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John Lasseter Takes Leave of Absence From Disney/Pixar, Apologizes for Unwanted Hugs

10 hours ago

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and one of the most powerful figures in the entertainment industry, acknowledged Tuesday that he had crossed the line with employees. He is taking a six-month leave of absence.

Lasseter sent a memo to staff apologizing for making employees feel disrespected or uncomfortable, Variety has confirmed.

“That was never my intent,” he wrote. “Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form.”

Lasseter is taking a leave as several prominent Hollywood figures are grappling with allegations of sexual harassment. His name has continued to be mentioned privately, with a number of former Pixar employees telling Variety that he has behaved inappropriately and describing a culture »


- Gene Maddaus and Brent Lang

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‘Call Me by Your Name’ Leads Spirit Awards Nominations

12 hours ago

Coming-of-age drama “Call Me by Your Name” has scored six Spirit Award nominations, with “Good Time” and “Get Out” taking five each.

“Lady Bird” and “The Rider” earned four nominations each. The nominations were announced Tuesday morning by Lily Collins, Tessa Thompson and Film Independent chief Josh Welsh at the Jeremy Hotel in West Hollywood.

The awards will be presented on March 3 — the day before the Academy Awards — in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. The show, now is in its 33rd year, will be shown on IFC.

The Spirit Awards are voted on by members of Film Independent and require that the films be produced in the U.S. for less than $20 million. In the last three years, “Moonlight,”  “Spotlight” and “Birdman” have won both the Spirit Award and the Oscar best picture trophies.

Related stories'Get Out,' 'Detroit,' Issa Rae, Jay-z, Mary J. Blige Among Top NAACP Image Award Nominees' »


- Dave McNary

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Tom Hollander Joins Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan in ‘A Private War’

11 hours ago

Tom Hollander has joined the cast of the independent drama “A Private War” opposite Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan with shooting starting this week in Jordan, followed by a move to the U.K. early next year.

The casting was unveiled Tuesday along with Matthew George’s Acacia Entertainment announcing it will produce and finance “A Private War” alongside the Fyzz Facility, which is executive producing.

The biographical drama will be directed by Matthew Heineman, whose credits include “Cartel Land” and “City of Ghosts,” from an Arash Amel screenplay. Academy Award-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson is also on board.

A Private War” chronicles the life of American-born British war reporter Marie Colvin and is based on Marie Brenner’s 2012 Vanity Fair story “Marie Colvin’s Private War.” Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk, Kamala FilmsMarissa McMahon, and Charlize Theron under her Denver & Delilah Productions banner are producing alongside Acacia Entertainment and Savvy Media Holdings.

Thunder Road’s [link »


- Dave McNary

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Box Office: ‘Coco’ Battling ‘Justice League’ for Top Thanksgiving Spot

13 hours ago

Justice League” will have serious company at the Thanksgiving holiday box office as Disney-Pixar launches “Coco” on Wednesday.

Estimates show the costly “Justice League” — which debuted with a decidedly disappointing $93.8 million opening weekend — pulling in around $60 million to $65 million at 4,051 locations for the five days while “Coco” is likely to finish in the $55 million to $60 million range at 3,948 venues.

Justice League” took in $7.5 million on Monday to lift its four-day total to $101 million. It has a respectable B+ CinemaScore and is the fifth installment of its DC Extended Universe, aimed at duplicating the success of Disney-Marvel’s interconnected franchises. Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman along with Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Warner Bros. has not disclosed the production cost, which is believed to be as much as $300 million.

The opening weekend for “Justice League” was only the 55th highest »


- Dave McNary

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Rashida Jones Denies That She Left ‘Toy Story 4’ Over Unwanted Advance From John Lasseter

4 hours ago

Rashida Jones has denied a Hollywood Reporter article that claimed she left “Toy Story 4” as a writer, along with writing partner Will McCormack, over an unwanted advance from Pixar and Disney animation chief John Lasseter.

Jones instead said they left over “philosophical differences,” and asserted that their exit was over the fact that they believed women and people of color did not have “an equal creative voice” at Pixar. Lasseter was originally the co-director of “Toy Story 4,” but stepped down in July, with Josh Cooley taking over as the sole director.

In a statement first given to the New York Times, and later obtained by Variety, Jones and McCormack said, “We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to »


- Variety Staff

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Film News Roundup: Dominique McElligott, Beau Bridges Join Boyd Holbrook’s ‘Two/One’

6 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, “House of Cards” star Dominique McElligott joins the surreal drama “Two/One,” Faith Media Distribution generates $1.2 million in box office for “True to the Game,” and Sony’s teamed with WWE Studios on “The Marine 6.”

Castings

House of Cards” star Dominique McElligott, Beau Bridges, Zhu Zhu, and Song Yang have joined Boyd Holbrook in the cast of Juan Cabral’s drama “Two/One.”

The movie is currently in production in Canada and explores the idea that while we sleep in one place, we are awake somewhere else — in this case, a world-class ski jumper in Canada and a corporate executive in Shanghai, China.

Producers of “Two/One” are Redrum Films’ Flora Fernandez Marengo and Chris Clark along with Dave Valleau of South Creek Pictures. Holbrook is an executive producer. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales and CAA reps domestic rights.

McElligott’s credits include “The Astronaut Wives Club” and “Hell on Wheels.” [link »


- Dave McNary

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John Lasseter Allegations Cast Shadow Over Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ Debut

6 hours ago

Just as the Disney-Pixar movie “Coco” began its Tuesday night previews, news broke that animation guru John Lasseter would be taking a six-month leave over allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Lasseter, who runs both Pixar and Disney Animation, apologized in an email to those “on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line.”

It was an unfortunate juxtaposition for the highly anticipated movie, as Hollywood grapples with an ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, but it’s not expected to hurt the film’s box office ahead of the critical Wednesday-Sunday holiday time frame.

Coco” has already set a record for the highest grossing film ever to open in Mexico, with $48 million to date, and in the U.S., it could potentially beat “Justice League” and debut as the top film over the Thanksgiving weekend with about $60 million. Past Disney titles that have opened over the same period include »


- Ricardo Lopez

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Pixar’s John Lasseter Was the Subject of a ‘Whisper Network’ for More Than Two Decades

7 hours ago

For more than 20 years, young women at Pixar Animation Studios have been warned about the behavior of John Lasseter, who just disclosed that he is taking a leave due to inappropriate conduct with women. The company’s co-founder is known as a hugger. Around Pixar’s Emeryville, Calif., offices, a hug from Lasseter is seen as a mark of approval.

But among female employees, there has long been widespread discomfort about Lasseter’s hugs and about the other ways he showers attention on young women. On Tuesday, that history caught up with him, as Lasseter became the latest prominent person to be accused of inappropriate behavior. This comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse and harassment scandal that brought down the movie mogul and has also tarnished other powerful men such as Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Amazon’s Roy Price.

In a memo to Pixar employees, Lasseter apologized »


- Gene Maddaus

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Andy Serkis Joins Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in ‘Flarsky’

9 hours ago

Andy Serkis is joining Lionsgate’s Charlize Theron-Seth Rogen feature film “Flarsky,” portraying a media mogul who employs Rogen’s journalist character.

Flarsky” is directed by Jonathan Levine from Dan Sterling’s script. The comedy is currently shooting in Montreal. Lionsgate has set a Feb. 9, 2019, release date.

Rogen is playing the titular Fred Flarsky, battered by his own misfortune and self-destructive ways, who endeavors to pursue Theron’s character — his childhood crush and babysitter, who now happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State and is one of the most unattainable women on earth.

Serkis portrayed the lead character Caesar in Fox’s “War for the Planet of the Apes.” He made his directorial debut on “Breathe,” starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, and is in post-production on the live-action “Jungle Book,” which Warner Bros. will open on Oct. 19.

Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, Theron’s Denver and Delilah Films, and [link=co »


- Dave McNary

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At&T-Time Warner Merger: Does the Doj Have a Case?

11 hours ago

The surprising Department of Justice lawsuit to block At&T’s merger with Time Warner may end up in an epic courtroom showdown, unlike any recent antitrust challenge in recent memory.

The Doj’s 23-page complaint lays out a case that is notable for its straightforward argument: The bulked-up At&T-DirecTV-Time Warner would have the leverage and incentive to withhold prized content, like channels featuring “Game of Thrones” and NBA games, from rivals or new entrants.

At&T, meanwhile, finds that argument specious and a diversion from the way that the government has handled antitrust law. Its CEO Randall Stephenson said on Monday evening that it “stretches the reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point.”

In the wake of the lawsuit, a number of public interest groups, politicos, and Wall Street analysts quickly weighed in, sometimes diverting from traditional ideological boundaries.

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said in a statement that it was “odd to see »


- Ted Johnson

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Spirit Awards: ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ ‘Get Out’ Soar, ‘Shape of Water’ Shunned Again

11 hours ago

Film Independent’s annual Spirit Awards has become less the consolation opportunity for small films and performances destined to lose at the Oscars the very next night, and more like a trial run. Five of the last six winners of the organization’s top prize have gone on to best picture glory, including “Moonlight” last year.

There’s no causality to speak of here. The Spirit Award nominations are determined by anonymous voting committees, while the winners are determined by Film Independent’s 6,200-strong membership (which can include anyone willing to plunk down the $95 annual dues). The only real Oscar boost any of Tuesday’s nominees gets is this very moment in the sun, which could illuminate, say, Robert Pattinson’s brilliant performance in “Good Time” (also nominated for the east-coast equivalent Gotham Awards), or Salma Hayek’s deserving turn in “Beatriz at Dinner,” for this Academy voter or that. Like so many announcements, »


- Kristopher Tapley

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‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’: How Jake Gyllenhaal Helped Prepare Denzel Washington for Title Role

12 hours ago

Celebrity fans and friends — from Rev. Al Sharpton to Lee Daniels — were out Monday night in New York to watch the latest from Hollywood heavy hitter Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

The film, which hits theaters Wednesday, has already generated talk for its star’s transformation from charismatic leading man to a frumpy, but brilliant lawyer on the Autism spectrum.

Washington joked he got plenty of insight into the dark worlds created on-screen by director and writer Dan Gilroy from his boxing buddy Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred in Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler.”

“Jake was training at the same gym,” said Washington, “So I got to learn a little about Dan in advance and to obviously see the great collaboration they had together. [Working with Dan] was easy and seamless and invigorating.”

Washington’s character, Roman J. Israel, is a bit of a 1970s social justice relic, with an afro, plastic aviators, giant lapels, and an old-school briefcase. »


- Margaret Sutherlin

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Idfa Founder Ally Derks: ‘I Always Had The Idea: Why Isn’t There A Cannes For Documentaries?’

13 hours ago

Amsterdam – “We don’t have Angelina Jolie on the red carpet. In fact, we don’t even have a red carpet. It’s not Idfa.” After 30 years at the helm, Ally Derks should know what Idfa is or isn’t. Under her guidance, her festival has grown from being a parochial ‘60s throwback to a modern, city-wide festival that uses, and fills, almost every conceivable audience space. Ironically, although Derks takes pride in the fact that the festival she founded is “very relaxed”, it was a certain starry event in the south of France that gave her the inspiration. “I always had the idea, ‘Why isn’t there a Cannes for documentaries?’” she says. “Why is Cannes only for fiction films? There should be a place in the world where all these documentary filmmakers can come together and share their stories – with each other and with an audience. And Amsterdam is a fantastic place for that.”

Since »


- Damon Wise

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Oscars: Trying to Unpack a Stacked Lead Actress Field

13 hours ago

It was clear at least as early as Labor Day, when the Telluride Film Festival played host to a number of contenders, that this year’s lead actress Oscar race was going to be overloaded. By now it’s pretty much untenable; great work is sure to be left on the sidelines when the film Academy zeroes in on five names in January.

Fox Searchlight has two of the season’s top performances to work with. In “The Shape of Water,” Sally Hawkins plays a mute janitor who falls in love with a captive sea creature, dazzling viewers with the kind of expressive portrayal that’s catnip to voters. Meanwhile, in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Oscar winner Frances McDormand tackles the role of a world-weary, vengeance-seeking mother, which could particularly resonate in the current sociopolitical climate.

Margot Robbie, meanwhile, takes advantage of a ripe opportunity in “I, Tonya” to offer a deglamorized portrayal of disgraced Olympic »


- Kristopher Tapley

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Bob Weinstein Personally Paid Off Two of Harvey’s Accusers in 1990s, According to New Yorker

14 hours ago

A New Yorker expose details the secret settlements that allegedly allowed Harvey Weinstein to cover up sexual assault and harassment allegations dating back decades.

Ronan Farrow reports that Bob Weinstein, who has repeatedly said he was unaware of his brother’s alleged sexual misconduct, personally paid £250,000 — equivalent to about $600,000 today — to settle two claims against his brother in the 1990s during their time running Miramax. The money was supposed to be split between Harvey’s former assistant Zelda Perkins and another female employee in the U.K. alleging sexual harassment and assault.

Bob Weinstein confirmed the personal payout during the New Yorker interview, but insisted that his brother misled him about what the money was being used for. Because it came from his account, the money could be hidden from Disney, Miramax, and Harvey’s wife.

“Regarding that payment, I only know what Harvey told me, and basically what he said was he was fooling around with two »


- Maane Khatchatourian

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Wanda-Sony Pictures Financing Deal Is Over

17 hours ago

The movie finance and marketing deal between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Wanda has come to an end – another victim of the troubles that have recently beset the Chinese property-to-entertainment giant.

In emails to Variety, Sony confirmed that the deal, struck last year, had run its course and would not be renewed. “It was always intended to finish after ‘The Emoji Movie,’” an Spe spokesman said, without providing further details. Wanda declined to comment on the deal, which saw it back “Passengers” and “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” among other titles.

The agreement was unveiled in September 2016, at a time when several Chinese companies were still on the lookout for ownership positions in Hollywood studios and in individual Hollywood movies. Wanda was in the ascendant and, while striking the Sony deal, was also negotiating to buy a significant minority stake in Paramount, and in the advanced stages of buying exhibitor Carmike through AMC, its separately »


- Patrick Frater

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Female-Led Investor Groups Target Weinstein Co. Acquisition

17 hours ago

As the Weinstein Company struggles under the weight of scandal and debt, two competing female-led investor groups are hoping to acquire the studio in an effort to turn its assets into a source of funding for victims of sexual abuse and harassment.

Killer Content, the parent company of the long-established indie Killer Films, and its social outreach wing Killer Impact, have pulled together a group of investors, including Abigail Disney and the New York Women’s Foundation, who are prepared to field a bid for some of Weinstein Co.’s film and TV assets. Maria Contreras-Sweet, former head of the Small Business Administration during the Obama years, is assembling a similar offer, according to individuals with knowledge of the talks.

Weinstein Co. is expected to send out briefing books with details on the company’s financial state to prospective bidders early next week. The company is under pressure to find a buyer as it battles a lawsuit »


- Cynthia Littleton and Brent Lang

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Ventana Sur: ‘Escape to India,’ ‘Noah’s Ark,’ ‘Inzomnia’ Among Projects at Animation!

19 hours ago

“Escape to India,” produced by Juan José Campanella, “Noah’s Ark,” whose producers include Walter Salles, and Inzomnia Animation’s “Inzomnia” are some of the projects included in the 2nd Animation!, a showcase at Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur market which is devoted to animated features and TV shows.

Animation! projects total sixteen – eight features and eight TV series. All have been selected in a partnership with Annecy’s Intl. Animation Film Market (Mifa), the world biggest film-tv animation mart. A jury will select four projects among TV shows and features to be presented at Mifa 2018.

Set up at Buenos Aires’ studio Mundo Loco and produced by Academy Award winner Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) and producer-composer Cris Morena, Latin America’s leading specialist in youth-orientated TV shows (“Rebelde Way”), “Escape to India” follows Azadi, a courageous cow who, destined for the slaughterhouse in Patagonia, escapes and begins an epic journey to India, where her mother »


- Emilio Mayorga

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Brillante Mendoza to Head Jury at Malaysia Festival

19 hours ago

Filipino star director Brillante Mendoza has been named as president of the competition jury at next year’s Malaysia International Film Festival. The second edition of the festival will run Feb. 25 – Mar. 2, 2018.

Earlier this year at the festival’s first edition, Mendoza won the best director award with his film “Ma Rosa.” “Mendoza’s gritty, powerful socially-conscious films are proof that cinema can play a vital role in illuminating and eliminating the social ills that plague our modern societies,” said Joanne Goh, MD of MIFFest.

Other jurors at the second edition will include directors Dain Iskandar Said (Interchange”), Tran Anh Hung (“Scent of the Green Papaya,” “Norwegian Wood”), Patrick Tam (“After This Our Exile”), actor-producer Lee Lieh (“Jump Ashin!,” “Monga”), and actor-writer-director, Suhasini Maniratnam (Bandhana, Suprabhata”).

Award-winning Malaysian actress Angelica Lee Sinje (“The Eye,” “Murmur of the Hearts”) continues her involvement with the festival as MIFFest Ambassador. MIFFest is supported by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia »


- Patrick Frater

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TV Gains Offsets Film Losses at Entertainment One

20 hours ago

TV hits such as “Designated Survivor” and “Peppa Pig” are driving Entertainment One’s business as the company’s film division continues to struggle. Growth at The Mark Gordon Co. and the strong performance of kids’ shows “Peppa Pig” and “Pj Masks” bolstered eOne’s results, but revenue and profit declines in the independent studio’s film business weighed on the half-year numbers.

Overall revenues for the six months to end-September were down 1% year-on-year at £395.7 million ($523.7 million). Ebitda profit was up 36% at £51.4 million across the period. The pre-tax profit was £800,000 compared with a £2.5 million loss in the same six months last year.

The company has combined some of its film and TV sales, and the TV side continues to perform well, with notable deals in the period such as the sale of ABC series “Designated Survivor” to Netflix, which took international rights. It also had its first Emmy nomination, for “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later.” TV revenues »


- Stewart Clarke

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