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With the writers' strike stretching into its tenth week and the holidays in the rearview mirror, the first week of the new year was a bit like an episode of Deal or No Deal. Following last month's interim deal between David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company, which owns The Late Show, and the Writers Guild of America, Letterman came back with his writing staff intact and a bushy strike beard (which he quickly shaved on air). First guest Robin Williams was so excited by the show's return to air that he split his pants during his appearance.
But there was no deal for Jay Leno. Because his program, The Tonight Show, is owned by the dreaded Viacom, a struck company, Letterman's late-night rival was forced to return without writers (no beard either). Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, apparently laboring under the misbegotten belief that all the late-night shows had been granted special "dispensation," was the first Leno guest to cross the picket line; Huckabee's failure to command the issues proved no obstacle in closing the deal in the Iowa caucus, however, and a few days later he was on Letterman to promote his candidacy in New Hampshire (where he didn't fare so well). Leno, a WGA member, was also chastised for writing his opening monologues, in violation of strike rules, and since he was having a hard time getting guests to cross the picket line and appear on The Tonight Show, he and fellow talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel made a deal to appear on one another's shows this Thursday.
As was widely predicted, Letterman's Worldwide Pants deal led to a raft of "me too" deals, with the Tom Cruise- and Paula Wagner-helmed United Artists reaching a deal with the WGA that allows writers to return to work. Lionsgate and the Weinstein Co. were reportedly clamoring for similar exemptions. All the dealmaking was raising the hackles of some producers who wanted their own get-out-of-jail-free cards. Dick Clark Productions, which had hoped to strike a similar deal with the WGA to produce the Golden Globes, was certainly unhappy after being flatly denied, thanks to the show's association with NBC; the network was finally forced to pull the plug on the ceremony (replacing it with a brief press conference), at a loss of $10-15 million (with the Los Angeles economy taking a hit of as much as $80 million).
Were all of the week's deals the product of strike-related bickering and brokering? No, thankfully, there were some others. A steady diet of announcements emerged from the camp of Bond 22, the next James Bond film: First, we heard that Mathieu Almaric, the French actor who's been generating Oscar buzz for his role in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, has signed on to play the latest Bond villain (causing some to wonder if the film will be a dud, since good actors cast as Bond nemeses have for some reason resulted in underwhelming Bond films). Next, little-known British actress Gemma Arterton was unveiled as Bond's latest sultry M16 fellow agent. Finally, Ukrainian star Olga Kurylenko, fresh off performances as a prostitute in captivity (in Hitman) and a libidinous vampire (in Paris Je T'aime), won the coveted role of Bond girl.
And though newly minted screenwriting star Diablo Cody, who penned the quick-witted hit comedy Juno, had to deal with Variety editor Peter Bart asking her when she planned to "be a real woman and have children," there was also reportedly a deal in place to film another of Cody's scripts, Jennifer's Body (which sounds a bit like Juno, only with blood and guts), with Karyn Kusama GirlFight directing and Juno director Jason Reitman moving into a producer's role. Everyone's looking forward to more work from Cody, one of last year's freshest and most buzzed-about voices in film, but of course she can't do any more work until the strike, which is already impacting 2009 titles and putting companies out of business, is settled. So could we make nice and resolve this damn thing soon, please? Deal?