The Drama That’s Making Star Wars Fans Nervous – Vanity Fair
It’s Thursday, and I’ll be looking toward L.A. City Hall tonight, where the bat signal is scheduled to shine out over the city in honor of Adam West.
Hello from Los Angeles, where Star Wars fans are wringing their hands, everybody’s following Tom Cruise’s orders, and reality stars are lawyering up.
Hoo boy. Colin Trevorrow had a tough night, as critics savaged his Focus Features weepie, The Book of Henry, which opened the L.A. Film Festival Wednesday night and stars Naomi Watts as a single mom, Room’s Jacob Tremblay as one of her sons, and Jaeden Lieberher as his brother boy genius. Normally a few pans of a modestly budgeted drama are no big deal. But Trevorrow is on deck to helm a tiny little 2019 film called Star Wars: Episode IX, which ups the stakes a bit when Variety’s Owen Gleiberman notes your movie’s “muted yet still rather flamboyant terribleness,” The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr calls it “mawkish and calculated,” and The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore asks, “After this near-catastrophe, can he really be trusted with the fate of the Jedi?” Trevorrow seemed to know he was in for it before the reviews landed. On Tuesday, he retweeted some praise from a viewer, adding, “Thank you so much. You should become a film critic (ideally within the next 24 hours).”
On the fourth day of deliberations, the Pennsylvania jury in the sexual-assault trial of Bill Cosby informed the judge that it is deadlocked on all three charges. Cosby’s lawyers asked for a mistrial, but Judge Steven T. O’Neill denied that request, and sent the jurors back to try to work out their differences. It’s unclear just what those differences are, The New York Times’ Graham Bowley and Jon Hurdle note, pointing out that Andrea Constand, the woman who has accused Mr. Cosby of sexual assault, was composed and calm on the stand, “But the defense spent most of its time during cross-examination working to establish the inconsistencies and mistakes in her account.”
NO ONE MAN SHOULD HAVE ALL THAT POWER
VF.com’s Yohana Desta e-mails:
It’s been said again and again that Tom Cruise is one of the last great movie stars (the man’s never even acted in a TV show!). His decades-long career and box-office success have given him a unique hold on the industry. However, his last project, Universal’s reboot of The Mummy, might have been damaged by that tight grip. Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh and Brent Lang report that Cruise had “excessive control” over the film, to the point where he is partly responsible for its disappointing $32 million domestic opening. As per his contractual agreement, Cruise had script approval, control over post-production decisions, and “a great deal of input on the film’s marketing and release strategy, these sources said, advocating for a June debut in a prime summer period,” Setoodeh and Lang report. He also commissioned two writers to amp up his dramatic arc and brought in his longtime collaborator Andrew Mondshein to edit the film. In a statement to Variety, Universal said Cruise was “a true partner and creative collaborator.” But after seeing the weak reviews and the box-office returns, maybe, just maybe, Tom should’ve loosened the reins on this one.
LAWYERS IN PARADISE
VF.com’s Laura Bradley e-mails:
The trouble in Paradise continues. As Warner Bros. conducts its internal investigation of an incident of alleged misconduct that went down on the Bachelor in Paradise set in Mexico, both parties involved in the reported drunken episode have released statements and lawyered up. DeMario Jackson said his character has been “assassinated” by “false claims and malicious allegations.” Corinne Olympios said, “I am a victim. As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality.” Olympios is not playing around—she has hired power attorney Marty Singer, whose star-studded client list includes Charlie Sheen, Scarlett Johansson, Quentin Tarantino, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Variety notes, Singer has faced off against Warner Bros. TV in court before: when Sheen was fired from Two and a Half Men, Singer sued the studio for $100 million on his client’s behalf. The suit was settled a few months later.
A NEW VIEW OF PEAK TV
VF.com’s Hillary Busis e-mails:
TV viewers frustrated by mealy-mouthed actors discovered long ago that they could simply turn on the closed captions. What they may not know is that increasingly, there’s also a service that can help them understand what is going on in all those dimly lit prestige shows: audio description, which enlists narrators to describe the action taking place in between a given show’s dialogue. Audio description also has a more noble purpose: it’s the innovation that’s helping to open the defining medium of our time to visually impaired viewers, who make up nearly 8 percent of the nation’s population. V.F. contributor Kelsey McKinney examines the world of audio description, speaking to both blind consumers and audio pioneers about the burgeoning art form.
As Emmy voters pore over their ballots, over at VF.com we’re taking deep dives into key scenes and characters from some of the year’s most talked-about shows. I interviewed Dear White People creator Justin Simien about an ensemble scene from his satirical series with influences as wide-ranging as Robert Altman and Bayard Rustin; Desta spoke with Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge about creating that show’s funny, twisted, sexually adventurous title character; and Bradley heard from The Handmaid’s Tale’s Reed Morano and Alexis Bledel about shooting a blood-curdling moment in that dystopian series. Stay tuned—we’ll be posting more of these pieces here over the next two weeks.
Tonight at 10 P.M. ET/PT, TNT will air AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Diane Keaton, filmed last week at the Dolby Theatre. Photographer Peter Wintersteller and I had a unique perch backstage during the show, to watch as Meryl Streep, Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and many others hobnobbed and toasted the Annie Hall star on her big night. Our exclusive story includes an intimate photo gallery and a clip of Streep’s soaring speech.
The latest episode of V.F. podcast Little Gold Men has dropped. Listen as Richard Lawson interviews The Big Sick’s Michael Showalter, Desta talks about her piece on Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Mike Hogan, Katey Rich, and Joanna Robinson sing the praises of Carrie Coon’s double duty in The Leftovers and Fargo.
That’s the news for this blazing Thursday in L.A. Send tips, comments, and your favorite Robert Altman movie to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @thatrebecca.