competitiveness out of awards season. Things might not be as vocal or as competitive.”
Of course, at this point this is all speculation — it’s clear that things will be different, but the ways in which they’ll change depend on so many outside factors. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen, to be honest,” another awards consultant said. “If things get back to normal this summer, we may still be under some sort of social distancing protocol in the fall.”
Added McInnis, “Usually, when there are things that stop the process, you can see the end. With this, we have no end in sight. The unknown is really unknown.”
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www.thewrap.com | 4/2/20
Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” has been acquired by Grand Central Publishing — a division of Hachette Book Group — and will be published on April 7.
“The book is a comprehensive account of his life, both personal and professional, and describes his work in films, theater, television, nightclubs, and print,” Grand Central Publishing announced on Monday. “Allen also writes of his relationships with family, friends, and the loves of his life.”
Allen’s book had previously struggled to find a publisher to acquire the rights. Last year, the New York Times reported that executives at four of the major publishing houses turned down the book in light of allegations that he had molested his daughter Dylan Farrow several years ago. (Allen has repeatedly denied the accusation.)
Amazon Studio’s four-movie deal with Allen was also axed after the streaming service halted the release of “A Rainy Day in New York” due to comments that Allen had made about the #MeToo movement, as well as the accusations against the director himself. Allen filed a $68 million suit against Amazon Studios over the termination of the deal last year but eventually dropped it in November.
Grand Central Publishing has the world rights for the autobiography. In addition to the U.S. release, “Apropos of Nothing” will be published this spring in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
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www.thewrap.com | 3/3/20
A recent television broadcast in Spain was reportedly hijacked to instead stream an interview that Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont had given to a Russian news agency.
www.foxnews.com | 12/19/19
The “Game of Thrones” fandom got good news and bad news this week in the form of one killed-off, untitled prequel pilot, starring Naomi Watts, and one straight-to-series order for spinoff “House of the Dragon.” And while we have many, many, many questions about the show that’s moving forward, which is centered on House Targaryen, we still have one burning query about the now-dead pilot: Why did HBO decide to scrap it?
And we’re sorry to say that even George R.R. Martin himself doesn’t know.
“As exciting as the series order is, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the bad news,” Martin wrote on his “Not a Blog” blog Wednesday. “HBO also announced that it has decided not to proceed with the other successor show we had in development, the one I kept calling THE LONG NIGHT (though it was, and remains, officially untitled), the pilot for which was shot in Northern Ireland last spring and summer. Set thousands of years before either GAME OF THRONES or HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, and centered on the Starks and the White Walkers, the untitled pilot was written by Jane Goldman, directed by S.J. Clarkson, and starred Naomi Watts, Miranda Richardson, and a splendid cast. It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series. Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her.”
“I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON,” the “A Song of Ice & Fire” author continued. “This was never an either/or situation. If television has room enough for multiple CSIs and CHICAGO shows… well, Westeros and Essos are a lot bigger, with thousands of years of history and enough tales and legends and characters for a dozen shows. Heartbreaking as it is to work for years on a pilot, to pour your blood and sweat and tears into it, and have it come to nought, it’s not at all uncommon. I’ve been there myself, more than once. I know Jane and her team are feeling the disappointment just now, and they have all my sympathy… with my thanks for all their hard work, and my good wishes for whatever they do next.”
As for the prequel that HBO is moving forward with, “House of the Dragon,” that series is co-created by Martin and “Colony” co-creator Ryan Condal. The 10-episode spinoff is based on Martin’s “Fire & Blood” book, and takes place 300 years before the events of the original “Game of Thrones,” which ended its eight-season run earlier this year.
Its story will center on House Targaryen, the family that Emila Clarke’s Daenerys belonged to, along with her brother Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and nephew Aegon Targaryen a.k.a. Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
Miguel Sapochnik — who directed several fan-favorite episodes of “GoT,” such as “The Long Night,” “Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome” — and Condal will serve as co-showrunners on the series and executive produce alongside Martin and Vince Gerardis. Sapochnik will direct the pilot and additional episodes.
“Ryan Condal has already done a considerable amount of writing on HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, but a lot of work remains ahead of us,” Martin said. “There’s a writer’s room to be assembled, episodes to be broken down and scripted, a cast and crew to be assembled, budgets and production details to be worked out. As yet, we don’t even know where we will be shooting… though I expect we will revisit at least some of the countries David & Dan used for GAME OF THRONES (Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Croatia, Morocco, Malta, and Spain).”
Martin says he expects “to be involved in all of this to some extent… and, who knows, if things work out, I may even be able to script a few episodes, as I did for the first four seasons of GAME OF THRONES.”
Wait, don’t you need to first finish writing …
“But… let me make this perfectly clear… I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER,” he continued. “Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episodes of HOUSE.”
Oh OK, good.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/31/19
Netflix is out with its list of everything new coming in October, and everything that’s leaving the streaming service throughout the month.
Highlights include “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” on Oct. 11, which follows fugitive Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) as he runs from his captors, the law and his past, and Paul Rudd’s existential comedy “Living with Yourself,” in which a spa treatment promising to make him a better person ends up creating a second, better version of himself.
On Oct. 25, Eddie Murphy’s feature “Dolemite Is My Name” finds the comedy legend portraying the real life Rudy Ray Moore, described as “a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.”
Also new next month are Meryl Streep’s “The Laundromat” on Oct. 18, “Raising Dion” on Oct. 4, Selena Gomez’ “Living Undocumented” on Oct. 2, Season 2 of “Insatiable”on Oct. 11 and Season 2 of “The Kominsky Method” on Oct. 25, Season 3 of “Big Mouth” and Season 5 of “Peaky Blinders” on Oct. 4.
Movies that are, tragically, leaving Netflix throughout the month are Greta Gerwig’s “Frances Ha,” “In Bruges” starring Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson,” and the early 2000s teen-classics “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and its sequel.
Here is Netflix’s list of everything coming and going in October:
The Water Diviner
The Spooky Tale of Captain Underpants Hack-a-ween — NETFLIX FAMILY
Rhythm + Flow — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Ultramarine Magmell — NETFLIX ANIME
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www.thewrap.com | 9/18/19
ABC’s new primetime summer soap “Grand Hotel” has all the trappings of an ABC primetime soap: murder, intrigue, steamy romance and secret affairs. But it also does something few shows before it have ever done.
Executive produced by Eva Longoria and created by her “Desperate Housewives” and “Devious Maids” collaborator Brian Tanen, “Grand Hotel” takes the classic upstairs/downstairs format and centers it around an affluent, powerful and glamorous Latino family.
“I was obsessed with making sure this wasn’t just going to be developed, that this was going to be on the air,” said Longoria, whose company UnbeliEVAble Entertainment first secured the rights to the Spanish series upon which the show is based. “Iwas a dog with a bone. I was like, ‘This will be on the air.'”
The drama, debuting Monday, transplants the original tale from 20th Century Spain to present-day Miami Beach, where Demián Bichir and Roselyn Sanchez star as the wealthy owners of the last family-owned hotel on the strip. They’re surrounded by their mildly spoiled adult children, the hotel’s rich guests and support staff who struggling just to keep their jobs.
All that makes for a show predominantly populated by Latino actors. And Longoria, who directs and guest stars in addition to producing, made a point of hiring women and people of color in key roles behind the camera as well.
“All of my producing really is with purpose, like, how do I produce with purpose? Why am I doing this show? why this show, why this cast?” Longoria said. “And for me, this show was about doing an upstairs/downstairs show on television where the upstairs were Latino. And that’s something you don’t really get to see, affluent, intelligent, successful Latinos.
“I really thought, ‘Let’s explore this family, what does this family look like on TV?'” she said.
Read TheWrap’s full interview with Longoria below.
TheWrap: Can you first tell me how you came to the project? I know it’s an adaptation of a Spanish series, but how did you come to this adaptation?
Longoria: I fell in love with the Spanish format, and I was like, “I have to adapt this in English. It’s so good, so juicy.” And I became obsessed with it and then I found Brian Tanen who I worked with on “Desperate Housewives,” and “Devious Maids.” He wrote the adaptation, put it in Miami, made it modern day, and it was just so delicious reading from the first script until the end.
I wanted to ask you about working with Brian because I know you’ve worked with him quite a bit. What is it about your working relationship or his writing?
I love his sensibility. He does family drama and really weaves in so much complexity, whether it’s the mystery storyline, or the romance storyline, or the conflict of business. He’s just so layered in his approach to characters and to plots. And he really has that great tone that “Desperate Housewives” had, and “Devious” where it’s dramatic, but it has a little bit of humor in certain places. And it just really makes for good TV.
The original series is a period piece, so how did you guys settle on the decision to kind of make “Grand Hotel” more contemporary?
Well, we decided to make it contemporary the minute I optioned the format. To really bring those themes into modern times and to see how do those they withstand contemporary times: family, love, work, career, children. Those were some really great themes, so we knew we wanted to make it contemporary and relatable at the same time, so that was a lot of fun, really creating this last family-owned hotel in South Beach and giving this, whenever you say it’s not personal, it’s just business. But what happens when the business is the family business? Everything is personal.
Why Miami? How did you decide on that location?
Brian’s from Miami, that’s his hometown, so he knows it well and chose to set it there. He’s the genius that said, “Let’s do a sexy family drama based in Miami,” and we were like, “Great.” Any chance to shoot in Miami, we were like, “Done.”
How much of the series was shot in Miami? Just the pilot?
The pilot shot in Miami, and then we rebuilt the set. We shot [the pilot] at Fontainebleau, and then we rebuilt Fontainebleau in LA on sound stages.
The sets are fantastic.
Amazing. I mean, they’re jaw dropping.
Did you guys look to the original when you were putting together the adaptation? How much do you borrow and how much of it is its own creation?
I think if you’re a fan of the original, you’re going to recognize some characters, and be pleasantly satisfied with finding those characters. And then, I think if you’re not familiar with the original format, you’re going to really find everybody just to be so juicy and complex. Because there are adaptations and new characters that are not in the original. So I would say both, we really leaned into the original series, and then we also at the same time made it new enough for even fans of the original to want to watch.
The show has this large ensemble cast, but it really is anchored by Demian Bichir and Roselyn Sanchez, these two really accomplished actors kind of at the center of the show. Can you talk a little bit about casting those two roles?
Yeah. The head of the family is this patriarch character that is basically the puppet master of everything that happens in the hotel. And we really couldn’t see anybody else doing this role. I mean, a complex man who has secrets, who is navigating some difficult times right now. Not only with the business, but with his family. And Demian really grounded the whole show in this beautiful character, this big patriarch character. And his character is actually not in the original. He’s actually the combination of a couple of characters. Roselyn, I’ve worked with many times before, but Brian Tanen and I worked with her on “Devious.” So when Brian wrote the character of Gigi, he did it with Roselyn in mind. I don’t think anybody can play this character like Roselyn.
And when it came to filling out the rest of the ensemble, did you guys have kind of a vision in mind? What were you looking for?
When it came to casting, the show is based in Miami, so we wanted to authentically represent what Miami would look like. That of course means Latino. And we had some young characters, so really looking at some untapped talent. There’s some great new talent coming. For some of them, this is their first thing they’ve ever done. And just tapping into a different well of talent, into the Latino talent pool. That was exciting. Then we have some veterans like Shalim Ortiz who I’ve worked with before and is just a fantastic actor. Shalim has to be Mateo. Jencarlos Canela played El Rey, who is this King of Miami rapper. I’ve worked with him before, we did “Telenovela” together. And then just rounding out the cast with newcomers and veterans, and balancing it all out.
I also wanted to ask you how you kind of view your role as producer. It’s a position that can vary so much from person to person, and project to project, but with this show, how did you approach that role?
I was obsessed with making sure this wasn’t just going to be developed, that this was going to be on the air. I was a dog with a bone. I was like, “This will be on the air.” All of my producing really is with purpose, like, how do I produce with purpose? Why am I doing this show? why this show, why this cast? And for me, this show was about doing an upstairs, downstairs show on television where the upstairs were Latino. And that’s something you don’t really get to see, affluent, intelligent, successful Latinos. I really thought, “Let’s explore this family, what does this family look like on TV?”
You wear quite a few hats: director, actor, producer. And you’ve taken on quite a few projects, including the CW pilot “Glamorous” just recently. What is it that you look for when you’re taking on new projects?
Well, especially if I’m going to be a director-for-hire, it has to be something that speaks to me. When I directed the “Glamorous” pilot for CW, it was a beautiful world that I didn’t see on TV. We called it a queer utopia, and it had every spectrum of people in that show. The creator, Jordon Nardino, just really, on the page, created this world in which queerness was celebrated. I wanted to be definitely a part of building that out with him. And, again, working with a new talent pool. I mean, a lot of the actors in “Glamorous” were untapped potential. Ben J. Pierce, the lead, is a star just waiting to burst onto the scene. We had Chester Lockhart, who is known in the queer community, and just a great, great actor, great talent. Their stories of their journey in Hollywood, of not getting opportunities that they deserve was heartbreaking. So to have a show that says, “This is me, this reflects me, this reflects my life, this reflects people I know,” that’s what drew me to that project.
And it’s not over. We’re still re-shooting some stuff to see if we can get it to series. Oh my gosh, it’s such an important show. The CW really likes the world, and I think we’re going to make it happen.
That’s great to hear. Last thing, I know you’re going to appear on “Grand Hotel” later this season playing Beatriz, the matriarch character whose absence kind of looms over the early couple of episodes. Can you tease a little bit about the character?
Well, I will tell you, I’m dead.
But really, really dead? It is a telenovela, after all.
I’m dead in the show, yes. You only see me in flashbacks. I’m not in many episodes, but I’m a very important part of the season long mystery. And a lot of questions will be answered. There’s actually a flashback episode later in the season. The whole episode is almost one big flashback, and it really gets to let the audience in as to what did happen with Gigi and Beatriz, and Beatriz and Santiago, and what happened with her kids. And you get to see it all happen.
“Grand Hotel” airs Mondays at 10/9c on ABC.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/18/19
(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Black Mirror” Season 5 episode “Smithereens.”)
On the surface, “Smithereens,” the Season 5 episode of “Black Mirror,” can feel a bit like a departure from the rest of the glossy sci-fi anthology series — for one thing, it takes place in the past — but upon closer inspection, it bears many of the show’s most recognizable hallmarks.
Set in the year 2018, the episode features no futuristic technology or lavish special effects, just a good old-fashioned phone call between two men, played by Andrew Scott and Topher Grace, who both have come to feel a growing sense of isolation in a world ruled by big tech companies, though in two very different ways. And if there’s a common theme running through every episode of “Black Mirror,” it’s the idea that technology, for all its ability to bring people together, can rip us apart and isolate us just as quickly.
“I’m especially drawn to the episodes that are slightly less about the technology and more about emotion, and I thought this episode was that,” Grace told TheWrap. “The thing I loved right away when I first started reading it was the fact that it’s a period piece. It takes place in 2018, and for ‘Black Mirror,’ that’s like the distant past. I thought that was really interesting. And then the character was just delicious.”
Grace’s Billy Bauer is a somewhat pitifully tragic character whose absence — thanks to a 10-day “silence retreat” to contemplate the fact that his company has grown beyond his control — consumes much of the first half of the episode. But much of the episode’s forward momentum comes from Scott’s heartbreaking turn as a man whose grief has become so all-consuming he’s willing to go as far as taking a hostage to force someone to finally acknowledge it.
Scott was already attached to the episode when Grace was offered the part, and as a self-proclaimed fan of both the actor and of “Black Mirror,” Grace jumped at the opportunity. “I’m a huge fan of ‘Sherlock’ and the work Andrew’s done on that,” Grace said. “I mean, there’s no finer actor.”
But in an appropriately “Black Mirror” twist, the two actors never physically shared the same set. Grace’s scenes were shot on a cliffside in Spain, while the bulk of Scott’s performance was delivered in a London field. Their dialogue, over the phone, was spliced together in post-production.
“It’s unbelievable, the work he’s done on this episode,” Grace said of his co-star. “My only regret is that we didn’t get to do it together.”
We talked with Grace about his favorite “Black Mirror” episodes, the inspiration for Billy Bauer, and why he almost shaved his head for the role.
TheWrap: Were you a fan of “Black Mirror” before you signed on to do this episode?
Grace: Oh yeah. Big time.
What was it that made you want to do this episode, and play this character in particular?
I love all “Black Mirrors.” It’s one of my favorite programs, hands down. But I’m especially drawn to the episodes that are slightly less about the technology and more about emotion, and I thought this episode was that. The thing I loved right away when I first started reading it was the fact that it’s a period piece. It takes place in 2018, and for “Black Mirror,” that’s like the distant past. I thought that was really interesting. And then the character was just delicious.
How was Billy described on the page? What in particular jumped out at you?
It’s funny, I had this little bit in “BlacKkKlansman” too, where I was this big part of the movie, but for the first part of the movie everyone’s just talking about the character. That same thing happened here. It’s a little bit nerve-racking as an actor to be turning the pages and hearing so much about your character but you still haven’t met him yet, so there’s kind of a build up. What surprised me was when I started reading the character’s point of view and seeing where he came down on the situation. It just goes to show what a lovely writer [co-creator] Charlie [Brooker] is that he went in a totally different way than I thought [he would] — and, I think, the way the audience watching the episode will think it’s going to go.
Twitter chief Jack Dorsey kind of seems like the obvious connection to make here, but did you look to this group of young tech moguls who are all of a sudden finding themselves in over their heads when you were forming this character?
Yeah, I didn’t use the word “young,” though. They were all young at some point, sure, but they brand themselves that way, these guys, even if they don’t know it. You know what Steve Jobs’ look is. You know what Richard Branson’s look is. They really set themselves apart, and I’m not even sure it’s something they know they’re doing. It probably is, but I don’t know. When I first started, I called Charlie and [co-creator] Annabel [Jones] and said, “I wanted to shave my head bald.” Because they always have a look. They always have something before they’re successful that makes you gravitate to them, and I think that’s something they’re trying to do. In the end, they talked me out of that, plus I was about to do press for “BlacKkKlansman,” which is probably not the best time to have a shaved head. So we landed on the look that he has on the show. It comes from him clearly being in an interesting place in his life where he’s built this thing, this whole image, and it’s become kind of a runaway train.
The first half or so of the episode is Andrew’s character trying to get through to Billy, but there are all these layers of people trying to protect him, or protect the company, at least –
Yeah, I don’t think anybody’s trying to protect Billy. [Laughs.] It’s funny. I was excited to play the character when I thought I knew where it was going. But when it went in a totally different direction, I was like, Man, I have to do this. This is amazing. Only Charlie would write you into a specific place and then take it somewhere else entirely.
But what’s Billy’s motivation there? Why does he decide, after everything else that happened before, actually yeah, I’m going to talk to this guy?
I think a lot of these guys really understand publicity. They show a couple shots of magazine covers and press photos in the episode, so [Billy] clearly knows how to navigate that world and knows how to really stand out. It’s a new thing. Where you haven’t even heard of this guy’s platform and then all of a sudden your whole life is run by that technology and that guy has a hand in every part of your life. Or that company does, at least. And one thing these guys also share besides having that specific look, is they all have this quest for spirituality. I’m not sure if they believed in it in the beginning or if they believe in it now, but I think that they think they do. So Billy’s definitely at an interesting moment in his life. You meet him on this silence retreat, and whether or not it’s real, he believes it is, this moment of crisis that he’s going through.
So much of the episode is driven by Andrew’s performance –
He already had the role by the way, when I received the script. And I’m a huge fan of “Sherlock” and the work Andrew’s done on that. I mean, there’s no finer actor. It’s unbelievable, the work he’s done on this episode. My only regret is that we didn’t get to do it together.
How much were you aware of what he was doing while you were shooting your scenes?
In “BlacKkKlansman,” I also had a lot of stuff on the phone, with John David Washington, but we were set up back to back for those scenes. And we were both on camera at the same time, so we could interrupt each other and connect. I’d never had that experience before. For this, my part was in Spain. They showed me a photo of this house on a cliff, and I thought, ‘Wow, this location is great, it says so much about the character.’ My only misgiving was that I didn’t get to do it with Andrew. But they could not have been more wonderful; I had the most amazing experience on this show. They flew me to London, and I got to see the field and see where the rest of it was taking place, and then James Hawes, who directed it, hired an actor to come with us to Spain and read Andrew’s part. He had watched the other performance and was sort of keyed up to the level Andrew would be at. I really felt so grateful to Charlie and Annabel and James. They didn’t have to do that, but it really helped me match the level he was at.
After that phone call, whatever happens at the end of the episode, what does Billy take away from that conversation? How does he proceed from here?
Oh, well, it’s Charlie’s episode. I wouldn’t want to impose on that. What’s so great about what they do is they let it be more ambiguous than American television is sometimes. So I wouldn’t want to wade into how Charlie would want you to experience it.
Fair enough. “Black Mirror” is the kind of show that seems to invite people to pick and choose their favorite episodes. As a fan, do you have a favorite?
You know a show is working when it’s like trading cards, and people can’t stop talking about their favorite ones. My favorite is “Be Right Back,” which I think is true for a lot of people, the one with Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson. But that one was my first one, and I have a theory that with anthologies like these and like “Twilight Zone,” you’re always chasing that high of the first one you experienced. But I loved “USS Callister.” “Nosedive,” too.
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www.thewrap.com | 6/8/19
Tony Hale and Sophie Turner on the End of ‘Veep’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ TheWrap Emmy magazine: Stars discuss the “liberating and sad” feeling as their HBO juggernauts wrap up By Steve Pond | May 24, 2019 @ 10:34 AM This cover story on Tony Hale and Sophie Turner first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
On the surface, there wasn’t a lot of similarity between “Game of Thrones” and “Veep.” One was set in a mythical land of dragons, sorceresses and brutal warriors, one in a version of today’s Washington, D.C., that seems less absurd with every new headline out of the Oval Office. One’s a drama, one a comedy.
But the shows had a few things in common, too. Both aired on HBO as part of the network’s signature Sunday-night lineup for most of the last decade, and both have won the top Emmy in their category in three of the last four years: “Game of Thrones” in 2015, 2016 and 2018, “Veep” in 2015, 2016 and 2017. (The years they didn’t win in that stretch, they weren’t eligible.)
So we figured it’d be fun to ask Tony Hale, who plays the meek and oft-humiliated “body man” to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer in “Veep,” to do some playacting as King of the North Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones”; and to ask Sophie Turner, the once-meek, now formidable Sansa Stark from “Thrones,” to slip into Selina’s power dress. And then we got them to talk about what it’s like to come to the end of an iconic television series.
Has it sunk in that you won’t be playing these roles anymore?
TONY HALE I think I’m the same way. It’s going to hit me the most in the fall, when we’re not shooting. For now, it comes in waves. The last week of shooting was an emotional tsunami. And when we see each other for press, you get that wave again. We just like each other so much — that’s the problem. I think I’ll probably just go over to each person’s house and spend the night. That’ll make it better.
Let’s compare notes. How emotional was shooting your last scenes?
It was like a four-day marathon of tears. We did a big table read of the last episode, and then I saw Tim [Simons] and Clea [DuVall] crying, and that got me crying. And then Julia gave a speech and we all cried again. And then the last day of shooting, every time somebody would wrap out we’d gather around the monitors. Matt Walsh sang a funny song, like “Celebrate,” but we still cried at that.
And then I was telling Julia, “OK, we’ve gotta keep it together,” but as I’m saying, “Keep it together,” I’m crying.
Was your last scene with Julia?
Sophie, what was your final scene like?
It was like this weird Groundhog Day — you never really wanted it to end, but it was driving you nuts. But toward the end, I could feel it kind of winding down. We would cut, and they would talk amongst themselves, and I would start tearing up, and then they’d be like, “OK, moving on, next setup,” and you’d have to wipe the tears away and be fine again.
When it came to the very final shot, Dave and Dan [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] do this thing where they present each of us with the storyboard of their favorite scene of your character, and then say some lovely words about you in front of the cast and crew. I just broke down crying, and I was inconsolable for three or four hours. It was probably one of the saddest days of my life. And I don’t think I’m done with my crying yet.
“Game of Thrones” and “Veep” are obviously dramatically different shows, but they’re both on HBO on Sunday nights, and on some level they’re both about the quest for power…
Do you feel a kinship between the shows?
HALE I’m a fan of “Game of Thrones,” and I love how opposite the shows are, but how if you really look at the baseline, it’s all about everybody reaching for power. Everybody’s stabbing each other in the back to get ahead, and you also see how meaningless it is. It’s all selfishness and ego.
In our world, there’s a tremendous amount of comedy that can come out of that. In their world, it’s typically a tremendous amount of violence and drama. But it has a similar foundation.
Clearly, there’s a huge difference between your characters: Gary Walsh is maybe even more of a lapdog than he was at the beginning of the series, while Sansa Stark has matured from a timid little girl with fairy tales in her head to a powerful force.
Did either of you have any sense when you started of what was ahead for your character?
We the cast have been watching it along with all the viewers, and having the exact same reactions, just six months ahead of them.
HALE That’s probably what I’m going to miss the most — sitting down for the table read and having the surprise of finding out what’s happening. You would hear hints at the beginning of the season about where your character is going, but you never really know because it morphs so much. Every single table read, I was like, “I cannot believe that he is that dysfunctional. I cannot believe that he is continuing in this abuse.”
You do watch the final season and think, “Will this guy ever not willingly let himself be humiliated?”
Sophie, beginning a show like this at that age must have an enormous impact on every area of your life.
We were treated like adults at a very young age, we had to deal with very sensitive material, and so I learned life lessons on “Game of Thrones.” I learned everything from that show.
Near the end of the season, there was some controversy over Sansa telling the Hound that her rape and imprisonment had made her mature — people took exception to the idea that her assault and mistreatment was somehow responsible for her becoming a strong woman.
It’s a wonderful thing to see a sexual assault survivor grow from that, and see her turn into this political leader she is today — but no, the rape is absolutely not a plot device to make the character seem stronger. The sexual assault made her resilient, but by no means has it made her this wonderful character that we see today. It absolutely broke her, and we saw that on screen. But seeing her thriving is so wonderful to see.
Is there any sense in which either of you are now relieved that it’s over and you can move on?
TURNER Yeah, it’s a liberating feeling, as well as a sad feeling. We have all this time ahead, and it’s a new chapter that we’re moving on to. And that’s something I’m really excited to explore. I’ve only really done drama, so I’m excited to have the time to explore many different genres of filmmaking and behind-the-camera things.
Has it changed what you want to do with your careers from here?
It’s difficult to find characters as well-written as Sansa Stark. But it’s kind of inspired me to start screenwriting, because if you can’t find those roles for yourself, you’ve got to make them for yourself.
HALE It’s also like, the older I get, the more doing it for the wrong reasons kind of fades away. All the ego and all the entitlements that can surround a set, it’s just bulls— that completely sucks the energy out of a room. You just want the kindness and the care for the work and trying to be a team player — that’s the stuff that really matters.
Read more from the Race Begins edition of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/28/19
This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.
The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.
For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.
What exactly is this contest?
That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.
Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.
OK, so how does this contest work?
Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.
And what does the performer with the most points win?
What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.
It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.
If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19
Woody Allen’s film “A Rainy Day in New York” has been picked up for distribution in multiple European, South American and Asian territories, according to the New York Times.
On Monday, TheWrap reported that Italian distributor Lucky Red acquired the film for release in Italy on Oct. 3. The Times notes that A Contracorriente Films will now also release “A Rainy Day in New York” the following day on Oct. 4 in Spain.
A spokesperson told the Times that Filmwelt/NFP will release the film in Germany and Austria, and Filmwelt/NFP’s managing director Christopher Ott said in an interview with a German newspaper that they would be among the distributors bringing the film to Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and South America.
Italian news reports said on Monday said that “A Rainy Day in New York” was also likely to be shown in France, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Allen’s film was blocked for release in the U.S. after distributor Amazon Studios terminated its four-picture deal with the director after the resurfacing of old accusations that Allen inappropriately touched Dylan Farrow, his then-7-year-old daughter with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow. (Investigators found no evidence of abuse and Allen has repeatedly denied the accusations.)
Allen had also announced plans to shoot another film with the backing of Barcelona-based financing conglomerate Mediapro, which previously helped fund “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris.”
“A Rainy Day in New York” stars Elle Fanning and Timothée Chalamet as two young people who arrive in New York and encounter rain and a series of unfortunate adventures. It also stars Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Suki Waterhouse, Liev Schreiber and Diego Luna. Many of the stars of the film, including Chalamet and Hall, agreed to donate their salaries from the film to Time’s Up and LGBT charities.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/9/19
PORT OF Spain – At least 23 people, including two children, are feared drowned after their boat overturned early Wednesday morning off the coast of Venezuela, the Trinidad Express newspaper reported Thursday....
www.nationnews.com | 4/25/19
Eleven months after signing a pledge to help increase the number of films by female directors at international festivals, the Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup that features four films directed by women in the main competition, tying but not breaking the record set in 2011.
The four are Mati Diop with “Atlantique,” Jessica Hausner with “Little Joe,” Celine Schiamma with “Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire” and Justine Triet with “Sibyl.” An additional nine female directors are included in other sections of the festival.
Prior to this year, only 82 women were in the official competition at Cannes, as compared to more than 1,600 men.
The lineup is filled with heavyweight directors whose films have been at Cannes in the past: Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory,” which has already opened in Spain), the Dardenne brothers (“Young Ahmed”), Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”), Ken Loach (“Sorry We Missed You”), Xavier Dolan (“Matthias & Maxime”) and, in one of the biggest gets for the festival, Terrence Malick, who has finished his long-awaited World War II-era film “A Hidden Life” and will return to the festival where he won the Palme d’Or with “The Tree of Life” in 2011.
The lineup gives the annual event one of its most substantial collections of celebrated international auteurs in years — though is it conspicuously missing Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which festival director Thierry Fremaux said is not yet ready to be screened. James Gray’s “Ad Astra,” another film widely touted as a likely Cannes entry, is also not ready, according to Fremaux.
Other films in the main competition include Marco Bellocchio’s “Le Traitre,” Arnaud Desplechin’s “Oh, Mercy,” Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ “Bacurau,” Corneliu Porumboiu’s “The Whistler” and Ira Sachs’ “Frankie.”
Films screening out of competition will include the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” Claude Lelouch’s “The Best Years of a Life,” Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Diego Maradona” and two episodes of Nicolas Winding Refn’s upcoming television series “Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell.”
Additional films will be added to the official selection before the festival begins on May 14.
The official Cannes lineup:
OUT OF COMPETITION
UN CERTAIN REGARD
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www.thewrap.com | 4/18/19
Spain's Socialist leader and incumbent prime minister Pedro Sanchez has agreed to a single television debate with the lead candidates from three other main parties, following controversy over a potential debate appearance by a surging far-right party.
www.foxnews.com | 4/17/19