Five emerging screenwriters gained the film academy's stamp of admission into Hollywood with help from an ensemble of actors that included Tyrese Gibson and Rosa Salazar.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored each screenwriter at the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting awards and presentation on Thursday night. The five individuals each received $35,000 fellowships and had their work brought to life through live readings by Gibson, Salazar, Amandla Stenberg and Wes Studi.
The event was held at the academy's headquarters in Beverly Hills, California.
The five screenplays selected include: Aaron Chung's "Princess Vietnam," Karen McDermott's "Lullabies of La Jaula," Renee Pillai's "Boy With Kite," Sean Malcolm's "Mother" and Walter McKnight's "Street Rat Allie Punches Her Ticket."
"I want to write scripts in Hollywood. What kind of fool would want to do that?" asked Pillai, sarcastically, while pointing at herself before the audience burst into laughter. She is the first Nicholl fellow from Malaysia and faced a series of obstacles that almost kept her from attending the event.
Pillai applied for her U.S. visa, was told the earliest appointment she could get wouldn't be until the day after the ceremony. But a fellowship official contacted the cultural affairs office at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Pillai's behalf, arranging a meeting to appeal to the consul general to expedite her visa request.
Pillai then drove two hours to Kuala Lumpur to attend the granted interview, with only the $160 donated by her friends to pay the visa application fee. She ultimately obtained the visa and took 30 hours to travel by air from Malaysia to Los Angeles — that including layovers in China and Seattle.
"If it wasn't for the academy and my friends, I wouldn't be here," she said. "I would've missed out not only this ceremony, but also the seminars and preparations for the life you want to live. This is the start of my career."
Winners will receive guidance from academy members as they complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year. The winning screenplays were chosen from just over 7,300 submissions.
Since 1986, the competition has awarded hundreds of fellowships, aiming to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters. The academy says it doesn't acquire rights to screenwriters' work and doesn't involve itself commercially in the completion of scripts.
Past fellows include writer-director Allison Anders, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides and Oscar-winning screenwriter Susannah Grant ("Erin Brockovich"). The films "Finding Forrester" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" were also written by past Nicholl fellows.
Chung gave a heartfelt speech that nearly left Salazar in tears. He said he wants to show how people aren't that different from each other.
"I want to connect everyone's problems and beliefs together just to show how much we are the same," he said.
Geeta Malik, a 2016 fellow, returned to direct the live reading. She highlighted the importance of the Nicholl Fellowship.
"If you want to get your script made, this is the perfect place to do it," said Malik, who turned her Nicholl-winning script into a feature called "India Sweets and Spices," currently in post-production. "This is the place where you can find people who really support your dream and visions."
Paris authorities say British singer Pete Doherty has been arrested in Paris for buying cocaine.
The Paris prosecutor's office said the 40-year old former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman was placed in detention in the night of Thursday-Friday after being stopped by police during a drugs transaction.
The office wouldn't confirm French media reports that Doherty was carrying 2 grams of cocaine and was arrested in Pigalle, an area known for its late-night bars.
Since rising to fame in the noughties, Doherty, the ex-boyfriend of model Kate Moss, has been repeatedly arrested for drug offenses.
The publisher who helped make E L James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" a phenomenon is being forced out amid a company restructuring.
Anne Messitte, longtime head of the Vintage and Anchor paperback imprints, will depart next month, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group announced Wednesday.
Spokesman Paul Bogaards said that Vintage and Anchor had operated independently, but now would be more closely aligned with the hardcover publishers Doubleday and Alfred A, Knopf. He declined further comment on the news, which marks an abrupt end to Messitte's 20-year reign.
Messitte will be succeeded by Suzanne Herz, who will continue in her current job as Doubleday's executive vice president and executive director of publishing. Knopf Doubleday Chairman Sonny Mehta said in a statement that Messitte had invigorated "all aspects of our paperback program" and cited her work with authors and launch of the Spanish-language publishing program Vintage Espanol.
"Anne has taken our marquee backlist of over five thousand titles and run it as a front-list program," Mehta said, "curating opportunities for our authors, optimizing marketing and media promotion for their books, and developing other strategic initiatives — from series publishing to reading groups to academic marketing and movie tie-in programs — all as a means of driving consumer awareness."
Vintage and Anchor are two of the premier paperback lines, with authors ranging from Margaret Atwood to Robert Caro. Paperbacks usually follow the hardcover editions, by a few months or longer, but Messitte is best known for signing up books that went straight to paperback.
She is widely credited with spotting the potential of James' explicit fiction, acquiring the "Fifty Shades" trilogy when it was just catching on as a digital release and publishing the books as paperback originals in 2012.
The three novels — "Fifty Shades of Grey," ''Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" — have since sold more than 150 million copies and were adapted into a blockbuster movie franchise.
Walter Mercado lay in his coffin Wednesday wearing a velvet suit that ranged in color from his favorite violet to dark blue as a teary woman stood nearby, transfixed by a screen that showed pictures of the legendary Puerto Rican astrologer surrounded by friends, family and his dog, Runo.
She was among the dozens of admirers who stopped by a funeral home in the capital of San Juan to say goodbye to the TV star and icon in the gay community beloved by millions in the U.S. and across Latin America.
Fans ranged from elderly women with pearl earrings and immaculate manicures to people in their 30s and 40s wearing faded tank tops and sneakers.
One admirer, Axel Maldonado, drove two hours from the southern coastal city of Ponce. He recalled how he used to pretend to be Mercado when he was a boy and sit in a huge wicker chair to make predictions.
"He never said anything negative and told you what you needed to do to have a positive day," Maldonado said. "I really liked that about him."
Mercado was known for wearing lavish capes in bright colors affixed with large and shiny brooches as he pointed to the cameras with a flourish of fingers bearing large gemstone rings while delivering predictions for each sign.
It was those hand movements that were a favorite of Pedro Esquilín, a computer technician who drove from the eastern coastal town of Loíza to pay his respects to Mercado.
"He had such style and elegance," Esquilín said.
Mercado, who died late Saturday of kidney failure, became well-known in Puerto Rico for his dancing and acting skills and his popularity began to soar in the late 1980s. He then moved to South Florida, where he joined Univision and began delivering horoscopes that ended with the famous phrase: "Above all, lots and lots and lots of love."
As night fell on San Juan, fans continued to trickle in, including 71-year-old Maria Fuentes, who once called Mercado's hotline and talked to him directly before he became famous. She was in her late teens and doubting what she should study and what direction she should take in life.
"He told me to believe in myself, that we Geminis were full of talent, and to have confidence in myself," she recalled.
ABC News faced questions Tuesday about its reluctance to air a sensitive story of alleged sexual misconduct after a leaked video emerged of reporter Amy Robach complaining about how her bosses handled an interview with a Jeffrey Epstein accuser.
The conservative web site Project Veritas released video of Robach venting that "every day I get more and more pissed" that her 2015 interview with Virginia Giuffre never made the air. Robach made her remarks late in August while sitting in a Times Square studio with a microphone but not on the air.
ABC said Tuesday that the interview didn't meet its standards because it lacked sufficient corroborating evidence. Robach, co-anchor of ABC's "20/20" newsmagazine, said the leaked video caught her "in a private moment of frustration."
The episode was remindful of Ronan Farrow's accusations that NBC News discouraged his reporting on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's misconduct. Farrow then took his Pulitzer Prize-winning story to the New Yorker magazine.
ABC sought to minimize the comparison, saying it has pursued and aired other stories about Epstein, the New York financier who died Aug. 10 while in police custody on sex trafficking charges.
Project Veritas is known for its efforts embarrass mainstream media outlets, often sending undercover reporters to catch employees making statements that display an anti-conservative bent. But it needed no such help with the Robach video, which Project Veritas said came from an "ABC insider" it would not identify.
The correspondent was visibly exasperated as she complained that "I tried for three years to get (the interview) on to no avail and now it's coming out and it's like these 'new revelations' and I freaking had all of it."
Giuffre, whose maiden name is Roberts, alleged that as a teen, she was forced by Epstein to have sex with prominent men, including Prince Andrew. The prince and Epstein both denied the charges.
In the video, Robach said she was told "who's Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story."
Robach also complained in the video that lawyer Alan Dershowitz and the British Royal Palace applied pressure to ABC not to air the interview with Giuffre. She suggested that the network feared that airing the interview would hurt its ability to get interviews with Prince William and Kate Middleton.
ABC denied that outside pressure had anything to do with its decision.
"At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air, but we have never stopped investigating the story," ABC News said in a statement Tuesday.
Giuffre first outlined her allegations against Epstein anonymously in a lawsuit filed in 2009, and she did her first on-the-record interviews about them with the Daily Mail in 2011. At the time of ABC's interview, Giuffre's lawyers were battling with Dershowitz, who was fighting back against her claim that he was among the men who had sex with her when she was a minor.
While her allegations received widespread attention, some news organizations have treated elements of her story with caution because the list of prominent men she accused was long and her allegations difficult to independently confirm.
The Associated Press doesn't generally identify people who say they're victims of sex assault, unless they come forward publicly as Giuffre has done.
Robach said in her statement Tuesday that she had been referring in the video to what Giuffre had said in the interview, not what ABC News had verified through its own reporting. Corroborating evidence of the type the network sought could include interviews with people familiar with Giuffre's allegations or records that would verify she was at the places the alleged sex acts took place.
"The interview itself, while I was disappointed it didn't air, didn't meet our standards," Robach said Tuesday. "In the years since no one has ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story."
ABC says it plans to air a two-hour documentary and six-part podcast on the Epstein case next year.
It's still unclear whether Robach's Giuffre interview will be part of it. Now that it is four years old, it would likely need to be updated.