Agence France-Presse - 11/20/2007 5:32 PM
Depp film hit by writer's strike: report
A Johnny Depp film and a big-budget musical featuring
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have become the latest movies
to be hit by Hollywood's writer's strike, it was reported on
"Pirates of the Caribbean" star Depp had been due
to appear in the Mira Nair-directed "Shantaram," an
adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel, entertainment
industry Daily Variety reported.
Cruz and Bardem meanwhile were to have starred with Italian
icon Sophia Loren and French actress Marion Cotillard in
"Nine," a screen version of the successful musical
inspired by Federico Fellini's "8 1/2."
However Variety reported that both projects have now been
put on hold because scripts for each film had not been
completed before the writers' strike got underway earlier this
Film and television writers went on strike on November 5
seeking a bigger cut from Internet sales and downloads in the
first major industrial action by the Writers Guild of America
in nearly 20 years.
The dispute has plunged the entertainment industry into
turmoil, halting production on hit television shows like
"Desperate Housewives" and forcing the postponement
of the latest season of "24."
Although major Hollywood films studios were reported to
have insulated themselves against the short-term effects of
the strike by stockpiling finished scripts, plans for films
due for release in 2009 have been affected.
As well "Shantaram" and "Nine," a new
Tom Hanks film, "Angels and Demons," as well as an
upcoming Oliver Stone war movie "Pinkville," have
both been shelved because of the strike.
Popular late-night chat shows hosted by Jay Leno and David
Letterman have also gone into shutdown because of the strike,
which industry analysts believe may last several months
Writers' strike: Reality sets in
A dark latenight ahead?
Latenight hosts such as Jon
Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jay
Leno and David
Letterman will be the first to feel the pinch of a
strike. Networks are counting heavily on reality shows,
including CBS' 'The Amazing Race.'
While the networks have been repeating the mantra that
"screens will not go black," it won't take long for TV
viewers to see the impact of a Writers
Guild of America strike.
The canaries in TV's creative coal mine are latenight hosts
such as David Letterman and Jay Leno, whose monologues and
sketches are dependent on union writers. If history is any guide,
both shows will almost instantly go dark, as would "Saturday
Night Live." Comedy
Central's latenight stalwarts "The Daily Show With Jon
Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" would also likely
switch to repeats in the immediate aftermath of a strike.
"Boom -- our show just shuts down," said "SNL"
Poehler. "It's just done. There is no backlog of
scripts." (For more on latenight and the strike, click
Primetime comedy and drama series will feel the pinch
immediately, though the on-air effect will be delayed at least a
few weeks for most shows as they air completed segs. Cruelest
blows will hit the frosh crop of shows that are just starting to
get a toehold with viewers, including ABC's "Private
Practice," "Pushing Daisies" and "Samantha
Who" and CBS' "The
Big Bang Theory."
The repercussions of scribes going out will surely be felt at
Hollywood's major talent agencies. It's widely expected that a
prolonged strike would result in serious layoffs; some agencies
have already sketched out strike contingency plans involving
salary deferments and other cost-cutting moves.
In general, most nets will have four or five filmed episodes of
most of their shows on hand as of Thursday. In addition, most
shows have anywhere from one to five scripts that have been
written but not yet shot.
Just when repeats will begin popping up "depends on
whether we can shoot these other episodes," one insider said.
Even if actors agree to film those episodes, scribes won't be
available to do rewrites or make changes based on network notes.
Most likely, original episodes will start disappearing by early
December or January. And it's no mystery what will fill those
"The most likely outcome is more news and more
reality," said NBC U entertainment co-chairman Ben
Real question mark, then, is just how nets will sked all the
reality and news programs they've been bulking up on during the
"Do we have a schedule, per se? No," said one webhead.
"Do we have a lot of options? Yes."
Of all the webs, Fox is sitting pretty with "American
Idol" slated to return for the second half of the season,
ensuring at least one net will have the lights fully turned on in
the event of a work stoppage. ABC, meanwhile, can crank up "Dancing
With the Stars"--and maybe even revive "Who
Wants to Be a Millionaire."
Suits said they can't make final calls on how to spread out
their programming resources until a strike is actually called.
What's more, scenarios will change depending on whether the work
stoppage looks to be a short-lived event or a months-long ordeal.
With sweeps far less important than they used to be, some
networks could air a few repeats of shows in November to keep a
reservoir of originals until late January or February.
Some shows are better off than others.
CW laffer "Everybody
Hates Chris," for example, has actually wrapped
production on a full 22-episode season. Other CW Monday comedies
are also far ahead in production, which means the net could keep
originals on the air through February.
Most nets have multiple schedules at the ready: one in case of
a two-month strike, another in the event of a four-month strike
and so on.
"Those decisions are ready to go," one webhead said.
"It's so much more manageable this time around. In 1988,
everything was scripted programming. But now there's so much
alternative programming, at least we have a pad."
And in many cases, writers were looking to add a bit of a
cliffhanger, tie up some loose ends or at least make a big splash
in that seg, in case it turns into a de facto season ender.
On "Pushing Daisies," for example, exec producer Bryan
Fuller said he was racing to finish the show's ninth episode,
which winds down a major character arc that threads through
episodes seven and eight as well. "There's such a scramble to
get as much work as possible done," Fuller said.
They're breathing a little easier on "Prison
Break," the Fox drama that traditionally splits its
seasons in half, with a midyear cliffhanger that helps bridge the
gap between January (when the show takes a break) and April, when
In case there is a strike, that midyear cliffhanger could
easily double as a season finale if need be, said exec producer Matt
"We have our episodes through 13 written," Olmstead
said. "That's our traditional break, anyway. So at least we
won't be cutting out mid-storyline if a strike happens."
Then there's "Lost." Fans have been waiting patiently for the ABC show's February
launch and the promise of 16 uninterrupted episodes. That pledge,
of course, will be partly kept if only eight episodes are ready to
go this year. But rather than wait to pair them with the other
eight, ABC will still air what it has, as scheduled.
"It's better to come on with some season than no
season," one insider said. "If there's a strike, we'll
need scripted programming."
Fox will face a similar decision with "24," which
usually is far ahead of schedule but this year is playing catch-up
due to creative problems early in the season.
Some shows are so far ahead of production, they would seemingly
be less impacted immediately. Such is the case with animated
series -- a genre not on the air during the 1988 strike -- which,
due to the production process, is written as much as a year ahead.
Simpsons" exec producer Al
Jean said his show may still be hampered by a strike.
"The Simpsons" has recorded 21 of 22 episodes for
this year's batch, but "recorded doesn't mean they're
done," he said. "They still need rewriting."
While the last strike helped birth unscripted skeins such as
"Cops" and "America's Most Wanted," 20 years
later the reality genre has fully matured. Webheads have been
stockpiling reality shows like crazy and will be ready to go with
literally dozens of concepts.
A strike will likely help the nets put several bubble shows out
of their misery. ABC's "Cavemen," Fox's
"K-Ville" and the CW's "Life Is Wild," among
other frosh, may be among the first casualties, as nets and
studios decide to simply shut shows down for good.
The threat of a strike has also kept some nets from making
full-season orders on certain shows. The philosophy varies from
net to net -- some have ordered a bunch of back nines, figuring
they can always force mejeure their way out of the order should a
strike shut things down, while others are waiting, not wanting to
deal with the question of who still needs to be paid if a show is
picked up for a full year but doesn't produce a full season's
worth of segs.
ABC, for example, picked up the back nine of "Samantha
Who?" on Tuesday. NBC, on the other hand, is waiting before
officially ordering more segs of successful shows like
Of course, in some cases, the strike talk has helped
underperforming skeins stay on the air longer. Insiders believe
"Cavemen" would have otherwise been yanked weeks ago,
but no one's eager to dump original scripted fare right now (with
a few exceptions), since there may be a need for it later on.
The strike talk -- and the nets' need for original fare -- has
also particularly motivated lower-performing (or untested) shows
to churn out as many scripts as possible (under the idea that the
nets will more likely stick with a scripted show during a strike,
even if it's stumbling in the ratings). ABC's "October
Road," for example, already has 13 scripts in the can.
With a strike looking to be pretty much a fait accompli at this
point, network execs are resigned to the fact that things are
about to get hairy -- and no one knows how it'll shake out.
"We are as prepared as anyone, but that's really only good
for so much," one broadcast topper said.
From a financial standpoint, network execs are at least in a
better position than their studio counterparts. The nets may see
their ratings and revenue go south as they replace scripted fare
with repeats and reality shows, but their costs will decline, too.
Sliding in a reality show that costs $900,000 per episode in place
of a $3 million-per-seg drama will help soothe the sting of a
That said, "We really don't want this to happen because of
the macroeconomic issues facing our community," NBC U's
Silverman said. "It's disturbing and upsetting that it seems
to be becoming a foregone conclusion."