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Maria Contreras-Sweet Bid Leads Weinstein Co Auction; Staff Would Stay, Bob Weinstein Exit, Women Lead Board

EXCLUSIVE: After a protracted bidding process, the sale of the scandal-scarred The Weinstein Company..

EXCLUSIVE: After a protracted bidding process, the sale of the scandal-scarred The Weinstein Company is close at hand, and the company will rise from the ashes with a future that will be forged by women, timely on a day when the Golden Globes is expected to be dominated by the #metoo theme, which was borne out of allegations of sexual assault and harassment by co-founder Harvey Weinstein. Maria Contreras-Sweet, former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration for the Barack Obama administration, has emerged as the frontrunner to soon complete a deal to buy the pieces and resurrect a company that will be renamed, and majority controlled by women, sources said. Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Enterprises and Lantern Capital are minority partners in the bid, sources said. The derby isn’t quite done yet and Lionsgate is also squarely in the mix.

Bob Weinstein, who founded TWC with brother Harvey Weinstein, is expected to exit and set up his own company and take the Dimension Films name along with properties that include The Six Million Dollar Man, which has interest from both Warner Bros, and potential star Mark Wahlberg.

As Deadline reported last December, the board pored over bids –more than 20 came in, including bids for just the TV component, or the library — and the ones in the final round include Lionsgate, a Killer Content bid backed by Abigail Disney (daughter of Roy Disney), Shamrock Capital, Vine Investments, Sony (for the television business), MSD Partners, Critical Content, Versa, and Qatar-based beIN, which owns Miramax. The finalists are Contreras-Sweet, Lionsgate and Killer Content, which would for sure put women at the helm, as well as Sony, Shamrock and Vine, the latter two for the library.

Wall Street Journal reported last week that the company will sell for around $500 million, a figure I’ve also heard. That number includes a purchase around $275 million, an infusion of fresh capital, plus the assumption of liabilities and operating costs that includes keeping employed the long suffering 157 or so staffers and managers whose lives turned upside down the moment that The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed shocking first person accounts of sexual assault and harassment allegedly perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, who was summarily fired by the board of directors.

TWC will quickly be renamed and it is all moving quickly as the intent is to complete the deal before the money runs out in February, when it would need bankruptcy protection. Phoenix might be an appropriate name given the potential turnaround here, but that is taken by Mike Medavoy’s company. There is the possibility this new company could be in motion for Sundance, where Weinstein was once the biggest buyer of prestige films, going all the way back to Steven Soderbergh’s sex lies & videotape.

If it is Contreras-Sweet who emerges victorious, she certainly puts a positive face on a company that badly needs one. Her bid has no contingencies, and solid backing. She is an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico and was executive chairwoman and founder of ProAmerica Band, a commercial lender to small to mid-sized business with a specialty in the Latino community. She became California’s cabinet secretary overseeing the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency before spending three years as a member of President Obama’s cabinet.

Contreras-Sweet has followed through on her pitch letter to the board of directors in late November, where she promised to not only assume liabilities but also infuse new capital to retain staff and pay suppliers. While the shock of the Weinstein scandal left those with TV or movie projects wanting to get far away with series and films that have been stalled, that stigma might be removed if this deal makes. Her bid was blessed by Gloria Allred, who will rep numerous women who file civil lawsuits against Weinstein. Included is contingency funding that will be paired with insurance policies to cover liabilities related to claims against Weinstein.

The bidder inherits a strong lineup of library titles and output deals with the likes of Netflix. Projects include the Kevin Costner-Taylor Sheridan series Yellowstone, movies like the recut Benedict Cumberbatch-Michael Shannon-starrer The Current War and the Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes musical In The Heights, Hotel Mumbai, the Armie Hammer-Dev Patel starrer Hotel Mumbai, as well as numerous other series and films. It might make possible the David O Russell-directed series with Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, which was scrapped at Amazon even though it had a two-season commitment.

Investment banker Lloyd Greif said word has circled that it came down to Contreras-Sweet and Lionsgate, with motivations that couldn’t be more different: Lionsgate is looking to bulk up its portfolio at a time when companies are looking to grow larger in the wake of the Disney acquisition of Fox and the pending merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

“You’re either prey or predator,” Greif said. “This is an opportunity to buy on the cheap.”

In this scenario, Lionsgate would look to acquire content, but it doesn’t need or want the The Weinstein Co.’s organization. Even the tainted Weinstein brand might disappear, Greif said.

Contreras-Sweet presents a phoenix-rising-from-the ashes opportunity, in which, “The phoenix is wearing a dress,” Greif said. The ne company, he said, “will be accepted by the entertainment community at large — writers, actors and directors.”

Contreras-Sweet is the only potential acquirer who would keep the studio intact — making her the likely preferred buyer, assuming all offers are roughly equal. This option also gives The Weinstein Co.’s board to claim a modest victory at a moment of defeat. After all, the investors who were close to a megadeal with ITV that imploded when Weinstein was investigated for groping an actress/model in New York. are essentially walking away losing their investment. The board is expected to be gone in the new configuration.

“The board could say, ‘We saved all these people’s jobs!'” Greif said.

No comment from TWC.

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Julia Sawalha furious after being told she is ‘too old’

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would n..

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would not be cast in the forthcoming sequel to the hit Aardman Animation film Chicken Run as her voice sounded “too old”.

In the original film, released in 2000, Sawalha voiced the lead role of Ginger, the plucky hen who inspires her fellow egg-layers to escape from a farm when they are threatened with being turned into pies. News of the development of a sequel first emerged in 2018, and Netflixs involvement was announced in June. It is due to be directed by Sam Fell (ParaNorman) and start production in 2021.

Sawalha posted a statement on social media saying she was told a week ago that she was not wanted for the sequel. “The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds too old and they want a younger actress to reprise the role.”

She added: “Usually in these circumstances, an actress would be given the chance to do a voice test in order to determine the suitability of their pitch and tone, I however was not given this opportunity. I am passionate about my work and I dont go down without a fight, so I did my own voice test at home and sent it to the producers … However, they stated, We will be going ahead to recast the voice of Ginger.”

Sawalhas protest follows reports that Mel Gibson, who voiced the character of daredevil rooster Rocky, would not be involved in the sequel. While Rocky is named as a character in the official plot synopsis for Chicken Run 2, the role is due to be recast. Variety magazine reported that Gibson was told that as “the sequel will revolve around younger chickens, therefore casting younger voice actors” was necessary. The report also claimed that Gibsons history of controversial behaviour, including an accusation of antisemitic comments by actor Winona Ryder, which Gibson denies, played no part in the recasting.

Sawalha added: “I feel I have been fobbed off with the same excuse … To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless.”

No official announcements have been made for the Chicken Run 2 cast, but original film cast members Jane Horrocks and Lynn Ferguson have been added to the films IMDb page.

Aardman has been contacted for a response.

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Princess Diana movie: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston favourites for Prince Charles

PRINCESS DIANA movie Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, sees Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston..

PRINCESS DIANA movie Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, sees Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston lead the bookies’ favourites to play Prince Charles.

Last week, it was announced that Twilight star Kristen Stewart will play Princess Diana in new movie Spencer. The film about the late Royal will focus on a weekend in the early 1990s when she decided to end her marriage with Prince Charles. And now the most likely actors to play the heir to the throne have been revealed by bookmakers Bovada, whose US odds have been converted to fractions.

Leading the pack is Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is odds on at 0.625/1.

While right behind him is Loki actor Tom Hiddleston on 3.5/1.

Both former public school boys would fit into the role well, while just behind them is Spider-Man star Tom Holland on 7/1.

However, Prince Charles divorced at 47-years-old, so he seems an unlikely candidate at 24-years-old.

While way behind at 15/1 is Tom Hardy, followed by Zac Efron on 20/1.

Plus Stewarts Twilight co-star and new Batman Robert Pattinson is on 25/1.

Spencer will be directed by Pablo Larraín, who is best known for 2016 film Jackie, which followed JFKs First Lady in the aftermath of his assassination.

Speaking with Deadline, the director said: “We all grew up, at least I did in my generation, reading and understanding what a fairy tale is.”

Larrain continued: “Usually, the prince comes and finds the princess, invites her to become his wife and eventually she becomes queen. That is the fairy tale.

“When someone decides not to be the queen, and says, Id rather go and be myself, its a big big decision, a fairy tale upside down.

“Ive always been very surprised by that and thought it must have been very hard to do. That is the heart of the movie.

“How and why do you decide to do that? Its a great universal story that can reach millions and millions of people, and thats what we want to do.”

Spencer is yet to have a release date announced and is expected to begin production in 2021.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles is also portrayed on the small screen in Netflixs The Crown.

Josh OConnor plays the heir apparent in the third series set during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Hes expected to reprise the role for the fourth season, which is likely to release at the end of the year.

The Crown season 4 will focus on the 1980s during Margaret Thatchers premiership as prime minister.

Princess Diana will be played by Emma Corrin in the upcoming series.

Events will include her appearance at the Barnados Champion Children Awards and her 1989 Concorde flight.

The fifth and final series will see Imelda Staunton replace Olivia Colman as The Queen in a season that will presumably cover the 1990s, including Princess Dianas death in 1997.



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Outlander season 6 theories: Brianna Frasers death

OUTLANDER sent Claire Fraser into brutal ordeal in the show’s season five finale earlier this year, ..

OUTLANDER sent Claire Fraser into brutal ordeal in the show’s season five finale earlier this year, as she was held captive and abused by the evil Lionel Brown – but could one of her visions during this time have illustrated how Brianna Fraser and Roger MacKenzie are going to be killed off?

Outlander concluded its fifth season earlier this month with a dramatic turn of events. Claire Fraser (played by Caitriona Balfe) was horrifically captured by Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) and raped by his gang, leaving Starz viewers utterly devastated for their protagonist.

During this ordeal, Claire coped with her trauma by envisioning a stylised version of her life in her mind.

These dreams saw her and her husband, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), living in a 1950s era world.

Brianna Fraser (Sophie Skelton) and Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) were also present during these visions and illustrated their lives further.

However, during these visions, Claire saw Brianna and Roger being killed off in a tragic car crash.

This is also the same way Claire’s parents died, so viewers knew how personal and horrifying this vision must have been for the character.

But could the vision in question have been some sort of clairvoyance of how Brianna is going to be killed off?

Viewers know Outlander is not grounded in a strict reality and regularly utilises time travel as a plot device.

Fans of time travel fiction may also be aware they sometimes show off time repeating itself.

Considering Claire has had odd visions and looks into the future before, could this vision she had during her time in captivity have been a glimpse into the future of her daughter for season six?

If this is the case, Claire may never even realise her daughter and son-in-law are dead, as they may venture back to the future, cutting all communication between them.

This would, of course, be a devastating turn of events for the character, as she would have to relive losing her loved-ones in a car crash.

But, considering Claire now has the fear of this event happening, could she somehow go on to prevent it?

Elsewhere in Outlander news, Sam Heughan, the actor who plays Sam was originally not well-liked by Outlander author Diana Gabaldon.

The writer recently explained in an interview that she wasn’t his biggest fan upon first seeing him.

She explained: “At this point he had relatively little film work and just a series of extremely bizarre still photos – his IMDb page is strange.

“Some of his photos are strange! I was sitting there typing, this man is grotesque, what are you thinking?”

Thankfully, things seemed to look up for both Sam and Diana as production rolled on with the show.

Diana added: “I loaded up the computer not knowing what I was going to see, and five seconds in I was thinking: He doesn’t look anything like his pictures, he looks great.”

Sam has since played Jamie throughout all five seasons of the show, maintaining his position as one of the core characters in the story.



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