- In a recent interview and essay about the historical biopic Harriet, screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen explained that it took decades for Hollywood to support a film with a black female portrayed as an “action figure.”
- He explained an instance in 1994 where a studio exec loved the script, then suggested Julia Roberts play Tubman.
- When someone said that Tubman was a black woman, the exec allegedly said, “That was so long ago. No one will know that.”
- Allen said the climate in Hollywood recently changed, making Harriet possible, thanks to films like 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther.
Exec Suggests Julia Roberts
Harriet screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen revealed that in 1994, a Hollywood studio executive suggested that actress Julia Roberts should play the iconic black historical figure, Harriet Tubman.
In a Q&A published earlier this month and in a recent L.A. Times essay, Allen discussed the 25-year journey it took to release the biopic Harriet, which finally hit the big screen on Nov. 1 with Cynthia Erivo playing the slave turned legendary abolitionist.
According to Allen, it was very difficult for a film like Harriet to be made with the right support in Hollywood years ago. He noted that it was especially challenging to find a studio that was ready to make a film that treated Tubman like an “action figure” rather than a “history lesson.”
“Nobody in Hollywood wants to be an outlier. Hollywood has a herd mentality. There was no herd around the story of a former slave girl who freed other slaves..” he wrote. “All the people I pitched this to, submitted the script to, were asking themselves one question: ‘How do I sell this story to my boss, to a studio, to my financial partners?’”
“I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’” Allen explained in the Q&A published by Focus Features.
When the sole black person in the studio meeting pointed out that Tubman was a black woman, the executive allegedly replied, “That was so long ago. No one will know that.”
Hollywood Climate Changes
Allen struggled for years to find a studio that would pick up the script, explaining in his Times essay, “What I realize now is that the film was not going to get made until the environment in Hollywood changed.”
The writer praised groundbreaking films like 12 Years a Slave and Black Pather for changing the game for black representation onscreen.
“When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, ‘You can’t say this kind of story won’t make money now.’ Then Black Panther really blew the doors open,” Allen said in the Q&A.
He also pointed out that doors opened thanks to widespread support for movements like #OscarsSoWhite, DiversityHollywood, and other fights over the lack of inclusion in film.
“It still took a few years more to get it made — packages fell apart, financing fell out, talent dropped out — but the important thing is there was no longer hostility to the idea,” Allen wrote.
“As someone who has been in this business for decades, I am enjoying the warmth of the Hollywood climate change, and the diverse stories that are bathing in that sunlight, happy that Harriet’s other journey is now finally complete.”
Former Ellen Staffers Criticize Talk Show Host’s Apology Monologue
- When Ellen DeGeneres returned to her show on Monday, she addressed the numerous reports about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed behind the scenes. She apologized to those who were affected and said changes had been made going forward.
- The accusations stated that issues at the show stemmed from top-level producers. Some former staffers said they faced intimidation tactics, racism, and sexual assault and harassment.
- Her monologue addressing these allegations was praised by some, including singer Demi Lovato, who was happy to see the talk show host return to the studio.
- However, former employees felt the apology was insincere and self-serving. Some thought that it was inappropriate for DeGeneres to make jokes during it considering the serious nature of the accusations.
Ellen Addresses Allegations
During the opening monologue of her 18th season premiere on Monday, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres addressed the bombshell accusations about the toxic work environment that allegedly existed for employees behind the scenes.
Former staffers, however, were not impressed with what she had to say.
“How was everybody’s summer, good?” DeGeneres asked in the show’s open. “Mine was great! Super terrific!”
This joke refers to the several reports that came out over the summer detailing allegations of intimidation tactics, racism, harassment, and more on the set of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Three top producers were also accused of sexual harassment and assault.
Following the reports, WarnerMedia opened an investigation into the show’s workplace, and those three producers were fired in August as a result. In August, the show also announced that its staff will get extra perks, including more paid time off days, birthdays off, as well as paid time for doctors appointments and family matters.
The reports pulled back the curtain on the show, which prides itself on its “Be Kind” mantra. While what went on television may have been filled with dancing and laughter, former staffers said that the toxic culture behind the scenes started with producers at the very top. While DeGeneres herself was not directly implicated in the accusations, many said that since it’s her show, it’s her responsibility.
In her first appearance since everything unfolded, DeGeneres addressed the allegations and apologized for the pain the toxic work culture on her show may have caused.
“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected,” she said. “I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
She then moved on to discuss the ideas that her preachings of kindness were fake, and that she is not who she appears to be on television.
DeGeneres explained that she first began ending her show with the saying “be kind to one another” to honor a young boy named Tyler Clementi who took his life after he was bullied for being gay. She thought the message was important then and was equally important now but said being known as the ‘be kind lady’ has put her in a tricky position.
“So let me give you some advice out there,” she joked. “If anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it.”
She further added that while she is who the audience sees on TV, she is also more. She explained that she sometimes gets mad, sad, and impatient, but is working on it. She closed her monologue by saying she wants her show to be an hour of escapism for laughter and announced that her DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss was promoted to co-executive producer.
DeGeneres posted the monologue to her Instagram page where numerous celebrities, including Demi Lovato, Ellie Kemper, and Scott Foley commented in support of the talk show host.
“You are the person people see on TV. You are kind, generous and caring,” Lovato wrote. “This video was a perfect representation of that. I love you Ellen.”
Criticism of Monologue
Not everyone was satisfied with her remarks. BuzzFeed News, which broke a lot of the allegations about the show, spoke to current and former employees who said her monologue was insensitive and tone deaf.
“Not only did Ellen turn my trauma, turn our traumas, into a joke, she somehow managed to make this about her,” one former staffer said.
“When you’re talking about people who have accused her leadership of the seriousness of sexual misconduct, I don’t think it’s appropriate to have jokes in the monologue,” another claimed.
Others thought it would have been more appropriate for DeGeneres or other executives to personally reach out to those who had been affected by the toxic workplace. A current employee on the show said that while she is amazed that DeGeneres decided to address it on the show, she found the monologue to be “tactical.” She said that DeGeneres was only bringing it up to pull viewers back in for premiere week.
TV critics also panned her monologue. Daniel D’Add wrote for Variety that her words “had a feeling of obligation, and of being over it all.” In The Daily Beast, Kevin Fallon said her speech worked harder to fix her reputation than it did to address the actual issues.
“It’s depressing when there’s a palpable sense from people in power that the experiences of those beneath them don’t matter,” Fallon wrote, later noting that while there were flaws in the monologue, he still found the fact that she chose to address the allegations on air “monumental.”
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Entertainment Weekly) (Slate)
Judge Sides With Nicki Minaj in Tracy Chapman Copyright Dispute
- Nicki Minaj recorded her song “Sorry” in 2017, which featured lyrics and melodies from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
- When Chapman repeatedly refused to give Minaj licensing permission for the track, it was dropped from Minaj’s 2018 “Queen” album. However, the song later leaked on the radio and online, prompting Chapman to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Minaj.
- Chapman accused her of distributing the song to a radio DJ and claimed she shouldn’t have even been allowed to record it.
- Minaj’s team denied distributing the song and warned that artists need to be able to experiment with existing material without worrying that they could be sued once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license.
- A judge sided with Minaj Wednesday, saying her demo song falls under fair use, adding, “A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
The Two Songs
A judge has ruled in favor of Nicki Minaj on Wednesday in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against her by fellow singer Tracy Chapman.
Music lovers and members of the industry have had a close eye on this case, believing it could have a huge impact on the music industry.
The suit stems from a 2017 song Minaj recorded featuring Nas called “Sorry.” At the time, the rapper was reportedly under the impression that the song was a remake of a one created by artist Shelly Thunder. However, she later discovered that most of the lyrics and some of the melody came from Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Baby Can I Hold You.”
After learning this, Minaj’s representatives reached out to Chapman for permission to use the song, but Chapman repeatedly refused. According to Chapman, she had a blanket policy against granting such permission, so in 2018, Minaj dropped her “Queen” album without the song “Sorry.”
The unreleased track then somehow made its way into the hands of a New York radio DJ known as Funkmaster Flex, who played it on air. Portions of the track also later aired on “The Breakfast Club,” before leaking online.
In response, Chapman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit accusing Minaj of providing the DJ with the song and arguing that Minaj shouldn’t have even been allowed to make the unauthorized track in the first place.
Both Minaj and Flex have denied that the song came from her or her authorized representatives. Instead, Flex said he received it from one of his bloggers.
Minaj’s attorneys then filed a motion warning that Chapman’s suit “should send a shiver down the spine of those concerned with the entertainment industry.”
They argued that artists need to be free to create something based on existing material without worrying that they could be sued for experimenting once they actually do approach that rights-holder for a license.
“Such free-flowing creativity is important to all recording artists, but particularly in hip hop,” her legal team said.
“With that category of music, a recording artist typically goes into the studio and experiments with dozens of different ‘beats’ or snippets of melodies, before hitting upon a pleasing combination.”
They also warned that ruling in Chapman’s favor “would impose a financial and administrative burden so early in the creative process that all but the most well-funded creators would be forced to abandon their visions at the outset.”
The latest update to the case came Wednesday when U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips ultimately sided with Minaj.
In her ruling, the judge said the rapper’s experimentation with the song constitutes “fair use” not copyright infringement.
“Artists usually experiment with works before seeking licenses from rights holders and rights holders typically ask to see a proposed work before approving a license,” she explained.
“Chapman has requested samples of proposed works before approving licensing requests herself because she wanted ‘to see how [her work] will be used’ before approving the license, yet Chapman argues against the very practice she maintains. A ruling uprooting these common practices would limit creativity and stifle innovation within the music industry.”
The decision is a major win for Minaj but the dispute between the two artists isn’t exactly over.
That’s because Chapman is still trying to argue that Minaj infringed on her song rights by sending the song to Funkmaster Flex. Chapman’s lawyers asked the judge to find that the distribution constituted copyright infringement as a matter of law, but the judge ruled that that dispute would need to go to a jury.
That could end up being a pretty tricking case for Minaj because according to Chapman’s legal team, she reached out to Flex on August 3, 2018, offering the song. Minaj allegedly followed up a week later on August 10 saying, “You got me tonight? The song is me and Nas. Send your number.” The next day, the song was played on the radio and promoted on social media.
Minaj’s team has pushed back against some of these points, as well as other claims, still maintaining that she did not send the song.
In her decision, judge Phillips noted factual disputes concerning when Flex received the work, who exactly gave it to him, whether it was a mastered version, and more. When the trial takes place, Minaj will likely be pressed on some of this conflicting information.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Complex) (MarketPlace)
Paris Hilton Opens Up About Alleged Abuse in YouTube Documentary
- Paris Hilton’s YouTube documentary “This is Paris,” dropped this weekend, giving some shocking insight into her personal life and upbringing.
- In it, she discussed her 2003 sex tape leak, noting that many laughed at her or labeled her as a bad person when she was just an 18-year-old who was pressured into filming the tape by her first boyfriend.
- She also said that as a teen, she was sent to institutions to improve her bad behavior where she instead experienced emotional and physical abuse that still cause her insomnia and nightmares to this day.
- In the film, she connects with old peers from these “schools” and joined the #BreakingCodeSilence moment to expose abuses at “troubled teen” institution
“This is Paris”
Paris Hilton released a YouTube documentary on Sunday titled “This is Paris” where she shared some very private details about her fame and upbringing.
Hilton, for those who don’t know, is a socialite, business mogul, and former reality TV star. Her great grandfather founded the Hilton Hotels, and people often consider her the “original influencer” or recognize her as someone “famous for being famous.”
But in her YouTube Originals documentary, she admitted that the Paris the public has seen throughout her career is more of a character she plays rather than who she really is. In this project, she peels back the layers of her celebrity image to show more about the moments that shaped her.
Here are some of the biggest revelations to come out of the film.
She Says She Was Pressured to Film Her Sex Tape
One moment that caught a lot of attention was when she spoke about her sex tape. In 2003, the tape of her and her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon leaked, causing a huge scandal at the time.
In the documentary, she talked about people’s reactions, saying, “That was a private moment with a teenage girl not in her right headspace, but everyone was watching it and laughing like it’s something funny.”
“If that happened today, it would not be the same story at all. But they made me the bad person like I did something bad.”
She went on to describe how she was pressured into filming that tape, saying: “It was my first real relationship, [I was] 18, I was just so in love with him and I wanted to make him happy. I just remember him pulling out the camera, and he was kind of pressuring me into. Like, ‘Oh, you’re so boring. Do you want me to just call someone else? No one will ever see it.’”
“It was like being electronically raped, and for people to think that I [leaked] it on purpose? Because after that, all of these leaked tapes were coming out and it almost became like a blueprint to become famous. I didn’t need to do that. I always had a plan.”
Now, she says she struggles to trust people, especially in relationships, but not just because of this experience. She said she went through five abuse relationships in her life and also opened up about what some of that abuse looked like in the documentary.
She Says She Suffered Abuse as a Teen
The most shocking information to come out of the film has to do with the emotional and physical abuse she allegedly experienced as a teen.
At one point, Hilton revealed that she got a fake ID and fell into partying, to her parent’s horror. After having enough of her behavior, they sent her to what were called “emotional growth schools.”
In one location, she said she would have to do manual labor all day and after running away, she was beaten by camp workers. She was then sent to another location where she ran away once more.
She even described how she was sent to these schools, recalling a time when she was woken up at her home during the night. “I thought I was being kidnapped. I started screaming for my mom and dad — no one came,” Hilton said. “As they were taking me, I saw my parents standing by their door crying. I was like, ‘Please help me, what’s happening?’ And no one would tell me what was happening.”
That time, she ended up being taken to Provo Canyon School in Utah, which she described as the “worst of the worst.”
“You’re sitting on a chair staring at a wall all day long getting yelled at or hit. I felt like a lot of the people who worked there got off on torturing children and seeing them naked,” she said of the place.
She claimed she and her peers were regularly given pills that would make her so tired. When she tried to avoid taking them, she said she was sent to solitary confinement. She said those sent to confinement were sent without clothing, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.
During her 11 months there, Hilton said the only thing that kept her going “was thinking about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become when I got out of there.”
“I was going to do everything in my power to be so successful that my parents could never control me again,” she said, but to this day, she suffers from insomnia and recurring nightmares because of the experiences.
Her Parents Were Unaware of the Abuse
Hilton admitted that she had so much anger towards her parents for sending her to these places, but the film also revealed how her parents were unaware of the abuse. In fact, Hilton’s mother even learns some of the claims on camera for the first time.
At the end of the documentary, Hilton talked to her mother about why they’ve never discussed her trauma before, saying “They were constantly being abusive in every way. But I couldn’t tell you guys because every time I tried, I would get punished by them. Or they would say, ‘we’re just going to tell your parents you’re a liar and they’re not going to believe you.’”
She Wants to Fight Against “Troubled Teen” Institutions
On top of opening up about this trauma, Hilton also revealed her newfound passion for fighting against these types of programs.
Towards the end of the doc, she tracked down some of her old camp peers who share their own stories of abuse at Provo Canyon School. They gathered to shoot an emotional campaign for the “#BreakCodeSilence” movement in an effort to expose abuses at “troubled teen” institutions.
In an attempt to address this wave of attention, Provo Canyon has updated the top of its website to say: “We are aware of a new documentary referencing Provo Canyon School. Please note that PCS was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time. We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.”
The school gave a similar statement to Variety while still boasted itself as a treatment center for youth between 8-18. It also added: “We do not condone or promote any form of abuse. Any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately as required.”
Though the documentary may be over, it seems like Hilton plans to continue speaking out against Provo Canyon and other institutions like it. According to Fortune, she said, “My ultimate goal is to shut these places down.”
For now, she’s also working on her other flagship ventures in the beauty and travel industries with the ultimate goal of earring $1 billion one day.