2005's most-talked-about showbiz divorces: Dave Chappelle and Comedy Central, the Weinsteins and Disney, and more
Dave Chappelle & Comedy Central
Last year, the cable network signed a deal with the comic worth upwards of $50 million, but then Chappelle bolted for South Africa while taping his show’s third season (the reasons remain officially fuzzy). Comedy Central is still raking in cash from DVD sales of seasons 1 and 2, but without a season 3, nobody’s laughing to the bank anymore.
Disney & the Weinsteins
Hollywood got a little smaller in 2005 — again. Last year, it was MGM that disappeared (swallowed up by Sony), and now Miramax has vanished. Not completely, of course; the indie institution will still exist as a division of Disney, but without Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the brothers who founded the studio back in 1979 (naming it for their parents, Miriam and Max). And the fallout from the Weinstein-Disney divorce is still settling over Hollywood, with rival studios scrambling to hire suddenly available Miramax employees (production co-president Jon Gordon is now at Universal; Dimension co-president Brad Weston went to Paramount). Disney, meanwhile, has been busy attempting to remake the company into something it never was under the Weinsteins — manageable. The studio cut its operating budget in half, to about $300 million, and downsized its staff to about 50 (putting veteran international exec Daniel Battsek in charge). As for Harvey and Bob, who once cast such enormous shadows over Hollywood — particularly during awards seasons and at film festivals — they’re still making deals. Just weeks ago, they reported they had secured $230.5 million of the $420 million in equity they’ll need to launch their second studio, the Weinstein Company (named, this time, after themselves).
Sarah Michelle Gellar & William Morris
There’s no surer way for an agent to blow a deal than to tell the truth. Case in point: William Morris Agency president Dave Wirtschafter, who lost a bunch of clients after The New Yorker quoted him being a little too honest about such stars as Sarah Michelle Gellar (”nothing at all [before The Grudge]”) and Halle Berry (”She’ll give up a little money to get a good director or costar”). His rivals at the other agencies are still gleeful over the blunder.
Thank You for Smoking & Paramount Classics
Meet the movie that killed the casual handshake deal. When Thank You for Smoking screened at the Toronto film festival in September, the black comedy (starring Aaron Eckhart as a tobacco lobbyist) triggered a bidding war. Paramount Classics thought it won after shaking hands with the film’s producer — a common deal sealer at indie festivals — over its reported $6.5 million bid. But Fox Searchlight swooped in the next morning with a reported $7 million offer…and got it all on paper.