Thursday, July 18, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2019
Bill Wittliff, "Lonesome Dove" co-screenwriter, dies at 79
In this Wednesday, June 21, 2006, file photo, Bill Wittliff, a writer, photographer and producer, poses with some of his collection in his office in Austin, Texas. Wittliff, a prolific screenwriter who co-wrote the script for the 1989 miniseries “Lonesome Dove,” died Sunday, June 9, 2019, at the age of 79. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- 

Bill Wittliff, a prolific screenwriter who co-wrote the script for the 1989 miniseries "Lonesome Dove," has died at the age of 79.

His death was announced by Texas State University, where Wittliff had founded The Wittliff Collections with his wife, lawyer Sally Wittliff. Collections Music Curator Hector Saldana tells The Hollywood Reporter that Wittliff died Sunday of a heart attack.

Besides "Lonesome Dove," Wittliff was the writer and director of the 1986 film "Red Headed Stranger," shared screenplay credit on the 1979 film "The Black Stallion" and 1994's "The Legends of the Fall," and wrote the screenplays for the 1981 film "Raggedy Man" and 2000's "The Perfect Storm."

In a statement on the Collections' website, University President Denise Trauth called Wittliff and "inspiration" and "a Texas State hero."

  • Saturday, Jun. 8, 2019
Olivia Colman gets royal honor ahead of debut in "The Crown"
In this file photo dated Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman poses for photographers at the 75th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. Colman is awarded the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, on Friday June 7, 2019, in the annual Queen’s Birthday Honors list, honoured by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch that Colman plays in the new TV drama “The Crown.” (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)

Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II - the monarch she is about to play on the Netflix royal family TV drama "The Crown."

Colman was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in the annual Queen's Birthday Honors list.

The performer won a best-actress Oscar this year for playing 18th-century monarch Queen Anne in "The Favourite." She plays Elizabeth in the upcoming third season of "The Crown," which is currently in production.

Colman said she was "totally thrilled, delighted and humbled" by the honor.

The queen also made singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, 64, an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE - an honor far from his roots in Britain's punk and new wave scene during the 1970s.

In a website post entitled "In Her Majesty's Secret Service," Costello said he spoke with his mother before deciding to put aside "old doubts and enmities" about the crown and his country's past as the British Empire and "muster what little grace I possess" to accept the honor from the 93-year-old monarch Friday.

It was a task Costello made more palatable by dedicating the award to his grandfathers, who fought "for King and Country" during World War I, "and because my Mam told me to do it.

"To be honest, I'm pretty tickled to receive this acknowledgement for my 'Services To Music' as it confirms my long held suspicion nobody really listens to the words in songs or the outcome might have been somewhat different," Costello wrote.

Other recipients of this years' Queen's Birthday Honors include British-Sri Lankan rapper MIA, whose real name Mathangi Arulpragasam, 43, and Andrew Roachford, the singer-songwriter behind the band Roachford. Both were made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, for services to music.

The honors are awarded twice a year, at New Year's and to mark the monarch's official birthday in June. (Elizabeth actually was born on April 21, so celebrates twice, as well.) They acknowledge hundreds of people for services to community or British national life.

In descending order, the main honors are knighthoods, CBE, OBE and MBE. Knights are addressed as "sir" or "dame," followed by their name. Recipients of the other honors have no title, but can put the letters after their names.

The latest list included a knighthood for Simon Russell Beale, one of Britain's finest stage actors, who can now call himself Sir Simon.

Recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public, with the awards bestowed by the queen and other senior royals during Buckingham Palace ceremonies.

Famous faces typically are in the minority. Most go to activists and teachers, doctors and police officers - people who do big things in small communities and often labor for years without recognition.

Among this year's honorees were seven Holocaust survivors awarded British Empire medals for services to Holocaust education: Walter Kammerling, 95, Ernest Simon, 89, Gabrielle Keenaghan, 92, Ruzena Levy, 89, Ann Kirk, 90, Bob Kirk, 94, and George Hans Vulkan, 89,

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said the survivors provide a "public service" by sharing their stories amid a climate of "rising anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and hate." Pollock said there are other Holocaust survivors "who have yet to receive national recognition, and I hope that they too will be rightly recognized while we still can."

The queen also bestowed knighthood on Boyd Tunnock, inventor of the Tunnock's Teacake, a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat.

"When you get to my age, very few things surprise you but this certainly did and I am deeply honored and grateful to Her Majesty the queen," said Tunnock, whose family firm has been making sweets in Scotland since the 19th century.

Artist Rachel Whiteread, who won the Turner Prize in 1993 for her concrete cast of the inside of a condemned house, became a dame, the female equivalent of a knight.

Novelist Joanna Trollope and Lee Child, writer of the Jack Reacher thrillers, were made CBEs.

Like Costello, Feargal Sharkey, former lead singer of The Undertones — best known for punk classic "Teenage Kicks" — was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, as was actress Cush Jumbo, a star of TV legal series "The Good Fight."

  • Friday, Jun. 7, 2019
Michael B. Jordan presents Central Park 5 with courage award
Honoree Yusef Salaam, right, becomes emotional as he addresses the audience at the ACLU SoCal's 25th Annual Luncheon at the JW Marriott at LA Live, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Los Angeles. Looking on at left is presenter Michael B. Jordan. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Michael B. Jordan told the men known as the Central Park Five Friday that he cannot watch footage of the new series "When They See Us" without getting emotional and feeling like as a young black man he too could have faced a similar ordeal.

"It's dangerous in America when you're living in a black body," Jordan said.

Jordan praised the men —  Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise — for their perseverance and courage during a luncheon in which the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California honored Netflix's series about their case.

"The whole time that these men were incarcerated, they never changed their story," he said. "They insisted of their innocence even as they did their time."

Salaam cried as he accepted an award on behalf of series creator Ava DuVernay.

"I'm not ashamed to cry in front of you," Salaam said after a moment of silence as he reflected on how he and the other men were "just boys" between the ages of 13 and 16 years old when they were wrongfully convicted.

"Our story is a story of an egregious miscarriage of justice," he added.

Jordan hugged Salaam, who also spoke on behalf of the five men.

"That's courage," said Jordan, whose performances have ranged from his acclaimed portrayal of a young black man killed by a police officer in "Fruitvale Station" to the vengeful Erik Killmonger in "Black Panther."

Salaam and the rest of the Central Park Five were exonerated in 2002 after being charged with the 1989 rape of a white woman in New York's Central Park. They received a standing ovation while accepting the ACLU chapter's inaugural Roger Baldwin Courage Award. Baldwin was one of the ACLU's founders and its first executive director.

"When They See Us" isn't Hollywood's first attempt to recount the story of the Central Park Five's wrongful conviction, but it has sparked a renewed interest in the details of the case.

Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, said DuVernay refocused the narrative on the humanity of the five men and it has shone a new light on a widely known case 30 years later.

The series has re-ignited outcry about how the case was handled. Linda Fairstein, the Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who observed the teenagers' interrogation, has faced backlash for her role in their conviction. Fairstein has already resigned from at least two nonprofit boards as backlash intensified and a #CancelLindaFairstein movement spread on social media.

Shortly before the men accepted their award, Fairstein was dropped by her book publisher in the face of the increasing criticism. Villagra said that he thinks it's fair that Fairstein be judged for her actions, even decades later.

"It's in many ways justice delayed," Villagra said.

  • Friday, Jun. 7, 2019
Spike Lee calls for Hollywood to "shut it down" in Georgia
Spike Lee arrives at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony honoring Denzel Washington at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Director Spike Lee is calling for Hollywood production companies to leave Georgia over a law that would ban abortions as early as six weeks, upon detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Most studios that have commented have said they're waiting to see if the so-called "heartbeat" law actually takes effect next year, or if the courts will block it. But at the arrivals line for Denzel Washington's AFI Lifetime Achievement tribute Thursday, Lee said now is the time for Georgia-based productions to "shut it down" and boycott the state's booming film industry to drive change.

Lee acknowledged that a mass exodus could dent livelihoods, but cited black bus drivers affected by the Civil Rights Movement-era boycott in Montgomery.

Georgia's economy currently gets a $9.5 billion annual boost from the industry.

  • Thursday, Jun. 6, 2019
Obamas to produce exclusive podcasts for Spotify
In this Oct. 31, 2017 file photo, former President Barack Obama, right, and former first lady Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Barack and Michelle Obama's production company is teaming up with Spotify to produce exclusive podcasts for the platform.

Under the Higher Ground partnership announced Thursday, the former president and first lady will develop and lend their voices to select podcasts.

The Obamas launched Higher Ground in 2018 with an initial partnership with Netflix. The idea was to raise new, diverse voices in the entertainment industry. The Spotify partnership seeks to expand the conversation.

In a statement, the former president says podcasts offer an opportunity to "foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think."

Michelle Obama says she hopes they can help people connect emotionally and open their hearts and minds.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019
Lesli Linka Glatter, Paul Schrader to receive AFI Conservatory honorary degrees
Lesli Linka Glatter

The American Film Institute (AFI) will confer Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon Academy Award®-nominated director/producer Lesli Linka Glatter (alumna, AFI Directing Workshop for Women) and Academy Award®-nominated writer/director Paul Schrader (AFI Conservatory Class of 1969). They will be recognized for their contributions to the art of the moving image during the AFI Conservatory’s commencement ceremony on June 10, at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.

“AFI Commencement inspires us each year as we send a new class of talented artists out to share their stories with the world,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO. “As the 50th anniversary of the AFI Conservatory, this year is a landmark, and we are honored to celebrate two master storytellers who once walked AFI’s halls and whose singular visions have helped to shape the global landscape of storytelling.”
Glatter and Schrader join an esteemed group of distinguished past recipients, including Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Saul Bass, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, Jodie Foster, James Earl Jones, Lawrence Kasdan, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams. 

The AFI Commencement will also recognize producing faculty member Robert Kaplan, who retires this year after 42 years of service, and cinematography sr. lecturer Bill Dill, ASC, who in 2019 marks his 25th year at AFI. During his tenure, Dill trained such accomplished AFI Conservatory Cinematography graduates as Rachel Morrison (Black Panther), Masanobu Takayanagi (Spotlight) and hundreds more.

The AFI Conservatory is a world-class film training program that offers Fellows with a passion for storytelling an MFA in six disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. This year, the Conservatory celebrates its 50th anniversary, having opened its doors in 1969 to an elite class of filmmakers including 2019 honorary degree recipient Paul Schrader.
Glatter’s vision has shaped the current golden age of television.  After her AFI Directing Workshop for Women thesis film, Tales of Meeting and Parting, earned an Academy Award® nomination in 1985, Glatter received her first assignment as a director on Steven Spielberg’s anthology series Amazing Stories.

Over the past three decades, Glatter has brought her deft directorial hand to influential comedies and dramas, including Twin Peaks, ER, Freaks and Geeks, The West Wing, Mad Men, Weeds, Homeland, The Newsroom, The Walking Dead, Justified, Ray Donovan and The Leftovers. Glatter has also been instrumental as an executive producer on TV series, including Homeland and The Leftovers. She made her feature directorial debut with Now and Then, followed by The Proposition in 1998.

Glatter helped develop the NBC Female Forward program, aimed at forging a path for women directors. She also serves as the fifth Vice President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and is a member of the DGA Western Directors Council, a former member of the Executive Committee of the Directors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a mentor to promising new filmmakers at the prestigious Sundance Directors Lab. 

Glatter’s honors include seven Emmy® nominations, a Producers Guild of America Award nomination and seven DGA Award nominations, with two DGA Award wins for her work on Homeland and Mad Men. In 2016, she received the BMW Dorothy Arzner Directors Award presented by Women in Film, and the Franklin J. Schaffner Award from AFI.

Schrader (AFI Class of 1969) is an award-winning screenwriter and film director with an indelible influence on modern cinema. Schrader wrote or co-wrote the iconic screenplays for four Martin Scorsese films: Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Bringing Out The Dead (1999). Schrader has also directed 20 feature films, including his 1982 remake of the horror classic Cat People, the crime drama American Gigolo (1980), the Cannes prize-winning biographical drama Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (1985), true-story thriller Patty Hearst (1988), the cult film Light Sleeper (1992), the drama Affliction (1997), the biographical film Auto Focus (2002) and the erotic thriller The Canyons (2013). Most recently, Schrader wrote and directed the otherworldly tale of spiritual crisis, First Reformed (2018), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Original Screenplay.

Schrader began his career at UCLA film school before attending the AFI Conservatory as a member of the very first class. He was a film critic who in 1972 published “Transcendental Style in Film,” a study of Bresson, Ozu and Dreyer. He continues to teach at Columbia University and contribute to Film Comment in New York.
In 1999, Schrader received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the Writers Guild of America. In 2009, Schrader was awarded the inaugural Lifetime Achievement in Screenwriting award at the ScreenLit Festival in Nottingham, England. He has received lifetime achievement awards from various festivals, including Gent, Manila, Valladolid, Stockholm, SXSW, Istanbul, Haifa, Goriza, Istanbul, Cabo San Lucas, Mill Valley, San Francisco and Guanajuato.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019
Man charged with abusing Stan Lee pleads not guilty
In this April 23, 2018, file photo, Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan arrive at the world premiere of "Avengers: Infinity War," in Los Angeles. Morgan, a former business manager to Stan Lee, has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of abusing the Marvel Comics legend. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

A former business manager to Stan Lee has pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he abused the Marvel Comics legend.

Keya Morgan, 43, entered the plea Wednesday in Los Angeles after authorities transported him from Arizona, where he was arrested last month.

Morgan was charged in May with five counts of elder abuse involving the late Marvel Comics mastermind including theft, embezzlement, forgery or fraud against an elder adult, and false imprisonment of an elder adult.

The charges date to June 2018, when Morgan was working closely with Lee. The comics legend, who co-created Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Black Panther, died in November at age 95.

Alex Kessel, an attorney for Morgan, has said his client has never abused or taken advantage of Lee.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Morgan sought to capitalize on Lee's wealth and exert influence over him even though he had no authority to act on his behalf.

Prosecutors say Morgan pocketed more than $262,000 from autograph-signing sessions Lee did in May 2018.

Morgan at one point also took Lee from his Hollywood Hills home to a Beverly Hills condominium "where Morgan had more control over Lee," according to California authorities.

Lee's daughter, Joan, said in a request for a restraining order last year that Morgan was manipulating the mentally declining Lee, preventing him from seeing family and friends, and trying to take control of his money and business affairs. A restraining order was granted last June that barred Morgan from contact with Lee and revealed a police elder abuse investigation.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Francis Bennett set a hearing for Thursday morning to determine the source of money offered to secure Morgan's release. His bail is set at $300,000. Kessel said Morgan's mother would be providing the bail money.

Lee was the public face of Marvel Comics and beloved for his appearances at comic book conventions and his cameos in Marvel movies, including a posthumous one in April's "Avengers: Endgame."

  • Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019
AMC to rethink Georgia filming if abortion law takes effect
In this July 8, 2014 photo, actors and extras work during filming of the "The Walking Dead," in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

The network behind a show that's become synonymous with Georgia says it will "reevaluate" its activity in the state if a new abortion law goes into effect.

"The Walking Dead" is an economic powerhouse and brings streams of tourists to the Georgia towns where it has been filmed.

A statement from AMC Networks calls the abortion legislation "highly restrictive" and says it will be closely watching what's likely to be "a long and complicated fight" over the law. Georgia's ban on virtually all abortions will take effect next year if it's not blocked in the courts.

AMC is joining several other TV and film companies expressing concerns over the legislation, though no major studio has actually pulled out of the state. Georgia has become known as the "Hollywood of the South" due to its tax incentives for filming.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019
Explosion on "Bond 25" set causes injury, damage to studio
In this April 25, 2019, file photo, actor Daniel Craig poses for photographers during the photo call of the latest installment of the James Bond film franchise, currently known as "Bond 25," in Oracabessa, Jamaica. An explosion Tuesday, June 4, 2019, on the set of the new James Bond movie has injured one crew member and damaged a stage at Pinewood Studios outside London. (AP Photo/Leo Hudson, File)

An explosion on the set of the new James Bond movie has injured one crew member and damaged a stage at Pinewood Studios.

The film's official Twitter account said the accident Tuesday came from a "controlled explosion."  No one was injured on set but a crew member outside the stage sustained a minor injury. The exterior of a stage was also damaged at the studio facilities outside London.

This is the second production incident on the untitled 25th installment in the 007 franchise. Shooting was set back in late May after Daniel Craig hurt his foot while performing a stunt in Jamaica. He underwent minor ankle surgery that required two weeks of rehabilitation.

Representatives for the film did not immediately respond to messages on the explosion Tuesday.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019
Spike Lee to present Denzel Washington with AFI Award
In this May 19, 2009 file photo, director Spike Lee, left, and Denzel Washington talk during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets in Los Angeles. Lee will honor Washington’s illustrious career by presenting his friend and collaborator the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. AFI says Tuesday, June 4, 2019, that Lee will present the actor and director with the honor at a gala Thursday, June 6 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. (AP Photo/Mark Avery, File)

Spike Lee will honor Denzel Washington's career by presenting his friend and collaborator with the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

AFI said Tuesday that Lee will present the actor and director with the honor at a gala Thursday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Lee has directed Washington in four films, including "Malcolm X" and "Inside Man." He also worked with Washington's son, John David, on the 2019 Oscar best-picture nominee "BlacKkKlansman."

It's a role reversal for Washington, who has helped present Lee with an honorary Oscar in 2015 and an NAACP Hall of Fame Award in 2003.

Mahershala Ali will join a star-studded list of presenters including Morgan Freeman, Chadwick Boseman and Julia Roberts.

The tribute will air on TNT on June 20 at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

The 64-year-old Washington joins the ranks of Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Alfred Hitchcock. Last year's AFI honoree was George Clooney.

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