Good afternoon Insiders, Max Goldbart here back from a (hopefully) well earned break with a packed newsletter following a week in which actors joined writers on the pickets for the first time in more than 60 years and the BBC found itself mired in crisis, yet again. Read on, and sign up here.
SAG Crosses The Picket
Putting down their… scripts?: It’s official. And my god it’s going to be big. LA’s 160,000-strong acting community has joined striking scribes on the picket line for the first time in more than six decades, back when a certain Ronald Reagan was the head of the actors union. The move was ratified yesterday following a two-week negotiation extension that appeared to get neither SAG-AFTRA nor the AMPTP anywhere near to their goal, and actors will take to the pickets when LA wakes. “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity,” said SAG boss Fran Drescher, neatly illustrating where relations between the two bodies currently sit. What happens next will be momentous.
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Global ripples: As with the WGA, SAG’s strike has powerful ripple effects beyond American shores. Our international team has spent the past couple of days taking stock and speaking to contacts who are in no doubt that projects outside the U.S. are going to be impacted. The situation was beautifully typified by actors walking out of the London Oppenheimer premiere mid-screening as the strike was being ratified, with Christopher Nolan playing the proud uncle and sending them on their way. Eyes have turned to the UK, a nation replete with top acting talent working on both sides of the pond, where actors union Equity released a statement and guidance last night. The guidance urged members in the UK working for U.S. producers to continue working as “the strike has been authorised under legislation in the United States but is not lawful under United Kingdom legislation” — the UK’s anti-strike laws are tough and unity striking is not accepted. Shows such as House of the Dragon and Industry, both of which were commissioned in the U.S. (Industry is co-produced by the BBC), fall within this bracket and will push on, as studios take advantage of the differing legalities. Other mega productions shooting abroad include Paddington in Peru, which rolls cameras next week, Gladiator 2 and martial arts sequel Mortal Kombat 2 — we hear the latter has definitely been stood down as Australia’s unions warn a “limited” number of films and show will be impacted. Festivals are also in the firing line, with Ireland’s Galway Fleadh the first to pull a premiere Q&A.
Achieving Equity: Sources were in praise of the clarity of Equity’s actions, given the confusion that surrounded writers’ work status outside the U.S. in the ensuing days after that strike was called in early May. Equity will, of course, show solidarity with SAG and there may be protests in the coming weeks but the union cannot be seen to be “discouraging people to stop work on productions which are operating in the United Kingdom,” according to the guidance. Lawyers will no doubt be pouring through the wording as I write. Regardless of the minutiae, the global TV and film industry needs another major strike like it needs a hole in the head and, while a cost-of-living crisis and rampant inflation continues to bite, it must be remembered that people’s very livelihoods are stake. Dom Patten had this scoop Monday, in which he revealed that the AMPTP’s endgame in the WGA war could be to let writers go broke before resuming talks in a few months. Just as with the WGA, Deadline will be on the ground for this latest industry-shaping dispute.
BBC In Crisis (Again)
Reverberations: A crisis of epic proportions has reverberated not just in the halls of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House but across British media this week. Following the twists and turns of the ‘BBC Presenter Saga’ — a saga that can now safely be called the ‘Huw Edwards Saga’ — has not been easy and at varying points, the court of public opinion has shifted dramatically. It all started with a story a week ago in Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun about a BBC presenter who had paid a young person (who may or may not have been underage) thousands of pounds for sexually explicit images. The identity of the presenter remained an open secret until Wednesday evening when, after police announced they would not investigate, newsreader Huw Edward’s wife confirmed that he was the person in question, and was being treated for severe mental health issues.
Development upon development upon development: While initially all of the ire was focused on the BBC, The Sun and the press in general have since taken their fair share of flak. You can read all of Jake’s fantastic coverage of the scandal here — including this agenda-setter revealing that the BBC was working up an exposé on Edwards prior to The Sun’s piece — but in short the story has moved from one where it appeared that the BBC had covered up Edwards’ behavior, to one where those accusing him were called into question via the young person’s lawyer, to one with question marks over legality, and now to one that requires much further investigation. The story has at the same time raised multiple talking points about the nature of the British press, the role of social media, societal homophobia and the court of public opinion. Where in the past he would likely have been outed immediately, stringent UK privacy laws prevented newspapers from revealing Edwards’ name but that only led to days of fevered speculation, during which multiple well-known faces had to repeatedly insist they were not in fact the ‘BBC Presenter’ under fire. The BBC ends the week in a better position than it was in on Monday but, in a sense, this story has only just begun, and multiple issues still require resolving. With the embers of the Gary Lineker and Richard Sharp fires still very much alive for the embattled British broadcaster, we’ll be there each and every step of the way.
No man is an Ireland: Generating fewer headlines but just as ablaze is the scandal that has beset Irish national broadcaster RTÉ. New Director General Kevin Bakhurst took over this week and immediately stood down his entire executive board following a pay scandal in which Bakhurst’s predecessor Dee Forbes is accused of underhand payments to The Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy, one of the nation’s most well-known presenters. So enthralled has the Irish public been that pubs around the country screened Tubridy’s appearance in front a parliamentary committee earlier this week, during which he suggested he had been “cancelled.” Much like at the BBC, RTÉ execs still have multiple question marks hanging over them.
Spacey Speaks Up
Defense begins: Kevin Spacey’s UK sexual assault trial is fast headed towards its conclusion, with the prosecution resting its case this week after days of witness testimony from the four men accusing the Usual Suspects and American Beauty star of sexually-motivated crimes. Spacey himself was initially thought to be eschewing the stand but yesterday he in fact became the first witness called for the defense, and he has continued facing questions today. Jurors had already heard from him via several excerpts of the interviews he gave to police, during which he denied the charges and said he was “baffled” and “deeply hurt” by the accusations, which relate to a period between 2001 and 2013. His testimony was an uncomfortable but fascinating exchange in which Spacey again denied all the accusations, though he admitted to a “somewhat intimate” relationship with one complainant and said he had touched him in “romantic” ways, adding: “I’m a big flirt.” He also strongly refuted the most serious charge, that he performed a non-consensual sex act on another alleged victim. He denied drugging the man, an aspiring actor, saying the behavior made “no logical sense” before admitting to the sex act, but saying it was consensual and part of “a very nice and lovely evening.” The Hollywood star has gone on the offensive today, branding the case for the prosuection “weak” and saying a man who accused him of grabbing his crotch “like a cobra” lied for “money, money, money.”
“I lost everything”: Spacey called the other allegations “madness” and “a stab in the back,” and became emotional when he described how the allegations had impacted his personal and working life — the two-time Academy Award winner’s career has collapsed following his legal issues in the U.S. and UK. Recalling the period when the first allegations against him emerged online, he said: “I lost my job, I lost my reputation, I lost everything in a matter of days.” Elsewhere, there was a surreal recollection of Spacey’s acting life in the UK, which included how he stayed at the flat of late actor Richard Harris’ son when he first arrived in London, has gifted Judi Dench with a ping pong table and stored a Mini Cooper in Elton John’s garage. Spacey is facing a total of 12 charges, including sexual assault and indecent assault, all of which he denies.
Berlinale Budget Woes
Serious budgetary hole: All is not well at the Berlin Film Festival, which announced Wednesday it will reduce the size of its 2024 program by almost 100 films, while culling two competition strands. The moves are a response to a serious budgetary hole, reports Zac. The Berlinale Series TV strand has been dropped as an independent program and all sections have reduced their number of films, which have dipped overall from 287 last year to around 200. The Perspektive Deutsches Kino sidebar has also been axed. Executive Director Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian said in a joint statement: “Like many other areas of society, cultural institutions and festivals are affected by considerable cost increases but unchanged budgets.” Industry eyes now turn to other festivals to see if they will follow suit as the global media economy continues to suffer.
Banijay Splashes The Cash
Rabbit out the hat: Banijay UK has spent the past six months quietly splashing almost £50M ($65M) via its Growth Fund on new start-up labels, flexible talent deals and recruitment. After unveiling its splashiest deal yet — minority stake in James Norton and Kitty Kaletsky’s Rabbit Track — I sat down with UK CEO Patrick Holland, who revealed that a “substantial” portion of the pot has been spent, although this doesn’t mean it can’t be topped up. At a time when global macroeconomic shocks and rampant inflation are much publicized, Holland, a former BBC Two Controller, stressed that Banijay is on the front foot in the nation, with more big deals to come. “If you go to other Banijay territories such as Germany, France and Italy, we are seen as the most entrepreneurial and ‘investing’ company but when I first started here I wouldn’t have said that [about the UK division],” Patrick reflected. Dive in.
🌶️ Hot One: Ted Lasso star James Lance and Hermione Norris joined Gillian Anderson and Jason Isaacs in Raynor Winn adaptation The Salt Path.
🌶️ Another: Black Bear’s management arm signed Godland star Elliott Crosset Hove.
🌶️ Another: Prime Video unveiled cast for a drama set during Mexico’s catastrophic 1985 earthquake, per our U.S. colleague Rosy, and ordered a Fleabag-esque comedy in Italy, per Jesse.
🏆 Awards: British shows had a quiet Emmy noms year but The Crown is back and Taron Edgerton, Daniel Radcliffe, Will Sharpe, Brian Cox and Bella Ramsey all got nods.
⛺ Festival: Jane Campion, Martin McDonagh & Laura Poitras joined the Venice Film Festival Jury.
🤖 The robots are coming: British writers are spooked by generative systems, according to WGGB survey.
📖 Rule changes: By BAFTA, which took into account the To Leslie saga and brought in bullying policy requirements for 2024 awards.
📈 Soaring pay: For Channel 4 bosses, who pocketed record pay packets amidst “very challenging” market conditions.
🙅♀️ Barbie: Cleared for release in the Philippines following South China Sea map-gate.
🤝 Done deal: BBC Studios bought into TOWIE exec Sarah Tyekiff’s new venture Mettlemouse.
🤝 Not a done deal: ITV Studios is no longer exploring a deal for The Traitors maker All3Media.
🤝 Could soon be a done deal: French luxury fashion billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault is reportedly eying up a majority stake in CAA for $7B.
🖊️ Signature hire: Cineworld lenders appointed Cinépolis executive Eduardo Acuna as the CEO of the newly incorporated parent company of the Regal Theaters owner.
🍿 Box office: Mission Impossible is predicted to save the global box office this summer with an expected five-day record of $250M starting two days ago.
🌏 Global Breakout: Check out Nima Javidi’s contemporary Iranian take on Shakespeare.
📺 Trailer: For Zombieverse, the Seoul-set survival reality series.
🔨 Breaking Baz: Our roving International Editor-At-Large had the latest on Nicole Kidman’s top secret role in Taylor Sheridan’s Special Ops: Lioness.
Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s Insider.
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