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Monday, August 6, 2018

Movies

Tom Cruise is gaining on 'James Bond'. Tom Cruise's stock is high again in Hollywood -- his latest "Mission: Impossible" is such a critically lauded blockbuster, some critics said Daniel Craig should be quaking in his tux since Cruise "out-Bonds James Bond." Back in Hollywood, Peter Bart, venerable former Paramount exec and Variety editor, now a columnist for Deadline, pointed out: "Tom Cruise has a right to gloat this week. I will grant him that, because, precisely 10 years ago, all he wanted to do was hide. Cruise once confided to me that one of his abiding rules was to 'stay resilient,' and he's proved his point." A decade ago this month, Cruise was forced to step down as a studio boss at United Artists. Now? "He's a star who can create, finance and promote a franchise." (PageSix)

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon set for movie based on McDonald's Monopoly game scam. Fox is poised to win the hot lit property in the marketplace at the moment, a giant Happy Meal that everyone wanted. Ben Affleck is attached to direct, and Matt Damon to star in a true crime story written by Jeff Maysh and published in The Daily Beast several days ago on an ex-cop who rigged the McDonald's Monopoly game, allegedly stealing over $24 million dollars and sharing it with an unsavory group of co-conspirators who offered kickbacks to the mastermind. The Pearl Street partners will produce, and the "Deadpool" scribes Paul Wernick & Rhett Reese will write the script. Sources said that bidding was ferocious for Maysh's "How An Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald's Monopoly Game And Stole Millions." Lining up to bid were Universal for Kevin Hart, Warner Bros for John Requa and Glenn Ficarra and Steve Carell and producer Andrew Lazar, and Netflix, which bid for producing partners Eric Newman and Bryan Unkeless, Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey, and Todd Phillips. The auction was handled by IPG's Joel Gotler, who repped Maysh. David Klawans, who got rights to the article and exec veep on Affleck's Oscar-winning "Argo," is exec producing. The article opens in 2001 in Rhode Island, as a million-dollar check is delivered to a man who said he'd won the $1 million grand prize after collecting Monopoly pieces attached to food products, defying the 1 in 250 million odds and modeled after the venerable board game that the piece says was invented as a warning about the destructive nature of greed. A camera crew was dispatched to hear how the man won, and they chronicled his series of lies. They were FBI agents closing in on a sting that began with a tip about an "Uncle Jerry," who'd sell stolen game pieces. Solid detective work unearthed Jerry Jacobson, a head of security for a Los Angeles company responsible for generating the game pieces. It led to a wide conspiracy that involved mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, drug traffickers and a family of Mormons who falsely claimed to have won more than $24 million in cash and prizes. Pearl Street veep Madison Ainley brought in the project and will shepherd it for Pearl Street. Matt Reilly will steer it for Fox. Reilly worked with Affleck on "The Town" when he was an exec at Warner Bros. before moving to Fox. IPG brokered the sale, and WME reps Affleck and Damon, and Reese & Wernick. (PageSix)

Seth Rogen says he immediately stepped in when he found out a child actor was put in blackface on the set of the comedy, "Good Boys," which he's producing. TMZ broke the story ... a stand-in for 11-year-old actor Keith L. Williams was wearing brown makeup to darken his skin, and an afro wig during filming last week in Vancouver. Seth says he's "terribly sorry" it happened. He says, "As soon as I was made aware of it, I ensured we put an end to it -- and I give my word that on any project my team and I are involved in, we will take every precaution to make sure something similar does not take place again." As we reported, production sources claimed the makeup was used on the stand-in to match Keith's complexion ... strictly for lighting purposes. If that's true, Seth clearly isn't happy about it. He added, "I'm engaging in conversations to make sure I find the best way to do that. It's on me to be proactive. Reacting isn't enough." (TMZ)

London Film Festival to Close With 'Stan & Ollie'. The film, starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, is getting its world premiere in London. Stan & Ollie, the Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly-starring biopic of one of Hollywood's greatest double acts, Laurel and Hardy, is to get its world premiere as the closing-night film of this year's BFI London Film Festival. The film, directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth, Babylon), will close the curtain on the 62nd edition of the festival on Oct. 21, organizers unveiled on Friday. Written by Jeff Pope (Philomena), Stan & Ollie tells the story of Laurel and Hardy as they journey around the U.K. and Ireland in what would become the pair's triumphant farewell tour. Despite the pressure of a hectic schedule, with the support of their wives Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda) -- a formidable double act in their own right -- the pair's love of performing, as well as love for each other, endures as they secure their place in the hearts of their adoring public. "A truly funny and touching story about a tender life-long friendship, Jon Baird's film is also a must for movie fans, exploring the twilight years of two mega-watt performers who had a meteoric rise to fame," said London Film Festival artistic director Tricia Tuttle. "I'm really proud to be able to give the film its world premiere in London; a city that's so dear to myself and I know was to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy," said Baird. "Stan & Ollie, at its heart, is a love story between old friends, who just happen to be two of the most iconic comedic characters in Hollywood's history." The announcement follows the unveiling last month of Widows, the Steve McQueen thriller, as the opening-night film. The London Film Festival is set to run Oct. 10-Oct. 21. The full program will be unveiled on Aug. 30. (Hollywood Reporter)

John Bailey Expected to Be Re-Elected Academy President. THR's awards columnist reports on state of the board of governors ahead of its upcoming meeting to elect new officers. On Tuesday night, Aug. 7, the 54 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' board of governors will gather inside the board room on the seventh floor of the organization's Wilshire Boulevard headquarters in Beverly Hills, and, under the oversight of their general counsel, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, vote to determine officers for the coming year. John Bailey, the veteran cinematographer who was elected president for the first time a year ago, is expected to be re-elected by the board, probably without having to face any challenger. There's no official campaigning that precedes the board meeting; instead, individual members rise to nominate prospective officers and a vote then takes place. So, even in contested elections, candidates don't formally emerge until the night of the election itself. An incumbent president seeking re-election is almost always granted another term, although there is a faction on the board who feel that Bailey has been resistant to change and who would like to throw their support behind an alternative -- names that have been floated include actress Laura Dern and documentarian Rory Kennedy -- even if it is a symbolic candidacy. But so far no one appears to have confirmed any interest in taking on that role. Bailey, whose credits include the best picture Oscar winner Ordinary People and fan favorites like The Big Chilland Groundhog Day, has a long history of service to the board, from whom officers are selected. The board itself is comprised of three governors from each of 17 branches who each serve staggered three-year terms. (Bailey's wife, Carol Littleton, is also a current board member, representing the film editors branch.) Bailey was first elected to the board in 1996, and then was re-elected in 1999, serving until 2002. After eight years away, he ran again and won in 2010 and was subsequently re-elected in 2013 and once more in 2016. While Academy presidents can serve as many as four, successive one-year terms, governors can serve no more than three consecutive terms, so Bailey will have to step away from the board next year, meaning his presidency would end at the completion of his second year. According to several governors with whom THR spoke, the board is deeply divided. About one-third of the governors see themselves as ideologically aligned with Bailey, another one-third do not and the final third are not firmly in one camp or the other. Bailey's allies on the board appreciate his years of service and include many fellow governors who represent "below-the-line" branches -- craftspeople and artisans who are not household names, but without whom the industry would not function. Collectively, they outnumber the Academy's largest branch, the actors', both in total members and board votes. And over the years, those branches have generally banded together to protect their mutual interests, including keeping the presentation of awards recognizing their respective areas on the Oscars telecast alongside higher-profile categories. In the wake of March's Academy Awards, the lowest-rated Oscars telecast in history, an effort is being mounted by some Academy insiders to have at least a few of those below-the-line awards handed out prior to the live telecast, and to then air highlights of those awards' presentations and acceptance speeches as brief interstitials before or after commercial breaks throughout the live show itself. (That is how many of the less sexy categories are handled on the Tony Awards telecast.) Such a move would undoubtedly make the Oscars telecast shorter and more engaging for the vast majority of TV viewers -- but would also undoubtedly provoke massive resistance from governors representing the below-the-line branches, who expect equal treatment, and who therefore like the idea of having one of their own, like Bailey, at the top of the Academy food-chain. As for Bailey's detractors -- who include some of the governors representing "above-the-line" branches, among others -- they see him as a symbol of the Academy's past: He's an older white man (he will turn 76 on Aug. 10) at a time when the Academy has placed a huge emphasis on increasing its diversity. However, in June, under Bailey's watch, the Academy invited its largest and most diverse class of new members ever. Bailey's first term hasn't transpired without drama. In March, he contended with a complaint of sexual harassment that was lodged against him under procedures that he himself had a role in creating in order to deal with claims against Academy members. That allegation was leaked to the press shortly after it was filed -- but before it could be investigated. After that investigation took place, Bailey was publicly cleared by the board. Other officers who are expected to be re-elected at the upcoming board meeting include first vice president Lois Burwell (of the makeup artists and hairstylists branch), vice president Michael Tronick (film editors), vice president Nancy Utley (public relations), treasurer Jim Gianopulos (executives) and secretary David Rubin (casting directors). In that case, the only current slot that will be up for grabs is one of the vice president positions -- it was held this past year by producer Kathleen Kennedy, but she chose not seek re-election to the board in June. (Hollywood Reporter)

Sorry Pooh: 'Christopher Robin' Won't Get a China Release. A source pinned the blame on China's crackdown on images of the Winnie the Pooh character, which has become a symbol of the resistance with foes of the ruling Communist Party, namely Chinese leader Xi Jinping. For only the second time this year, a Disney movie has been denied release in China. Christopher Robin, a live-action/CGI family film that stars Ewan McGregor, received a no-go from the country's film authorities. No reason was given for the denial, but a source pinned the blame on China's crackdown on images of the Winnie the Pooh character, which is featured in a central role in Christopher Robin. Last summer, authorities began blocking pictures of Winnie the Pooh on social media given that the character has become a symbol of the resistance in China with foes of the ruling Communist Party, namely Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Bloggers have drawn comparisons between the pudgy bear and Xi, which has put the country's censors in overdrive. In June, Chinese authorities blocked HBO after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver mocked Xi's sensitivity over being compared to Winnie the Pooh. But an insider counters that the decision likely has to do with the size and scope of the film given the foreign film quota and the fact that there are several new Hollywood tentpoles in the Chinese market right now. The move won't likely hurt the PG film much at the box office. Christopher Robin is expected to make a solid debut in the U.S. when it opens today, earning between $20 million and $30 million. But it's still a small blow given that other recent movies from Disney's live-action division, like 2014's Maleficent and 2015's Cinderella, have made tidy sums in China ($48 million and $72 million, respectively). Disney put Christopher Robin into development in 2015, long before Winnie the Pooh became a lightning rod for controversy in China. And shooting began on the Marc Forster-helmed film in summer 2017 in the United Kingdom, right around the same time the Chinese Winnie the Pooh crackdown began. The only other Disney film this year to receive a no from China was A Wrinkle in Time. Disney will open Ant-Man and The Wasp in China on Aug. 24 where it will join other Hollywood tentpoles like Skyscraper and Mission: Impossible -- Fallout. (Hollywood Reporter)

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