The future of an HBO project that’s loosely based on Hollywood’s irascible blogger Nikki Finke is in doubt after an on-set blowout that’s strikingly similar to some of the juicy posts that can be found on Deadline.com.
Showrunner Cynthia Mort has been removed from Tilda after a tense pilot shoot in which she frequently clashed with executive producer/director Bill Condon and got into public scuffles with Diane Keaton, who plays a powerful online journalist who covers the entertainment industry.
“It was an unhappy marriage from day one,” says one source of the Condon-Mort partnership. “They banged heads about almost everything…and during production she picked huge public fights with anyone who disagreed with her on anything, including Diane.”
When HBO asked her not to come to the set, Mort fired off a scathing email to production and the studio saying Condon and Keaton didn’t know what they were doing and the show was going to fail. “It was an ugly, nasty email,” says another insider. “That was the final straw for HBO.”
HBO declined to comment for this story.
Another insider familiar with the situation acknowledged the aggressive nature of Mort’s email, which basically said it was her way or the highway. HBO ultimately chose Condon’s vision for the project.
(Mort, who declined to comment as well, is no stranger to difficult work environments, having co-produced a season of ABC’s Roseanne from 1995-96. The talented scribe was also responsible for HBO’s critically-praised series Tell Me You Love Me, which only lasted for one season.)
For now, the pay cabler isn’t giving up on Tilda. Word is Condon has assembled a new team and is closing in on a new showrunner, so there’s still a chance HBO may order the show to series (the network has ordered additional scripts). “They love Diane —Emmy in the bag—and Ellen Page, but development was rushed and the general feeling is the show doesn’t click,” says the source. The project also stars Jason Patric and Sanaa Lathan.
As for Finke’s involvement in the project, the influential but elusive blogger has said on her site that she had “no prior knowledge that this show was being created or put into development” and that she had no creative or consulting involvement with the show.