Tony Curtis dies at 85; actor was star of 'Some Like It Hot' and 'Sweet Smell of Success'


"I got into movies so easy it was scary," Curtis told the Denver Post in 1996.

The former Bernie Schwartz went on to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the 1950s and '60s, one whose early reputation as a "pretty boy" tended to blur recognition of his growth and range as an actor who starred in some of his era's landmark films.

Curtis, who died of cardiopulmonary arrest Wednesday night at his home in Henderson, Nev., at age 85, delivered memorable performances in films such as Billy Wilder's classic comedy "Some Like It Hot" and dramatic roles in "The Defiant Ones" and "Sweet Smell of Success."

And in 1959, he received an Academy Award nomination for best actor in "The Defiant Ones," the convict-escape film in which he was chained to costar Sidney Poitier.

He also lived like a movie star and was married five times, most notably to actress Janet Leigh, a union that produced another movie star, Jamie Lee Curtis.

"My father leaves behind a legacy of great performances in movies and in his paintings and assemblages," Jamie Lee Curtis said in a statement. "He leaves behind children and their families who loved him and respected him and a wife and in-laws who were devoted to him. He also leaves behind fans all over the world."

Describing Curtis' death as "a personal loss for me," actor Kirk Douglas said in a statement Thursday: 

"Tony and I were two Jewish kids from poverty-level families who could not believe our luck in making it as big Hollywood stars.... I did three movies with him, and he was a much better actor than people realize: Look at 'Some Like It Hot' or 'The Defiant Ones.'"

Poitier told The Times Thursday: "Tony Curtis loved life and life loved him. That's as I found him throughout the shoot and across all the years that followed.

"I think he left a mark as a presence and a person. And I'm sure that many males around the world saw him as kind of like a model for themselves. He was young and he was handsome and he was full of life. And he was available to people. But that was a part of the man's nature."

Curtis failed to receive an Oscar nomination for another strong role, one that he felt sure would finally win him an Academy Award: Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler. That 1968 film of the same name provided Curtis with the last of his major roles.

"After that, the pictures that I got were not particularly intriguing," he told the Seattle Times in 2000, "but I had lots of child-support payments."

For many film fans, Curtis' most memorable role was in "Some Like It Hot," the 1959 film in which he and Jack Lemmon played small-time jazz musicians who witnessed the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago and, pursued by gangsters, posed as women to escape with an all-female jazz band bound for Miami.

In 2000, the American Film Institute named "Some Like It Hot" the best comedy of the 20th century.

"I feel that he's the great farceur of his generation," said former Times movie reviewer Kevin Thomas, citing Curtis' many comedy roles. But, Thomas said, "he developed tremendous range" as an actor.

Curtis made more than 60 feature and TV films after "The Boston Strangler," including "The Mirror Crack'd" in 1980 with Angela Lansbury and a string of forgettable movies, such as "Lobster Man From Mars" and "The Mummy Lives."

He also frequently appeared on television shows and talk shows. Regardless of the role, "Tony always gave his absolute, total best," Thomas said.

Starting out in 1949 as a contract player at Universal, Curtis broke out as a leading Hollywood actor in 1952 with "Son of Ali Baba."

The actor made the well-regarded "Houdini" in 1953 and from 1956 to 1959 starred in a string of critical and popular hits: "Trapeze," "Mister Cory," "Sweet Smell of Success," "The Vikings," "Kings Go Forth," "The Defiant Ones," "The Perfect Furlough," "Some Like It Hot" and "Operation Petticoat."

His characters varied, with swashbuckling heroes as well as a smarmy press agent, and showed, when the role called for it, genuine comic talent.

And his costars were the biggest names in Hollywood: Burt Lancaster, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Poitier, Lemmon, Natalie Wood and — in "The Vikings," "Houdini" and other films — his first wife, Janet Leigh.

In his later years, Curtis was mainly reduced to being a celebrity without serious portfolio and this, combined with his early teen-idol image and a raft of mediocre films he did while under studio contract, left him with a reputation that was lighter than many of his earlier roles would otherwise inspire.

But Thomas noted: "He was just as terrific an actor at the end as he was at the height of his career."

Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz on June 3, 1925, in New York City, the oldest son of Jewish Hungarian immigrants. His father was a tailor, and his mother raised their three boys. But the family was marked by tragedy: One of Curtis' brothers was hit by a truck and died at 9, while the other suffered from schizophrenia and was in and out of institutions throughout his life.

Curtis' early life was a series of struggles — he said he was constantly taunted for being young, Jewish and handsome. He grew up defending himself on whatever turf his parents lived on at the time: the East 80s in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan's Lexington Avenue.

At 17, he enlisted in the Navy, serving in the Pacific during World War II. After leaving the service, he used the GI Bill for acting classes at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.

That led to some work in the Borscht Belt in the Catskills and later to Yiddish theater in Chicago. He ended up back in New York doing "Golden Boy" at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Then it was on to Hollywood.

He changed his first name to Anthony and his last to Curtis — an Anglicized version of a Hungarian family name, Kert├ęsz. But before long, he was known simply as Tony Curtis.

One of the first things Curtis did on arriving in Hollywood was to learn to drive and then buy a convertible.

"Those days were great," he told the Daily Telegraph of London in 2001 about his early years in Hollywood. "The top down, the car door open.

"At these parties thrown by the studio, there'd always be a brand-new sweetie for me. I was the king of the hill then. And I didn't leave a skirt unmoved."

He reveled in his pretty-boy image and was regularly mobbed by teenage fans.

His acting career got its first boost with a bit part as a gigolo in the 1949 movie "Criss Cross," in which he had a brief dancing scene with the star, Yvonne De Carlo, that brought in a rash of fan letters. Soon Curtis had a bigger role in "City Across the River."

He made standard studio fare for many years for Universal, finally getting better roles when he linked up with powerhouse agent Lew Wasserman. After that, he starred with Lancaster in two well-regarded films, "Sweet Smell of Success" and "Trapeze."

In "Sweet Smell of Success," he played slimy publicist Sidney Falco to Lancaster's evil and all-powerful gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker.

"Curtis makes Sidney's naked ambition so tangible, you can almost feel his clammy palms, and it's Curtis' unsentimental, caffeinated study in amorality that gives 'Sweet Smell' its potent, bitter aftertaste," Entertainment Weekly said in a 2002 listing of the 100 best performances that were not nominated for an Oscar.

Ernest Lehman, the noted screenwriter who wrote the story on which the movie was based, said in 2001 that he viewed Curtis' performance in "Sweet Smell" as "one of the best performances by a male actor in the movies. Still gets me."

In 1959, Curtis starred in two of his best films, "The Defiant Ones" and "Some Like It Hot."

In the latter, director Wilder gave Curtis credit for one of the film's funniest scenes, aboard a yacht. 

The actor's character, Josephine, reverts to being Joe and pretends to be a wealthy playboy to woo Sugar Kane (Monroe), the sultry singer in the women's jazz band.

In an interview for Curtis' 1993 autobiography, Wilder said he told Curtis that after his character had stolen the yachtsman's clothes to romance Monroe, he had to talk differently, "not the English of a Brooklyn musician."

Curtis offered to do Cary Grant, which he had learned from repeatedly watching "Gunga Din," the only movie aboard ship for a time while he was in the Navy.

"And it was a huge, wonderful plus for the picture," Wilder said. "I did not know he could do such a perfect imitation."

In 1960, Curtis starred with Douglas in the swashbuckling "Spartacus," a box-office hit that was also notable for the bathtub scene that didn't appear in the original but was restored in the 1991 re-release.

In the scene, Laurence Olivier, playing a Roman general, tries to seduce Curtis, the young slave, in dialogue alluding to one's preference for oysters or snails. (Because the original scene had not been properly recorded, Anthony Hopkins dubbed the dialogue for Olivier, who died in 1989. "I did me," Curtis said of the restoration.)

Also during the '60s, Curtis played multiple roles in "The Great Impostor," and he had to choose between the love of the Cossacks and the love of his life in "Taras Bulba." He played a neurotic orderly in "Captain Newman, M.D.," was the white-suited daredevil in "The Great Race" and a killer in "The Boston Strangler."

Unlike many who rose to his heights only to decry having to live their lives in a fishbowl, Curtis enjoyed fame and its accoutrements.

Writing in his 1993 autobiography, Curtis said he was able to handle the adulation of fans because, "I'd had that all my life, even before I got into movies; in school, in the neighborhoods where I lived, always a lot of furor. Everybody liked the way I looked, including myself."
Norman Jewison, who directed Curtis in the 1962 film "40 Pounds of Trouble," said that Curtis' simple belief that the camera loved him "gave his work a distinctive quality."

"He never got uptight, never lost control," Jewison wrote in his 2005 autobiography. "He was always totally cool."

Movies, Curtis once said, gave him "the privilege to be an aristocrat, to be a prince."

Throughout Curtis' life, women loved him, and he loved women. He was married five times, most famously to Leigh, for 11 years beginning in 1951. Theirs was the Hollywood marriage of their era — bigger than Debbie and Eddie and long before Liz and Dick.

In 1984, after family and friends intervened to talk about his drug problem, he admitted himself to the Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower Memorial Center in Rancho Mirage.

Before it was common practice, Curtis cut a deal to earn a percentage of the box office income on his films. He later said he had received income this way from 34 movies, collecting $2.5 million on "Some Like it Hot" alone.

"I'm telling you, I'm lucky to be me," he told the Buffalo News in 1993. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be Tony Curtis, and that's exactly who I am."

Besides his daughter Jamie Lee, Curtis is survived by his wife, Jill; three other daughters, Kelly Curtis, Alexandra Curtis Boyer and Allegra Curtis; a son, Benjamin; and seven grandchildren. A son, Nicholas, died in 1994.

Luther is a former Times staff writer.

Gary Glasberg, 'NCIS' Showrunner, Dies at 50

Getty Images
by Lesley Goldberg

The beloved executive producer on the most watched show in the world passed away in his sleep Wednesday.  
Gary Glasberg, the well-loved showrunner on CBS' NCIS, died suddenly Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 50.

Glasberg, a married father of two, was juggling showrunning duties on both the 14th season of NCIS — the most watched show in the world — and its third-year spinoff, NCIS: New Orleans. In May, he signed a new three-year overall deal with NCIS producers CBS Television Studios that would have kept him at the helm of both shows through 2019.

Under Glasberg's oversight, NCIS finished the 2015-16 broadcast season as the most watched broadcast drama for the seventh straight year. The drama averaged 20.2 million total viewers, with its season 13 finale drawing an impressive 18 million — without DVR. The flagship series, starring Mark Harmon, has already been renewed for next season. What's more, Scott Bakula-led spinoff NCIS: New Orleans ranked as the third-most-watched drama last season with an average of 14.8 million total viewers.

Glasberg joined NCIS in 2009 and took over as showrunner in 2011. He has appeared on THR's annual Power Showrunners list every year since. The news comes a week after both NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans returned for their new seasons on CBS. It's unclear at this time who will take over as showrunner given Glasberg's sudden passing or if production on either show will be impacted.

Glasberg, born in New York City, started his writing career with comic books and animated series including Rugrats and Duckman before turning to dramatic procedurals including Crossing Jordan, The $treet, The Evidence, Bones, Shark and The Mentalist.

Glasberg is survived by his wife of 20 years, TV producer and screenwriter Mimi Schmir (with whom he worked on Shark), and their two sons, Dash and Eli. He is also survived by his father, Edwin Glasberg, and sister Mindy Glasberg. A memorial service is being planned for later in October. The family has requested privacy at this time.

"Gary was our rock, our cheerleader, our team captain. He inspired us with his leadership, his creative instincts and keen insight. NCIS will not be the same without him, and each of us will miss his smiling face and unwavering humor, which lifted us every day," the cast and crew of NCIS said in a statement.

Added CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller: "Today is an overwhelmingly sad day for NCIS, CBS and anyone who was blessed to spend time with Gary Glasberg. We have lost a cherished friend, gifted creative voice, respected leader and, most memorably, someone whose warmth and kindness was felt by all around him. Our heartfelt thoughts and sympathies go out to his wife, Mimi, his two sons and all his family and friends."

Said CBS Television Studios president David Stapf: "We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend and colleague Gary Glasberg. He epitomized the word mensch and brought kindness, integrity and class to everything he did. His remarkable talent as a writer and producer was only matched by his ability to connect with people. Gary was a beloved member of our family and we are so honored that he called CBS his home for so many years. Our hearts go out to his wife, Mimi, two sons, his entire family and all those who loved him."

California Enacts Law Requiring IMDb to Remove Actor Ages on Request

by Ryan Parker , Jonathan Handel

“On behalf of everyone in the industry who has struggled with age discrimination, whose opportunities to showcase their talent may have been blocked, I want to thank Gov. Brown and the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ian Calderon," says SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed legislation that requires certain entertainment sites, such as IMDb, to remove – or not post in the first place – an actor’s age or birthday upon request. 

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to entertainment database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request. Although the legislation may be most critical for actors, it applies to all entertainment job categories.

“Even though it is against both federal and state law, age discrimination persists in the entertainment industry,” Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said in a statement. “AB 1687 provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination.”

“Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.

The union and others lobbied for the legislation, an effort begun under the aegis of then-SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard, who died in March. His successor, Carteris, testified in front of a State Senate committee, and in August,  wrote of her support for the law in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter

“It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process,” Carteris wrote. “This problem exists for all performers, but most distinctly for women. Performers create characters and often employ illusion to do so. That’s acting.”

She added, “Many actors have endured age discrimination of some sort throughout their careers. Those isolated, individual cases have now morphed into the almost-automatic age discrimination made possible by the online casting services. The information is put front and center before those making the decisions about whom to audition and whom to hire.”

The technology community opposed the law, saying it was a violation of free speech. 

“We are disappointed that AB 1687 was signed into law today,” said Internet Association spokesman Noah Theran. “We remain concerned with the bill and the precedent it will set of suppressing factual information on the internet.”

Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and CEO, also wrote in August for THR, about his opposition to the law.

“Requiring the removal of factually accurate age information across websites suppresses free speech,” Beckerman wrote. “This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors; rather it is about the right to present basic facts that live in the public domain. Displaying such information isn’t a form of discrimination, and internet companies should not be punished for how people use public data.”

Some sites used by the entertainment industry may not be covered by the new statute.

Although the limitation to paid subscribes may leave some sites outside the law’s coverage – possibly including Gracenote’s popular Studio System – an actor who has been observing the process said that’s not a major deficiency.

“The focus of this legislation is on a practical solution to a real world problem,” said the performer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Studio System is not presently a major source of this problem. Professional performers most affected by this are very likely to be subscribers to IMDb Pro and this legislation provides a desperately needed tool to those people.”

The actor added, “It may not be a panacea, but it will provide significant relief to the working actors most impacted by age discrimination. This is relief that could have been voluntarily provided years ago, but which ultimately required the use of the legislative process to achieve. But make no mistake – the impact of this law will be huge.

On another front, some observers have suggested First Amendment concerns, and the new law, like any statute that regulates speech or expression, may be subject to a Constitutional challenge. But Calderon said the limitation to subscribers will help insulate the new law.

“Requiring websites to remove all age information from profiles would seem to run afoul of the First Amendment restrictions on the regulation of commercial speech,” Calderon said in a statement to THR. “Limiting the bill to only subscribers makes it clear that the bill advances an important government interest – that of reducing age discrimination in a manner that is substantially related to that interest and no more extensive than necessary to achieve that interest.”

IMDb and Gracenote did not respond to requests for comment.

Calderon added that the law was more for actors and actresses not as well known as big stars.

“While age information for Hollywood’s biggest stars is readily available from other online sources, this bill is aimed at protecting lesser known actors and actresses competing for smaller roles,” Calderon said in the release. “These actors should not be excluded from auditioning simply based on their age.”

“On behalf of everyone in the industry who has struggled with age discrimination, whose opportunities to showcase their talent may have been blocked, I want to thank Gov. Brown and the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ian Calderon, and all the California lawmakers who were instrumental in this effort,” Carteris added.

The union president also cited California Federation of Labor President Art Pulaski, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congressmen Ted Lieu and Brad Sherman, the Teamsters, WGA West, the Association of Talent Agents, the AARP of California, and “the thousands of SAG-AFTRA members who sent letters, faxes and emails” in support of thelegislation.

The bill passed both houses of the California Legislature overwhelmingly, records indicate.

Forest Whitaker, Garrett Hedlund & Tom Wilkinson Join Drama ‘Burden’

Written and directed by Andrew Heckler and inspired by true events, the film follows Mike Burden (Hedlund), an orphan raised within the Ku Klux Klan who attempts to break away when the girl he falls in love with urges him to leave for a better life together. As the Klan seeks Mike out for vengeance, a black congregation led by the benevolent Reverend Kennedy takes Mike, his girlfriend and her son in, protects them and accepts them into their community in hopes of teaching Mike about love and acceptance.

Set to begin production in two weeks, Burden has been in the works for more than a decade, with things seriously getting in motion in 2015 under producer Robbie Brenner, who brought the project with her when she left Relativity to join the newly reconstituted The Firm in September 2015

Brenner is producing, with The Firm founder Jeff Kwatinetz executive producing along with Gabby Revilla and Kevin McKeon. Gary Raskin is handling production legal, with casting by Rich Delia. 

Good Universe is handling international sales.

Whitaker won the Best Actor Oscar for portraying dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and has The Arrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story next on his plate. He recently was seen in Southpaw, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station and the Roots remake. He’s repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment.
Hedlund next will be seen in Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and other credits include On the Road and Tron: Legacy. He’s repped by WME, Brillstein Entertainment and Sloane Offer.

Wilkinson is known for his Oscar-nominated roles in In the Bedroom and Michael Clayton, his Emmy-winning role as Ben Franklin on the miniseries John Adams, among many other roles and is onscreen in Snowden. He’s repped by Lou Coulson Associates and Principal Entertainment LA.

Harper is best known for her Oscar-nominated role in Crimes of the Heart and her other credits include No Country for Old Men. She’s repped by BRS/Gage Talent.

Raymond, who records as Usher, in onscreen as Sugar Ray Leonard in the Roberto Duran biopic Hands of Stone. He’s repped by WME.

New Godzilla film imagines a strong Japan pushing back against the U.S.

People look at Godzilla at an exhibition in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo, to promote the latest in a half-century of movies about the monster. (Toru Yamanaka/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

— Even after 62 years and 31 ways of destroying cities, it seems Japanese people still can’t get enough of Godzilla and his catastrophic ways.

“This is my fifth time to see it,” Iori Yanagi, a 30-something woman, said before a special screening of the latest Godzilla movie, released here as “New” or “Real” Godzilla.
Since it opened at the end of July, the film — directed by ­Hideaki Anno, the renowned ­creator of “Evangelion,” an anime TV series — has crashed through the box office like, well, like a monster through a metropolis. The film has sold almost 5 million tickets since it was released in Japan and has made $70 million at the box office, making it the ­highest-grossing live-action film here this year. It will be distributed in the United States starting next month as “Godzilla Resurgence.”

“I love Anno’s anime, especially ‘Evangelion,’ and I was moved to see how he created this Godzilla movie,” said Yanagi, who recently attended an “utterance allowed” screening of the film, during which members of the audience were allowed to make as much noise as they wanted.

“Be careful!” they yelled as the monster raged toward the Japanese capital. “Prime minister, prime minister!” they shouted as the leader convened emergency meetings of bureaucrats to deal with the threat. And, perhaps in a uniquely Japanese moment (after all, this is a country where fax machines are still in widespread use), they cheered as a convoy of photocopiers was wheeled into a task-force center.
Yanagi was wearing strings of toy train cars around her neck and carrying a bottle of water, props to wave at the appropriate moment. Her friend was dressed as the lunch lady who appears for perhaps five seconds, bringing rice balls to the civil servants working around-the-clock.

Elsewhere in the movie house, people wore homemade Godzilla heads and waved signs, while four men caused an eruption when they showed up in hazardous-waste coveralls and gas masks. Everyone waved glow-sticks as if at a rock concert.

The Netflix Backlash: Why Hollywood Fears a Content Monopoly

by Kim Masters

The streaming service is spending $6 billion a year on content, choking basic cable and brusquely rattling the relationship business of the town as fears of a Google- or Apple-sized dominance send a chill down the entertainment industry's spine.

Not many months ago, an original series landed on Netflix to some critical acclaim. Viewership, of course, was a mystery, but the launch seemed to make some noise. Yet the show's creator — hardly a no-name player — began to fret. There had been no congratulatory call nor even an email from anyone at Netflix.

That's a far cry from the way relationships long have been managed in Hollywood, but sources who do business with the streaming service say the silence was not atypical. "Really celebrating or valuing some of their successes — they just don't do that," says one agent.

Still, at a time when business is tough all over in the entertainment industry, there is a lot of gratitude for a deep-pocketed buyer that is snapping up an array of material, much of which might not find a home elsewhere. Netflix and its chief content officer Ted Sarandos are at once a savior, offering a giant gush of money to license shows that in some cases were past their prime or even out of production, and a terrifying competitor to studios.

"Out of the blue Netflix comes into the market and says, 'We're going to give you a number [to license a network show],' " says one television agent. "For the studios, it was, 'Holy shit. Do we even need a cable sale?' They all got addicted to crack. Nobody really thought they'd be a competitor on the originals market. They used stuff from the studios and became important. Now you see the backlash."

The backlash is real but muted — mostly because few are willing to risk the wrath of a company that is spending $6 billion a year on programming and scored 54 Emmy nominations this year. But some executives, producers and agents who rely on deals with the streaming giant nonetheless increasingly view Netflix as an existential threat.

Studios and cable channels fret that the company, with its 83 million global subscribers, is sucking up so many eyeballs and bidding up prices for programming so high that they won't be able to compete. And agents worry that as Netflix elbows out competing buyers, the company's growing insistence on buying up all rights to its original programming around the world will do away with the profit participations that on breakout shows (such as Modern Family) provide steady income in an unsteady industry. "We love the money and we can still grow our clients [by getting them Netflix deals]," says one agent. "But I'm worried about the long term. If backends go away, what's the future? This is why CAA and WME have diversified."

Hastings and Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan at the 2014 AFI Awards Luncheon in Beverly Hills.

Netflix generally declined to comment on THR's questions but asserts that it and other streaming services have sparked the creation of "huge numbers of programs," as one company insider puts it, generating more opportunity and money for the industry.

That's one point of view. Another was offered by John Landgraf at the July gathering of the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, where the FX Networks chief warned that Netflix could be bucking for a Silicon Valley-style near-monopoly in entertainment, such as that enjoyed by Google in search or Amazon in shopping. "I think it would be bad for storytellers in general if one company was able to seize a 40, 50, 60 percent share in storytelling," said Landgraf. The clear implication: If Netflix amasses such clout, the generous deals will start to evaporate and creative freedoms could be curtailed.

Some assert that the latter already has happened. Sources say, for example, that Beau Willimon, who adapted the British series House of Cards to give Netflix its first breakout original, was taken off the show after its fourth season because he pushed back hard on notes from Netflix execs. Willimon declined comment.

House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti also refused to comment on the Willimon exit, but the outspoken executive does say Netflix no longer offers the artistic freedom that lured the creators of the drama there. "There's nothing special about Netflix anymore," says Brunetti (who has stated publicly that he has shorted Netflix stock). "They had the first-mover advantage with digital streaming and giving artists more power, but now they've become like any traditional network or studio. And there are a lot of competitors." (Worth noting: Brunetti now is an executive at Relativity Media, which has been in a legal dispute with Netflix over the streamer's so-far-unsuccessful efforts to escape a rich deal for Relativity films after the latter filed for bankruptcy in July 2015 — before Brunetti was hired. Relativity emerged from Chapter 11 protection in March.)

Still, few can ignore the billions that Netflix has thrown around. Even though Landgraf said he'd prefer not to hand any content to Netflix, his company in July made a deal giving the streaming service exclusive rights to its American Crime Story series, pocketing what is said to be about $50 million just for the lauded first installment, The People v. O.J. Simpson.

There's plenty more where that came from. "Anybody who's going to spend $6 billion or $7 billion a year on library and original content deserves to be applauded," says ICM Partners' Chris Silbermann. 

"Do you know how bad this business would be if their $6 billion went away tomorrow?" (For reference, HBO will spend a bit more than $2 billion this year.) Netflix provides the cash up front and orders two seasons of most series — appealing in a business in which many shows are canceled in the first season.

While it remains an open question whether Netflix will become the Google of Hollywood, there's ample evidence that it already presents a tough corporate tech culture that doesn't cater to sensitive showrunners and others who are used to being handled with more care. In many cases, Netflix is a black box for show creators and producers who have business at the company. Several say they have no idea how their show will be marketed, if at all. They get no feedback on how their show is received. There are no metrics, so rewards for success aren't built into a deal (though compensation may be increased if a series' budget goes up).

Few in Hollywood have the courage to speak publicly about Netflix, and those who have projects there say they are subjected to unusually onerous restrictions on what they are permitted to say, if anything. Retired NFL player Trevor Pryce, who sold the animated series Kulipari: An Army of Frogs to Netflix, jokingly references Fight Club — "The first rule of Netflix: You do not talk about Netflix" — in an interview that soon will air on my KCRW show, The Business.

In its sole response to THR, a Netflix spokesperson offered this: "We are doing something that's never been done before; bringing great stories to people all over the world at the same time and at unprecedented quality and scale. In doing so, we are disrupting traditional business models and creating new norms. Not everyone likes disruption, but we've hired executives with extensive Hollywood and international media experience who are thriving at Netflix, and we are working successfully with a wide variety of creators and studios who understand and appreciate our approach. 

Most importantly, consumers and viewers like what we do, and we plan to keep doing it."
How times have changed in the six years since Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes dismissed upstart Netflix as "the Albanian army." Netflix's revenue since it launched its streaming service in 2007 grew from $1.2 billion to $6.8 billion in 2015. It has 47 million subscribers in the U.S. and 36 million abroad (by comparison, ESPN has roughly 90 million subscribers). It is in 190 countries, with shows in 20 languages. Netflix expects to release more than 30 original series, or 600 hours of original scripted programming, this year — stunning when one remembers that the service's brilliant opening gambit, House of Cards, only premiered in February 2013.

Says HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler: "I have nothing but respect for Netflix. Anybody who does not tip their hat to what they've done in the last six or seven years is not being fair."

Next year, Netflix, with 2,800 employees, will move the 600 now packed into offices on Maple Drive in Beverly Hills into more than 200,000 square feet in the 14-story Icon building under construction in Hollywood at Sunset Bronson Studios. The company is expanding at its Silicon Valley headquarters, too.

The only thing growing faster than Netflix's footprint is the hope among many in the town's establishment that some combination of factors will slow the juggernaut. Maybe the studios will hold back programming. Maybe well-funded competitors — especially Amazon — will find a way to block Netflix. Maybe key talent will become wary of doing business there. Maybe Netflix will spend itself to death as it rebaits the hook to keep subscribers and lure in more.

The stock market noticed when the company revealed in July that growth in the second quarter was not as robust as anticipated. The company added 160,000 U.S. subscribers and 1.52 million in overseas markets, far fewer than the 500,000 it had projected in the U.S. and 2 million abroad. The company said price increases were to blame for cancellations that drove down its numbers, but price hikes had yet to go into effect for more than half of its U.S. customers, whose rates changed in the second half of 2016. On an analysts call, CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings apologized for the volatility and declared, "The big picture is very much intact."

Certainly Netflix is far cheaper than cable, and subscribers can access a cornucopia of content, from an intense drama like Narcos to a comedy as weird as Maria Bamford's Lady Dynamite. There are documentaries, children's programs, Adam Sandler movies and Beasts of No Nation. "They're like a giant shopping mall," says one agent. "They're trying to fill those spaces with something for everyone. They literally are trying to fill every space."

Despite the company's ability to know exactly what is being watched and for how long, the service isn't immune to the unpredictability that's made Hollywood a pretty crazy place for a century or so. Sarandos acknowledged during a recent THR roundtable that Stranger Things, which was spurned elsewhere but became a summer hit, was a "big surprise."

A less happy surprise, it seems, was Baz Luhrmann's musical drama The Get Down, said to have cost in excess of $120 million for 12 episodes. Despite generally positive reviews, the first six episodes landed in August almost silently. Production troubles are said to have strained Netflix's relationship with its partner on the project, Sony Pictures Television (which shouldered some of the cost overruns). Subsequently, Netflix cut the third season of Bloodline — another series on which it partners with Sony — from 13 episodes to 10. It also notified Sony that the show's third season would be its last, though it had been anticipated that the series would have a fourth season. Netflix also slashed licensing fees on the show. Both Netflix and Sony deny there are tensions between them, and Sony television still has a lot of business with Netflix.

If Netflix was daunted by the big spend on The Get Down, it is keeping its game face on. At the THR roundtable, Sarandos hinted that an upcoming series about the royal family, The Crown, might be even more expensive. And in a recent interview with The Economist, Hastings further rattled his already nervous competitors by suggesting that his company might be willing to spend a lot more. If shows like The Get Down or HBO's Game of Thrones cost $10 million per episode, Hastings mused, "what does $20 million-an-hour television look like?"

Netflix chief content officer Sarandos and actress Winona Ryder after the Los Angeles premiere of Stranger Things on July 11.

Netflix also is unafraid to spend big on movies. It is said to be paying Brad Pitt $20 million to star in the satire War Machine. And it recently committed $90 million to make Bright, with David Ayer directing and Will Smith starring. Netflix knocked two or three studios out of the bidding for the film, which sources say would likely be tagged with an R rating if it were released theatrically. As that not only would have narrowed the film's prospective audience in the U.S. but also would preclude a run in China, no other studio wanted to spend more than $60 million on the project. Sources say nearly half of Netflix's $90 million will go to buy out profit participations. And Ayer will reap about $10 million for directing, a big step up from the roughly $5 million he got to handle the writing and directing on Suicide Squad.

Netflix also is making smaller movies that otherwise might be homeless. "As sellers, we're glad they're on the block," says producer Michael De Luca, who recently set up a film based on Sarah Pinborough's YA novel 13 Minutes at Netflix. On such projects, says another film producer, Netflix buys out the backend and offers about 20 percent over production costs — "equivalent to what [profit participants] would have gotten from a studio on a modest hit."

With Netflix offering no metrics, it's impossible to know whether the upfront compensation is a windfall or falls short of what a film would have earned through a conventional theatrical release. The upside is that money is assured and there is no risk of reading horrifying box-office numbers on a Saturday morning. But for some filmmakers, a theatrical run still has meaning, and a deal with Netflix means giving that up. Unlike Amazon, Netflix has refused to open up an exclusive window for exhibitors — one reason why Nate Parker chose to sell The Birth of a Nation to Fox Searchlight in a Sundance auction even though Netflix offered millions more.

Bret Baier, Brit Hume Help Fox News Crush CNN, MSNBC in Weekly Viewers


Fox News was the most-watched channel among all of cable in total day viewers, averaging 1.29 million for the week of Sept. 5-11, nearly beating CNN and MSNBC combined.

Both Bret Baier and Brit Hume provided the top cable news network with nice ratings boosts in new time slots. Fox News has now won the total day crown for 10 of the past 11 weeks. 

Nickelodeon, ESPN, Adult Swim and HGTV join Fox News among the top five cable networks last week.

CNN and MSNBC continue to battle for second place behind Fox News in the cable news ratings war. MSNBC finished as the No. 8 primetime network, averaging 1.2 million viewers to beat CNN’s 1.05 million. However, the roles are reversed among total day viewers, with CNN edging MSNBC 666,000 to 642,000. CNN and MSNBC total 1.3 million viewers combined, slightly edging Fox News’ 1.29 million.
Fox News’ total day victory was helped by “On the Record with Brit Hume,” which averaged 2.2 million viewers, up five percent from the previous week and up eight percent compared to the rest of 2016. Hume took over Fox News’ “On the Record” earlier this month following Greta Van Susteren’s surprise decision to leave the network.

In addition, Fox News was No. 2 in primetime, behind only ESPN’s football-heavy programming that included several prominent college football games. Fox News averaged 2.2 million primetime viewers, compared to 2.4 million for ESPN. Discovery Channel, HGTV and USA join FNC and ESPN among the top five from 8-11 p.m.

Baier debuted his new Sunday edition of “Special Report” with nearly two million viewers, making it the highest-rated show on Sunday overall. Baier recently told TheWrap that a move to primetime won’t impact his down-the-middle political reputation.

“I would much rather prefer to get to election day and viewers have no clue which way I would vote,” he said. “Hopefully, that will enable us to cover all campaigns exactly the same.”

US, Argentine films frontrunners for Venice's Golden Lion

American musical "La La Land", directed by Damien Chazelle, kicked off the Venice film festival (AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

Venice (AFP) - From a dazzling musical to a biting comedy, films from the US and Argentina are tipped as favourites to win this year's Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival, due to be announced Saturday.

American musical "La La Land", directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, kicked off the world's oldest film festival and immediately brought the house down.

Top international film critics, gathered on the glamorous Lido di Venezia for the 10-day fest, cheered the quirky tale of a struggling jazz pianist and his actress girlfriend in Los Angeles, a joyful tribute to the Golden Age of American musicals.

Fellow front-runner "Jackie", Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain's potrayal of the days following US president JFK's assassination, wowed thanks largely to a stellar performance from Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy.

"I felt like it was the most dangerous film I've ever done, because everyone knows what Jackie looked like, sounded like, walked like," Portman admitted to press at the star-studded festival, where A-listers arrived by water taxi.

- Oscar hungry -
Terrence Malick's long-awaited "Voyage of Time: Life's Journey", a documentary on the life and death of the universe, moved critics and the public alike with its use of stunning special effects and real-life images of earth's most breathtaking creations.

But these glossy, US heavyweights are being challenged by Argentinian directors Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn with their comedy "The Distinguished Citizen", about a Nobel Prize-winning author who returns to his village for the first time in 40 years.

Also hot on their heels is Philippine director Lav Diaz's "The Woman Who Left", an acclaimed black and white tale about a wrongly convicted schoolteacher plotting her revenge against the ex-boyfriend who framed her.

The awards ceremony is set to begin at 1700 GMT.

Venice has strengthened its reputation in recent years as a launch-pad for the Oscars -- with "Gravity", "Birdman" and "Spotlight" all premiering here -- and former fashion designer Tom Ford's offering "Nocturnal Animals" may follow suit.

Spooking and stirring in equal part, with arresting performances from US stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal as lovers gone awry, the film tells a story within a story about self-harm, love, betrayal and revenge.

The Best Actor award is tipped to go either to Oscar Martinez, who plays the cynical novelist in "The Distinguished Citizen", or Gosling, for his tap-dancing, crooning character in "La La Land".

- Sexy tentacles -
Amy Adams is in the running for the Best Actress not only for "Nocturnal Animals" but also "Arrival", where her character is all that stands between a group of civilized aliens and the leaders of the world powers, eager to reach for the nuclear button.

Should the jury, lead by British film director Sam Mendes, have a penchant for such tentacled creatures, Mexico's "The Untamed" by Amat Escalante may be in with a shot, with its take on an extraterrestrial who sexually pleasures the brave and foolhardy.

A total of 20 films are competing, including Ana Lily Amirpour's second film "Bad Batch", a cannibal love story with Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves about a young girl who ends up on the menu in a futuristic United States.

The beautiful "A Woman's Life", by French director Stephane Brize, is tipped to snap up the Silver Lion for Best Direction. The rich period drama, set in 19th century France, tells the tale of a childlike baroness tormented by a rakish local viscount.

The festival has featured dozens of world premiers out of competition, including Italian master Paolo Sorrentino's first TV series "The Young Pope", featuring a brilliantly Machiavellian Jude Law as the Catholic Church's first ever American pope.

‘Sully’ Soaring to $32 Million Opening Weekend

Courtesy of Warner Bros. 
  Film Reporter
Tom Hanks’ “Sully” is dominating the box office as the thriller-biopic heads for a $32 million weekend at 3,525 locations, early estimates showed Friday.

That’s well above recent forecasts, which had placed the Warner Bros. film in the $25 million range. Warner Bros. maintained that estimate for “Sully” on Friday — even though it was heading for a $12 million opening day, including $1.4 million from Thursday night previews.

Sony-Screen Gems drama “When the Bough Breaks” also appears to be outperforming the studio’s estimates, which had been in the $10 to $12 million range. Early estimates from rivals indicated that the Morris Chestnut-Regina Hall starrer would come in with a $6 million Friday and between $18 and $20 million at 2,246 sites for the weekend.

Lionsgate’s launch of animated comedy “The Wild Life” was generating only modest interest with an opening day in the $900,000 range at 2,493 locations for a weekend of around $3.5 million. Relativity’s horror film “The Disappointments Room” was even less attractive with about $650,000 on Friday for a weekend of $2 million at best.

“Sully” is opening seven years after Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landed a damaged U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River after it hit a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Clint Eastwood directed from a script by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography 

“Highest Duty” by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.

“Sully” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on Sept. 2 and has received largely laudatory reviews with a current 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan, and Jerry Ferrara are in supporting roles.

“Sully” appears to be on track to outperform the opening of Hanks’ 2012 hostage drama “Captain Phillips,” which opened with $25.7 million on its way to a domestic total of $107 million; and Denzel Washington’s 2013 airline drama “Flight,” which launched with $24.9 million and grossed $93 million domestically.

Hanks’ most recent film, “Bridge of Spies,” debuted in mid-October with a $15.4 million opening weekend at 2,811 sites and wound up with a $72 million domestic total.

“Sully” has a production budget of about $60 million, so it will need to show holdover strength in the following weekends to make it into profitable territory. Village Roadshow Pictures is a co-producer and co-financer with Warner Bros.

“When the Bough Breaks,” which has modest $10 million production budget, stars Chestnut and Hall as a couple who desperately wants a baby. They hire a surrogate, played by Jaz Sinclair, who develops a psychotic fixation on the husband as the pregnancy progresses.

“When the Bough Breaks” is directed by Jon Cassar from a script by Jack Olsen. Former New Line toppers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne are producing through their Unique Features production company.

“The Disappointments Room,” starring Kate Beckinsale and Lucas Till, debuts at 1,554 sites amid  forecasts of a dismal $2 million launch. It’s the first Relativity title to hit the market since the mini-studio emerged from bankruptcy in April.

Sony’s third weekend of “Don’t Breathe,” which has led in the last two frames, will probably wind up in third place after taking in a surprisingly strong $58 million in its first 13 days.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, noted that  “Sully” offering up the first Oscar contender of the season with the pairing of Hanks and Eastwood poised for a solid takeoff this weekend. He said “When The Bough Breaks” is likely to continue in the guilty-pleasure tradition of last year’s “The Perfect Guy,” 2014’s “No Good Deed” and “Addicted” and  2013’s “Temptation” as another profit-maker for Sony.

Sony has seen better than expected grosses for “Don’t Breathe” and “Sausage Party.”

Year-to-date domestic grosses hit $8.13 billion as of Wednesday, up 5% over 2015 at the same point, following a summer season that matched last year’s summer at $4.48 billion, according to comScore. 

Glenn Beck’s Dying Empire Gives Up on the Hollywood Dream

American Dream Labs was supposed to be the movie-making arm of Beck’s right-wing media empire. This weekend, he admitted that dream was over.

Glenn Beck’s financially troubled multimedia empire took another hit over Labor Day Weekend as Beck announced that Mercury Radio Arts, his privately held umbrella company, has abruptly stopped producing scripted film and television projects under his once-cherished subsidiary American Dream Labs.

In a statement posted on his website, Beck characterized the apparent shutdown as a “divorce” because American Dream Labs “needs to exist separate and apart from Mercury in order to spread its wings.”

The demise of the Beck subsidiary is the latest troubling development for a once-flourishing enterprise that in the past year has terminated nearly half its estimated 300 employees, lost cable distribution and advertisers as Cablevision dropped Beck’s daily programming, and suffered a steep drop in its online audience. In recent months, Mercury and its subsidiary, The Blaze, have become embroiled in cash-flow problems and costly litigation, notably against Beck’s former chief executive and ex-friend and confidant Christopher Balfe, whom Beck fired in December 2014 to make way for the promotion of tech entrepreneur Jonathan Schreiber. 

Balfe is countersuing, claiming he is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation and legal costs for his defense, and that if Beck prevails in a jury trial, Beck must pay the judgment to himself.

As recently as eight months ago, Beck was proudly touting the ambitious work of his American Dream Labs subsidiary, which he launched in 2013. Under the headline, “Get ready for big things with American Dream Labs in 2016,” he wrote: “I am very excited to share where we have been and where we are going… Watch this three minute video and see the TV shows and movies that are now in production. It is going to be a great 2016!”

That “big thing,” however, turned out to be a cessation of operations, and that optimistic video was made private and inaccessible, apparently over the weekend, while the American Dream Labs web site was also taken off line.

In a low-key obituary for ADL, as Beck called it, that was posted late Friday afternoon—a bit of timing seemingly designed to bury bad news as fans and outside observers were already in holiday mode—the 52-year-old Beck wrote: “We often hear there is no such thing as a ‘good’ divorce. I guess in business, that’s not always the case. Ben [McPherson, a Christian-oriented filmmaker and the head of ADL] and I have come to the same conclusion: ADL needs to exist separate and apart from Mercury in order to spread its wings.”

Beck, whose corporate operations are based in the Dallas, Texas, suburb of Las Colinas, added: “ADL wanted to be in Los Angeles where it could be more than ‘Glenn Beck’s side project.’ It wanted and needed the opportunity to build its own brand and identity.”

McPherson didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Among the projects that Beck trumpeted but didn’t release, several of which ADL produced video trailers for (which are no longer available online), were what described in a headline as a “‘Radical’ New Spanish-Language Film, and One That Will Change the Way You See Santa”; and television series titled “History House” featuring the use of Claymation technology and starting with the legend of Johnny Appleseed.

“When we tell the story, we’re going to start in Claymation, and we’re pretty proud of this fact, we get 13 seconds a day out of our shooting,” Beck declared in March 2015 about the Appleseed project. 

“Our days are about 14 hours long, but we get 13 seconds a day. So you know, we’re not cheating on quality, we just are doing it differently. I have some really good brainiacs who have figured out different ways to do things, but the industry norm is seven seconds a week. I don’t have the patience for that.”

A Beck spokesman elaborated Monday on his Labor Day Weekend statement: “The content is being redistributed between MRA and ADL as described in the statement you saw, and will be back online shortly, divided between both sites to reflect the new ownership and structure.”

The spokesman later said McPherson will take ownership of the enterprise.

In his own statement, Beck held out the hope “that many, if not all of the projects I’ve told you about, will be brought to life either by MRA or ADL respectively… I wish nothing but success to ADL and expect to see amazing things from them in the years to come. Their first project that I can mention is the Church of Martyr[s] documentary”—about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East—“you have heard about. After all we’ve been through together, I hope they’ll still consider sending me a screener.”

Happy 87th Birthday, Bob Newhart!

Comedian Bob Newhart has enthralled audiences with his trademark stammer, one-sided telephone conversations and hysterical, historical “what if” routines for more than 40 years. What makes him tick? Below, Newhart provides some additional answers:

Q: You’re almost as hot now as you were in your sitcom heyday. How do you explain your longevity?
A: Really, it’s for somebody else to explain. I just keep showing up … I’ve finally come to the realization that I may just have a future in this!

Q: You’ve influenced so many of today’s comics. Who are your comedy heroes?
A: Well, of course Jack Benny, George Burns, any really good comedian who I’ve ever watched, because I would kind of examine how they worked, what made that so funny. And, of course, Richard Pryor. When you take away the language, the ideas underneath the language are so rich. I think he’s the seminal comedian of the last 50 years. I think he’s influenced us all.

Q: Of today’s comics, name a few of your favorites.
A: Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright, Jake Johannsen — but not too many people know about him. Garry Shandling, and many others. The other night on Letterman, I watched a comedian that was very funny and very original, but I don’t remember his name — I’m very open to the up-and-comers.

Q: Would you share one or two of your most memorable career moments?
A: I would say one has to be getting three Grammy Awards in (I believe) 1961, including Album of the Year.

Q: You do up to 40 stand-up dates a year. Where do you get the inspiration for your material?
A: The same place: the newspapers, television, just watching people. Comedians are never really on vacation because you’re always at attention … that antenna is always out there. You could be on vacation in Hawaii and all of a sudden you’ll see someone do something funny and you’ll say “Oh, I gotta remember that” or the waiter will have a funny accent. I suppose your source of material is the world. You never know when you’ll come upon something and it’s going to be fodder for new material.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard the recording of your earliest comedy routines unearthed by AMERICAN MASTERS?
A: One of my friends had a copy and AMERICAN MASTERS was nice enough to make me a copy. I didn’t even know it had existed. I listened to some of the bits and to hear Ed Gallagher’s voice, back to that place in time, which was probably 1957, and then to be considered for AMERICAN MASTERS from those humble beginnings, it just really is “you’ve come a long way baby.” Let’s just say that.

Q: Of all your accomplishments, of what are you most proud?
A: I’m most proud of the longevity of my marriage, my kids, and my grandchildren. If you don’t have that, you really don’t have very much.

Q: What’s the secret to a successful marriage and do you think your career choice made a difference?
A: Well, my career choice made a difference because I never would have met my wife, Jenny. I met her through comedian Buddy Hackett. He set us up on a blind date and then we got married. I think one reason for a successful marriage is laughter. I think laughter gets you through the rough moments in a marriage. If you look at Jack Benny, George Burns, or Don Rickles, they’ve all had long, successful marriages. So, I think there’s something about laughter and the durability of a marriage.

Q: Is there anything you haven’t done that you’d like to do in the coming years?
A: I think I’ve done more than I thought I was ever going to do. No, I’ve had a very long and very satisfying career.