In a move that is striking fear into the heart of the entertainment industry, the contract talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the industry, have collapsed.
Hollywood could be heading into a crippling strike this spring.
After six weeks of intense negotiations, both sides' representatives said the key sticking points revolve around residual payments, which are made as movies and TV programs enter secondary markets like videos or TV reruns.
Guild officials said the industry's latest proposal would merely keep up with inflation, with a freeze in prime-time network residuals and no increases for basic cable reruns of broadcast shows or for videos and DVDs. The overall economic package, they said, would actually amount to a slight decrease from the current pact.
The industry, however, estimated the guild would have walked away with a net gain of $30 million in residual payments and wages--about 11 percent more than the current agreement--over the next three years.
"We are disappointed this round of negotiations has not met with success," WGA president John Wells said during a news conference at the guild headquarters. "There's going to have to be more money in the package for us to make a deal."
According to Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger, the industry's proposal was driven by "a great need on our side to manage our costs" in the face of economic uncertainties. He said in a briefing, "The proposal that we had is quite realistic and reasonable because it offers the guild an increase no matter what happens with the economy."
The talks began Jan. 22, and industry executives were hopeful a deal would be set as the negotiations extended well beyond the two-week deadline. But now the collapse of the talks only heightens the growing labor unrest in Hollywood, with the possibility of both writers and actors striking this spring and summer. Major studios have been rushing films and TV series into production and stockpiling scripts in anticipation of the work stoppage.
No further talks have been scheduled, and Wells has said his side will most likely wait until April 1, a month before the current three-year contract expires, before returning to the negotiating table.
HERE COMES ANOTHER ONE: As if entering into the crazy world of making movies were an easy thing, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and producer Chris Moore have named their Project Greenlight winner.
"Stolen Summer," written by Peter Jones, was chosen from more than 7,000 entries in the online screenwriting competition. "Ultimately, it was very difficult for us to make a decision," Affleck told The Hollywood Reporter. "On some level, we thought that one would tower head and shoulders above everybody else."
Jones will be awarded a $1 million production budget to make the film, which will be released by Miramax next year. The entire process is being documented in a 13-episode reality series to air on HBO next year.
The script centers on an 8-year-old Catholic boy and his friend, a 7-year-old Jewish boy dying of cancer, as they try and figure out how to get the Jewish boy into heaven. Affleck said: "It's a really wonderful, heartfelt story that's about real people."
Jones said: "When you're the one picked out of thousands of scripts, it's a very humbling experience. I hope I make all of these people proud. I always dreamed of an opportunity like this, and it's overwhelming when your reality exceeds your dreams." He quit his job as a health insurance agent and moved to Los Angeles with his wife three years ago to pursue his filmmaking dream.
"I'd never even gotten as far as development hell. And this is only the beginning. [Now] I have to go make a movie!" he said.
The announcement was made jointly on Thursday by Miramax Films, HBO, LivePlanet and corporate sponsor Samuel Adams, although an impromptu appearance by Affleck and Jones on Wednesday's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" gave away the surprise.
Let's hope the impending WGA strike doesn't hurt Jones' chances of making it.
A "Charlie's Angels" movie? Probably sounded like a pretty damn good idea. But as incessant set reports have made clear, the flick has been anything but a pretty good damn thing. (See below.)
The latest "Angels" foible comes in the form of the reputed resignation by Bill Murray, who, wags have it, stomped off the project April 17 after an argument between him and co-star Lucy Liu -- an argument in which the feisty "Ally McBeal" chick supposedly threw air punches at the beloved comic.
While the folks at Sony Pictures, the studio behind the flick, remained mum when we called for comments, the fact is that the Murray-Liu feud is merely the most recent footnote to a project long plagued by mishaps, gossips, rumored implosions and bad publicity.
Here's a recap of all nail-breaking, ego-clashing fun:
Though Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz confirmed their participation early, there was the unexpected obstacle of casting the third angel. "Ally McBeal's" Liu eventually nabbed the role, but the process was so drawn out that the film's shooting was postponed from November to December and then again to January. Bill Murray
The part of Bosley -- the Angels' guy Friday -- was left temporarily vacant by Murray over a salary dispute. The comic reportedly was asking $1 million more than producers (of whom Barrymore is one) were willing to pay. CATFIGHTS AND MELTDOWNS
So, what was the (reputed) deal between Murray and Liu? Several versions of the incident exist: One says that Liu was peeved by the amount of improvisation Murray was doing; another says that Murray slammed Liu for having no comic talent, whereupon, she shot back with some expletives. Yet another has it that it was Liu who had problems with the script and that it was Murray who came to its defense.
According to E! Online gossip columnist Ted Casablanca, fellow angels and friends Barrymore and Diaz have engaged in a little fisticuffs of their own over top billing for the film.
Reel.com columnist Jeffrey Wells recently reported that Barrymore has taken to binge eating to relieve the stress of the set. Other reports have Barrymore bawling for the same cause. CASH DRAIN
Casablanca also reported that Diaz allegedly decreed to have Julia Roberts' makeup crew fly out to Los Angeles to tend to her cosmetic needs. The studio allegedly said no, and Diaz, who banked a hefty $12 mil for her role, allegedly paid for part of the expense.
Again from Casablanca: The project has gone so overbudget that one of the flick's producers allegedly paid for the cameos of original TV angels Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson out of her own deep pocket. (Of course, other sources -- namely, Monday's New York Daily News -- will tell you the three won't be in the movie due to "creative differences" over their collective cameo. SCRIPT, WHAT SCRIPT?
Merely one month before the film was to start rolling in November, someone close to the project was quoted in the Casablanca column as saying that "the biggest problem is there's still no script."
In November, "Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner -- who was offered (and rejected) the job to helm the "Angels" flick -- explained to the Los Angeles Times the reason he passed was: "They threw a lot of money at me, but the script never worked."
According to New York Post reporter Chris Wilson, who's gotten ahold of the script, the much-doctored treatment had been revised 30 times by a total of 10 scribes by April.
And apparently one of these versions (drafted by "Go" writer John August) was so offensive that it drove both Barrymore and Diaz temporarily out of the picture, Casablanca said in his column back in December. DELAYS
Cinescape Online reported this week that due to various problems and production delays, the shoot might not end in early May as planned.
But what's certain is that the flick's released date has been moved back from Summer 2000 to Fall 2000. So, are all these negative behind-the-scenes reports going to tarnish the audience's image of the film?
"Well, there used to the saying that 'there's no such thing as bad publicity,'" says Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "And it used to be that audiences don't really know what's going on with this kind of behind-the-scenes stuff. But now the Internet and other things have increased general interest for what goes on in front of and behind the cameras, and people are certainly taking notes of news like this out there."
But despite our heightened sensitivity toward rumor and gossip, Dergarabedian insisted that "Charlie's Angels" isn't necessarily cooked.
"If people are interested in the subject, and if the film has a good marketing scheme, and if people like the trailer, they're still going to go see it regardless of any reports of what went on behind. It's not necessary a given that those types of thing translate into poor box office. Sure though, those types of publicity are not what you want to have out there, but if it's a good movie, people are going to go see it regardless."
Of course, given the kind of "Charlie's Angels" hell reports that have been surfacing, it will certainly be a titan task to match on screen what went on behind the scenes.