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Ron Howard Hoping 'More Progressive' America

Tuesday, 14 Apr 2009 06:18 PM

By James Hirsen

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Ron Howard Hoping 'More Progressive' America
2. Woody Harrelson’s Zombie Assault Defense
3. Movie 'Outs' Republicans
4. Obama Propaganda Film on HBO
5. Star Salaries Sink
 

1. Ron Howard Hoping 'More Progressive' America

Guess Bill Maher’s “Real Time” cable show is good for one thing.

It has revealed where one of the most beloved celebrities of our times really stands politically.

Because of his classic roles on family friendly TV, Ron Howard is often thought of as being a combination of his loveable onscreen characters, part Opie, part Richie.

But in his recent HBO appearance, Howard pleased Maher’s peanut gallery by expressing his yearning for a “more progressive” America.

Evidently, the real life big-time filmmaker envisions a nation where we’re not “so consumed with being the pre-eminent superpower and, you know, driven by sort of militarism and this need to export, you know, democracy.”

As Howard indicated, he has worked with Europeans, and this apparently qualifies him to be a sage. He’s predicting that American “lives are going to be better” because “we're going to be more progressive.”

It’s no wonder that Mayberry’s former homeboy has been polluting our culture with sewage like “The Da Vinci Code” and its sequel, “Angels & Demons.”


2. Woody Harrelson’s Zombie Assault Defense

Woody Harrelson has been a vocal critic of the war on terror, or, in Obamaspeak, overseas contingency operations.

Harrelson is the brainiac who once claimed that “the war against terrorism is terrorism.”

Apparently, the “Anger Management” cast member could use a time out himself. He has been accused of assaulting a photographer, this time at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

The New Jersey Police and the Port Authority of New York are investigating, but no charges have been brought yet against the actor.

Back in 2006, a photographer accused Harrelson of assault, but the L.A. district attorney investigated and charges were never filed.

The current complaint by the New York paparazzo alleges that Harrelson shoved the camcorder into the photographer's face.

The actor seems to have come up with a unique defense. He’s claiming that because he had just finished a movie role, the residual effect of his acting was actually to blame for his conduct.

“I wrapped a movie called 'Zombieland,' in which I was constantly under assault by zombies, then flew to New York, still very much in character,” Harrelson rationalized. “With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie.”

The “zombie defense” may live on in the annals of American jurisprudence — right alongside the Turbo Tax alibi.


3. Movie 'Outs' Republicans

A new documentary is set to premiere at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival, and it’s likely to cause consternation at the nation’s capital.

The promotional poster for the movie describes it as “a searing expose of the secret lives of closeted gay politicians.”

Although the film will purportedly feature familiar gay pols such as Barney Frank, its primary aim is to publicly reveal closeted Republicans who have taken a stand in defense of traditional marriage.

Its publicity slogan is “Do ask, do tell.”

Colleagues of mine who have seen the rough cut tell me that the film will feature politicians who haven’t previously been “outed.”

Kirby Dick directed it. He also made “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” which ticked off the Motion Picture Association of America.

The executive producer is well-known left coast political adviser to the stars Chad Griffin, who was also an adviser for California’s "No on Proposition 8" campaign.

Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute produced it, and Magnolia Pictures will be the distributor.

The version of the movie that’s been shown to selected critics is far from finished, and filmmakers are avoiding revealing the identities of politicians who will supposedly be outed.

In any case, the movie is poised to get lots of publicity, which is just what the creators wanted all along.


4. Obama Propaganda Film on HBO

A documentary that features a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign, election, and inauguration of President Barack Obama is soon to arrive at a theater near you courtesy of Edward Norton's company, Class 5 Films.

Not only will “By the People: The Election of Barack Obama,” air on HBO, the media rights to the movie have been acquired by Sony Pictures.

The deal reportedly includes worldwide distribution and domestic home entertainment rights to the film.

Sony will distribute the film to multiplexes everywhere. The studio will probably negotiate a television deal following the theatrical release.

Hollywood is essentially providing to the Obama administration a campaign ad, which will remind supporters of the victory.

The question is, Will it massage the minds of voters for the next election?


5. Star Salaries Sink

For decades the movie studios have been dreaming of lower salaries for big-name stars.

With gobs of hedge fund money, soaring DVD sales and an endless slate of new films, many stars in the past had the upper hand when it came to negotiating deals.

That was then, this is now.

Wall Street isn’t all that interested in the Sunset Strip these days, financial institutions aren’t lending and DVD sales are dropping like rocks.

Tough economic times have Hollywood studios laying off employees, cutting expenses and releasing fewer films. And when it comes to big-name stars, studios are often just saying no.

In the good ol’ Hollywood days, a top movie star would have his or her agent cut a deal with a percentage of the total revenue. The arrangement was known as “first dollar gross,” where the celebrity got his or her portion of the money, and it came in whether or not the studio recouped its expenses.

Since the first dollar gross participation got money for the star regardless of the movie’s box-office success or failure, the deals shifted more of the risk to the studio.

In today’s climate, such a project is unattractive to investors.

When Eddie Murphy starred in “Meet Dave,” he got his percentage of the $12 million in revenue even though the film cost the studio $70 million. And Julia Roberts will get her millions off the top of the box-office receipts for “Duplicity,” despite its having brought in only $34 million thus far but having cost $60 million.

The first dollar gross provision was actually a response to “creative accounting,” which was used for a long time in Tinseltown and resulted in mythical net deals.

For example, as part of his compensation for “Titanic,” Leonardo DiCaprio took 18 percent of the net profit of a movie we now know is the biggest grossing film of all time. DiCaprio collected the usual amount on a net deal — zip, zero, nada.

Elite screen stars are still going to get the primo deals, but many of the box-office’s lesser lights are going to get the lowball treatment.

Mickey Rourke was the choice to be a villain in the upcoming “Iron Man” sequel. The Oscar winner was only offered $250,000. Likewise, Scarlett Johansson was sought after for a female heavy in the same movie.

Johansson was also offered $250,000. Reportedly, both stars’ agents were able to negotiate an additional $150,000.

Universal refused to give Russell Crowe a first dollar gross deal for the upcoming “Nottingham,” while Paramount nixed such deals for Harrison Ford in “Morning Glory” and Steve Carell in “Dinner for Schmucks.”

What’s next, stars being denied armpit waxing and papaya peels?

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