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Nikki Finke Cranks Out Her Best New Story Yet

JeffBlakePicWhy did Nikki Finke return to the Internet airwaves, under threat of litigation from her former boss Jay Penske? So she could continue sharing stories like this one.

Finke’s behind-the-scenes account of what led to this week’s forced exit of Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake (pictured) expertly triangulates his fate with the politics of a conglomerated studio lot, the machinations of Dan Loeb and the actions of Blake’s scrambling, fearful bosses (Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton). It’s a must-read and, best of all, is only Part One.

Finke reveals that Blake was almost scapegoat-fired last summer following a secret July 4 meeting. She notes that when it all, almost came crashing down last year, Blake, a longtime box office source, shared an unusual request:

I loathe those calls I sometimes have to make telling Hollywood bigwigs they’re in danger of getting axed. To my surprise, Blake verbally shrugged it off except to say “Water rising here”.

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50 Shades of Grey Devotees, Meet Your New Director

The news comes this afternoon like so many other items of this sort. By way of Deadline’s indefatigable Long Island-based scoop meister Mike Fleming Jr.

There has been no shortage of ridiculous speculation about who would get the plum job of directing the Hollywood film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey. Absolutely none of it involved a British woman with a unisex name, four children (from two different marriages) and nary a mainstream movie credit to her name. But that’s the bold choice that has been made – meet Sam Taylor-Johnson.

From Fleming’s exclusive:

In addition to Nowhere Boy, which garnered her a pair of BAFTA nominations and an eventual husband in that film’s star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, she directed the critically acclaimed Love You More which was in Cannes in 2008. She also has ties to [producer Michael] De Luca — the pair are in development on a film based on the Robert Goorlick novel A Reliable Wife which De Luca is also producing. She was a famed photographer and visual artist when she took on Nowhere Boy.

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Lauren Dolgen, Creator of MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant: ‘Bring on the Criticism’

Lauren Dolgen, EVP of MTV series development and creator of Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant, is no stranger to dealing with negative press. Critics have deemed these shows as “glamorizing” teen pregnancies, but Dolgen says the buzz surrounding the shows is a good thing for exposing the plight of teen mothers.

“I think if you watch the show you realize there’s nothing glamorous about being a teen parent,”  she told Mediabistro for its latest So What Do You Do? interview. “And the truth is that when I do see the girls in the tabloids or [hear] people asking about the glamorization, I really do say, ‘At least people are having the discussion now.’ I mean, they were not talking about teen pregnancy at all when we first created the show. So, I say bring on the criticism, because we are actually dealing with it in a very real way, and at least it’s being talked about and discussed now.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Lauren Dolgen, VP of MTV’s Series Development?

Sherry Yuan

WME Starts a CAAt Fight

Towards the end of the comments thread for Deadline’s updated item about today’s bizarre “CAAN’T” pop-up ad campaign in Century City and elsewhere, there is a NSFWestfield suggestion as to how the house that Michael Ovitz built could respond to what is now a confirmed William Morris Endeavor broadside:

Options: bloWME also works.

Another reader offers up  ”w’meh.” And then there’s this hilarious alternate conspiracy theory:

Postradamus: This is CLEARLY an attack on the beautiful acting of Scott Caan!

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How Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars Came to ABC TV

Before Pretty Little Liars was an award-winning hit on ABC with its own spin-off,  it was the brainchild of YA writer Sara Shepard. The prolific scribe managed to publish over 20 books in eight years and get two of her series optioned as TV shows. In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Shepard tells how her series ended up on the screen and what she thinks of the TV incarnations of Pretty Little Liars and Lying Game

Pretty Little Liars I’m really satisfied with. Pretty Little Liars more sticks to what the books are,” she said. “[The TV writers] take their own liberties, and sometimes their ideas are just great. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” So that’s always really fun. But, I mean, it’s just pretty amazing to see it on TV at all. Even if it wouldn’t have lasted a season, it still would have been this pretty incredible thing.”

For more, read So What Do You Do, Sara Shepard, Author of Pretty Little Liars?

Angelina Jolie Reveals Double Mastectomy in New York Times Op-Ed

Earlier this year, actress Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed she had a high probability of developing breast cancer.

The actress candidly discussed the elective procedure in a column for today’s New York Times titled “My Medical Choice.” Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 56 after battling the disease for nearly a decade. The loss of her mother strongly influenced her decision to have the procedure.

Husband Brad Pitt was there “for every minute of the surgeries,” Jolie notes, and said the experience has brought the couple closer together.

Jolie’s role as a sex symbol lends the narrative a special resonance, given how devastating the procedure can be for women’s self-image. “I do not feel any less of a woman,” she writes. “I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”

Jolie opted for reconstructive surgeries and implants following the mastectomies. “There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful.”

Jolie says she was able to carry on with her work during the three months of medical procedures. She’ll next be appearing on the big screen as the title character in Disney’s Maleficent. The film is set for a summer release in 2014.

Shonda Rhimes is Disney’s No. 1 Drama Money Maker

Solid profile of Shonda Rhimes by Meghan Casserly in the May 27 issue of Forbes. The 43-year-old single mother of two is Walt Disney Co.’s top network drama earner, per these rather staggering numbers:

Together, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy pull in more than $13 million in advertising for ABC each week – just shy of $300 million a season, or about 5% of the network’s total revenue. That’s not counting tens of millions more for Grey’s syndication or licensing in other countries, which Disney shares with Rhimes’ production company, ShondaLand (Forbes estimates she earned $12 million this year).

But those numbers vastly understate her importance…

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Tracey Edmonds on Breaking Into Hollywood’s Boys Club

After moving to LA at the age of 23 with hopes of becoming a music producer, Tracey Edmonds went on to produce hit films like Soul Food  and several reality shows on BET and TV One. Through it all, she told Mediabistro, it was her race more than her gender that complicated her pursuit of producing.

“I think the biggest problem is still the issue of color. There are still only a few slots on the entire release schedule for African-Americans,” she said. “Tyler Perry has maybe three films in that block, and that leaves the rest of us to kind of vie for those other spots.”

That’s not to say that women have it easy in Hollywood. Edmonds, who recently founded the online venture Alright TV, suggested that aspiring female producers develop a stiff upper lip. “I encourage young women to be empowered and independent and not rely on other people to fulfill their dreams.”

Read more in So What Do You Do, Tracey Edmonds, Award-Winning TV and Film Producer?

Nicholas Braun

Casting Directors See the Light, Cancel Planned Auction of Hollywood Audition Tapes

Today’s Kathy Lee Gifford blunder isn’t the only Today Show gaffe in the news. It’s quite possible that if executives from Julien’s Auctions in Beverly HIlls had not chatted last Friday with Matt Lauer about their company’s planned sale of 54 Hollywood audition tapes this coming weekend, none of the the following would have happened.

The duo’s March 29 appearance sparked some angry tweets by casting directors and a solid bit of reporting yesterday from Backstage executive editor Daniel Holloway. The article exposed the identity of the sellers and also included a scathing condemnation of the auction by Casting Society of America president Richard Hicks.

Today, per a statement from SAG-AFTRA and a second item by Holloway, Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins have wisely redirected these artifacts to the Academy. From today’s Backstage item:

“I got an email this morning from Janet and Jane saying that there’s a big hoopla over this and that they’re going to give it to the Academy,” said Darryl Marshak of Marshak/Zachary management company. “The Academy now is the keeper of the tapes, and anyone in there can go in and look at them. They’re for the whole world to see once they’re at the Academy library.”

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Jeff Berg’s New Talent Agency Scores Double Media Booking

The rapid return of one-time ICM chief Jeff Berg to the Hollywood talent agency business underpins this week’s oddest LA media coincidence.

On the front page of today’s LA Times Calendar section, there is an article about Berg’s new agency Resolution by Daniel Miller. And inside this week’s Hollywood Reporter print magazine, Miller’s former THR colleague Stephen Galloway shares a longer, deeper feature about the very same topic. Galloway got to speak with the 65-year-old Berg at the latter’s new 23rd-story Century City offices; Miller’s request for an interview was declined.

Whether Berg’s Resolution will be good for the Hollywood community as a whole has yet to be determined. But per Galloway’s piece, it’s already been very good for talent agents:

Rivals criticize Berg for overpaying, noting most [Resolution agents] are getting well above the $200,000 to $300,000 they might expect elsewhere and some as much as seven figures. “He is making deals just because they are possible to make,” one rival grouses.

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