The Couch Jumper Can't Win
Tom Cruise's new moviegets panned in London.
The networks and studios say they don't know how the business is going to work at this point or even whether anything resembling life as they know it can continue in the new-media world. They offered to do a study of this mysterious new media. When the writers didn't go for it, the producers came up with another idea: doing in the long-standing residuals system, under which writers get paid for repeat airings of their work. In other words, give up your puppy, or we'll kill your baby.
Now, the writers seem poised to strike—which wasn't supposed to happen just yet. Yes, their contract is finished this month, but they were going to work under their old deal until June, when the actors and directors guilds are supposed to negotiate new contracts. The networks, thinking they still had some time, have been stockpiling new shows and reality series. The studios have been working toward getting movies started by March on the assumption that they'd be able to finish while the writers were still around.
But the writers figured out a couple of things. One, the directors look like they're going to cut their own deal early, which they've done before, and the supposedly perfect end-of-June storm will be downgraded. Two, what's the point of letting the enemy stock the larder? So, the writers may walk as early as the beginning of November. Certainly they're talking a tough game, despite great trepidation among many of the rank and file.
There seems to be some debate as to which will have a tougher time if the writers go—the networks or the film studios. The movie folks are either a little bit or very pregnant with pictures and would have to expensively put them on hold or expensively pull the plug if no writers are around. The networks may be able to stockpile reality programming but don't want to drive viewers away in droves with all that much slop. They're scratching for primetime ideas—NBC, for example, is said to be looking at reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm or airing the original British version of The Office. (link)
Oct. 5, 2007
The war in Afghanistan: Paramount is starting to sweat bullets over The Kite Runner.
Perhaps you've read the New York Times report about concerns over the safety of the child actors in the film, which is based on Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel. Or perhaps you heard your Hollywoodland correspondent's even earlier report on NPR in which one of the child stars and his father said that they were misled about the nature of the film and that they are now afraid of what might happen after it's released. The movie was supposed to hit theaters in November. Now it's been pushed back several weeks to give Paramount time to figure out how to protect the three children who may be at risk.
Like the book, the movie portrays two boyhood friends who must deal with political strife, and ethnic and class conflicts. In one pivotal scene, one of the boys—Hassan—is raped by a youth who later becomes a Taliban leader. Various parties might be offended by the film's depiction of life in Afghanistan: the Taliban, other fundamentalists, members of the Hazara minority who will not like the portrayal of their bitter persecution.
But the rape may be the most sensitive issue in the film. Ishaq Shahryar, who served as Afghanistan's first post-Taliban ambassador to the United States, says that the depiction will destroy the lives of Ahmad Kahn Mahmidzada, who plays the victim, and his family. "The consequences will be terrible," he says. "To be raped or to be gay over there—it's unfortunately absolutely unacceptable." The stigma is so great that even a fictional depiction is bad—worse, says Shahryar, because "the whole world will see it."
In July, Paramount got nervous enough to dispatch former CIA counterterrorism officer John Kiriakou to talk to experts in Washington and Kabul and evaluate the risk. He said unequivocally that the kids had to leave Afghanistan before the film is released. Paramount is working to relocate the three actors and their families, though it's unclear whether they will decide to leave and how long they might stay away.
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Tom Cruise by Sean Gallup/Getty Images. Photograph of Ryan Gosling by Olivier Laban-Mattei/Agence France-Presse. Still from Adaptation copyright 2002 Columbia Pictures. Still from The Kite Runner copyright 2007 Paramount Classics. All rights reserved. Photograph of George Clooney by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images.