As Hollywood chases Oscars, it rushes to erase its own alleged villains
The Globe presents a brief status update on some of the projects and artists that studios have quickly washed their hands of
As the film world gathers in Los Angeles this Sunday for the 90th Academy Awards, there is an undeniable undercurrent of self-reflection running alongside the typical flood of self-congratulation: Thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp conversations, the industry is finally addressing that its success is built on a history of abuse and unchecked privilege.
Every week since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke this past October, it seems a new allegation surfaces regarding a marquee name or gatekeeper, and with it, the collapse of another film, television series or entire development slate. And just as we'll never know how many creative works were lost to history because of artists who fled or were forced out of the industry by abusive power players, it is impossible to assess the rapidly climbing costs of the many projects cancelled or killed as Hollywood races to erase its own alleged villains.
Yet on the eve of the 2018 Oscars, it is instructive to examine just how wide-ranging and costly what might be dubbed the Erasure Industry has quickly become. Here, The Globe presents a brief status update on some of the once-anticipated projects, and once-lauded artists, that studios have quickly washed their hands of.
Although Dylan Farrow's allegations of abuse are not new, Woody Allen's disputed history with his adopted daughter has forced a wide reassessment of the director's output, especially as he continues to be as prolific as ever.
In 2015, Allen entered into a reported US$80-million deal with Amazon Studios to produce and distribute his miniseries Crisis in Six Scenes (which debuted in 2016 and was roundly slammed by critics).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Allen also brokered a five-film deal with Amazon that included last year's underperforming Wonder Wheel – and leaves the studio on the hook for not only his forthcoming US$25-million drama A Rainy Day in New York (whose stars Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Hall have since publicly distanced themselves from Allen), but three more yet-to-be-developed movies. (Amazon Studios did not reply to a request for comment from The Globe and Mail.) Meanwhile, the Amazon VP who inked those deals, Roy Price, has since left the studio following allegations of sexual harassment.
At least no one can say Allen didn't see all this coming. When the Amazon deal was first announced, the director jokingly told The New York Times, "My guess is that Roy Price will regret this."
After an investigation by The New York Times revealed a history of sexual misconduct by the comedian, virtually every project tied to Louis C.K. has been extinguished. In February, 2017, Netflix signed C.K. to produce two stand-up comedy specials. One has already aired, but the streaming giant has opted to not go ahead with the second, which had not yet been produced when the scandal broke. (Forbes estimated C.K. was paid between US$30-million and US$35-million for the two-special deal; Netflix did not reply to a request for comment from The Globe).
Meanwhile, FX Networks and FX Productions ended its association with the performer and his production company Pig Newton; TBS killed production of his animation series The Cops; and his touring career (pegged at earning US$200,000 a show) is at a standstill.
And then there's I Love You, Daddy, C.K.'s ultradark comedy that was acquired for US$5-million by indie distributor the Orchard this past fall at the Toronto International Film Festival; C.K. has purchased the film back, also reportedly paying the marketing costs incurred by the distributor, estimated at between US$500,000 and US$1-million. (The Orchard did not respond to an interview request from The Globe.)
Perhaps the most visible, and unprecedented, writedowns in the wake of #MeToo involve Oscar-winner Spacey, who has been accused of unwanted sexual advances and harassment stretching back decades.
First, director Ridley Scott literally erased the star from his finished film All the Money in the World, recasting the role with Christopher Plummer and reshooting key scenes for a reported US$10-million. Second, Netflix in late January announced that it took an "unexpected" US$39-million charge for, in the words of CFO David Wells, content "we've decided not to move forward with" relating to the "societal reset around sexual harassment."
Spacey was tied to Netflix not only through his long-running political series House of Cards (which shut down production in the midst of its sixth season, cutting Spacey and later adding actors Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear), but also Gore, a Gore Vidal biopic starring Spacey that was in postproduction and set to stream on the service.
The fate of that movie is unknown, as is the status of the other film the actor has in the can: Billionaire Boys Club, co-starring Spacey's Baby Driver colleague Ansel Elgort.
In late October, the Los Angeles Times reported accounts from 38 women who accused the lauded indie-film writer-director ( Black & White, Bugsy) of sexual misconduct, a number that's since ballooned to the hundreds, including such high-profile complainants as Julianne Moore.
Toback hasn't been as active recently as others on this list, but he did have one film, The Private Life of a Modern Woman, starring Sienna Miller, that played the 2017 Venice Film Festival, to middling reviews. Its status is now a mystery (the office of the film's producer, Michael Mailer, did not reply to a query from The Globe), as is the future of the one other project Toback had in the works, an untitled John DeLorean biopic, which listed as producer another Hollywood fixture accused of misconduct: Brett Ratner.
It is difficult to overestimate just how large a shadow Weinstein cast over the film world during his time at both Miramax and then The Weinstein Company (TWC) – until a series of harassment and sexual-assault allegations pushed him into industry exile.
Meanwhile, the company that fired him remains in the headlines – the latest turn being a civil action filed by New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman against Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and TWC. "Weinstein Company leadership was complicit in Harvey Weinstein's wrongdoing," Schneiderman said. "And yet they did nothing."
Last week, TWC's board also "unanimously voted to terminate [COO] David Glasser for cause," while the company sought to sell to a group of investors led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration. That deal now appears to have collapsed, with TWC's board set to file for bankruptcy protection. (A representative for TWC did not reply to a request for comment from The Globe.)
Content-wise, the future of TWC's movies and series remains undetermined. The company's completed-but-unreleased films include the Robert De Niro comedy The War with Grandpa, the horror flick Polaroid and two prestige films that screened at TIFF: period drama The Current War (which earned poor reviews) and dramedy The Upside (garnering slightly more favourable notices for stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston). TWC series in development include a splashy Elvis miniseries, while planned features include reboots of Knight Rider and The Six Million Dollar Man.