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Big Media, Behemoth Media, Bewildered Media 

The best of the week: DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com

Wednesday, Mar 12 2008
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Ed Norton’s Hulk-ing Feud

The Incredible Hulk’s producer-screenwriter-star, Edward Norton, helped get the trailer ready on its way to all the MTV channels and Spike TV and VH1. I’m told he loves it.

But does he also love the movie? Not yet. I’m told that’s because Norton and Marvel are clashing over how to cut the pic. Insiders say Norton was “promised tremendous involvement and access” after Marvel invited him into the core team to rewrite Zak Penn’s script. Says one insider, “There’s a lot of posturing going on between Edward’s camp and Marvel over how you edit the final version.” Now the prickly actor will be holed up with Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel, Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige and director Louis Leterrier to try to “reach an amicable resolution” to this $150-plus-million film feud.

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Some insiders blame Marvel for not accepting Norton’s POV about the movie. “There’s a problem. Marvel won’t listen to Norton about the cut,” one source claims. Some blame Norton. Remember his problems with Paramount over The Italian Job and with director Tony Kaye over American History X? “Never let an actor write a script. Marvel made a mistake letting the wolf into the henhouse,” one insider commented. But I say that, after Ang Lee’s troubled The Hulk left audiences cold, The Incredible Hulk needs Edward Norton’s warm support if the pic’s gonna have any street cred. Some fear things inflaming to the point where Norton might not publicize the movie. And Marvel is petrified that the new Hulk may be judged “prematurely and unfairly.” (Or that bloggers will start claiming the franchise is cursed.)

Right now, Marvel is said to be about four to five weeks away from locking the movie for its June 13 release by Universal, whose top execs haven’t yet seen it (“though some marketing guys have been working off a rough cut that’s in pretty good shape,” I’m told). “At this stage, you always have discussions about what’s in the film and what’s not going to be in the film. Everyone’s very passionate, and Edward is very opinionated.” Said another source, “There is a very healthy exchange of ideas going on. Discussions now are even more heated. But some of Ed’s best movies have had this exact dynamic to them.”


Big Media + Hulu.com = Behemoth Media

The next days will be filled with breathless Hulu.com news, because it goes live Wednesday. Wait, you thought it was already up? Nope, that was just a test launch. But what truly confuses me is why in hell this online-video joint venture of News Corp./Fox and NBC Universal — which will also include Warner Bros. TV and Lionsgate (and two sports leagues) and possibly Viacom and CBS in the future — doesn’t violate any antitrust laws. Here’s yet another way that Big Media is becoming Behemoth Media by colluding with each other — this time, on the Internet. Hulu’s launch will offer more than 250 TV series and 100 movies. By 2009? Probably everything else show-biz. In the clutches of a dozen moguls. And won’t Web consumers rue that day.


NBC Turns the Lights Back On

Jeff Zucker, Marc Graboff and Ben Silverman had been searching for a way to renew the critically acclaimed but low-rated Friday Night Lights for a third season so that it would still make financial sense. The answer came in a deal with DirecTV, now owned by John Malone’s Liberty Media. Clearly, Malone is looking to distinguish DirecTV from its rivals on a content as well as price basis. “It’s an innovative deal where NBC found a partner who will share costs and exhibition windows,” an insider explained to me. So both NBC and DirecTV will be airing Friday Night Lights across multipurpose platforms.

This is orgasmic news to that small but passionate audience for the best TV series you’re not watching. I’m a big fan of the hourlong high-school football drama (which is really about horny teens and their hornswoggled parents), so I say hooray. Even though it usually ends up last in its time slot, the show does okay in the 18-to-49 demos and often wins the 18-to-34 demos. I can’t say whether the fans’ campaign to save the show by sending all those minifootballs to NBC bigwigs worked the magic. But I do know the execs got them. With NBC airing crap like that remake of Knight Rider (and shame on TV viewers for giving it good ratings), the network needed quality like FNL.


A Godsend to Hollywood?

Just in case you’re still reading Calendar, which fewer people are, three film writers are leaving the Los Angeles Times. Longtime staff writer Robert Welkos, feature writer Gina Piccalo and second-string reviewer Kevin Crust won’t have bylines soon at the beleaguered newspaper, which is offering some voluntary and some not-so-voluntary exit packages. But even more bewildering is the newspaper’s choice to replace features (and Calendar) czar John Montorio with none other than associate editor Leo Wolinsky, who starts March 17 overseeing the softer entertainment, cultural and lifestyle stuff. It’s unclear if this is a temporary appointment or a permanent one. (Well, as permanent as things get at a rag where people are coming and going like it’s LAX ...)

I don’t think much of Wolinsky, because, as one of the L.A. Times’ managing editors, he met secretly with a lot of bold-faced names about a possible purchase of the paper back when the paper’s bigwigs (all gone now) were bickering with Tribune Co. True, his duties included the thankless task of outreach to the readership to stop the newspaper’s circulation nosedive. But, as I first reported, Wolinsky, acting as then-editor Dean Baquet’s surrogate, was playing a dangerous game with the paper’s integrity by having secret talks with the “billionaire boys’ club” — David Geffen, Eli Broad, ex-Mayor Richard Riordan and others — to drum up local support for a local buyer of the L.A. Times. (Geffen, in September 2005, invited Wolinsky to his Beverly Hills estate, and together they discussed Geffen’s buying the paper with Baquet’s blessing.) But Wolinsky himself refused to confirm or deny or even discuss the meetings with me. I found it bizarre that both Wolinsky and Baquet were so blind to the obvious need for transparency at the time. Wolinsky had been overheard saying there’s no reason for him to “put up a red flag” when his conversations turn toward the Times’ purchase.

Gee, a top editor who likes to suck up to rich people could be a godsend to the Hollywood moguls when it comes to Calendar coverage of their studios and networks. But, then, I can’t imagine that section’s reporting could get more soft ... or irrelevant.

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