EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: I scooped yesterday that HBO had done a secret deal for an Untitled Roger Ailes Project being executive produced by Fox News rivals from MSNBC. Today I’ve received this email from HBO Films President Len Amato: “We recently decided not to pursue the Ailes project. It had become clear to us before even receiving a script that due to our company’s CNN affiliation the film could never be seen as objective.” Interesting, because today I’ve confirmed that none of the dealmakers have yet been informed by HBO that the project isn’t going forward. “HBO was trying hard to keep the project under wraps,” one of the dealmakers tells me. My reporting blew that.
The HBO movie would have been based on the upcoming manuscript by media writer Gabriel Sherman who has written two cover stories for New York magazine on Ailes and Fox News, including his mammoth article “The Elephant In The Green Room” which prompted complaints from the Fox News CEO. Last year, Sherman signed a book contract with Random House which at one point was tentatively titled The Loudest Voice In The Room: An Inside Account Of The Rise Of Fox News but isn’t formally titled now. NYC-based Hotchkiss and Associates made the HBO deal for the film rights to Sherman’s book tentatively titled The Loudest Voice In The Room on behalf of the Ross Yoon Agency. Executive producing this latest HBO project are two of Ailes’ competitors: Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Their deal was negotiated by WME Entertainment, the Hollywood agency run by Ari Emanuel who is a Democratic activist (and the brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former Obama White House chief of staff).
HBO appears obsessed by GOP Conservatives. There have been movies about the 2000 Bush vs Gore election standoff and Sarah Palin and most recently a TV series featuring George W Bush’s severed head. Sources told me Sherman is still researching the book and plans to finish writing it by the end of the summer for a 2013 publishing date. A cagey HBO exec’s response to me when I called before about the project was: “Nothing much to say. No book yet to read. No script. We’ll wait to see what the script looks like and then decide whether to develop further.” It’s commonplace for Time Warner’s premier pay TV channel to sign up books before they’re published and then turn them into TV movies. In this TV movie, a source tells me, “HBO prefers to take on Fox News through Ailes. The idea is that it should make Fox News look like a Mafia, and you get into this through Ailes, sidestepping Murdoch, not approaching the story head on.” Meanwhile, the New York Daily News recently reported that Ailes was helping conservative writer Zev Chafets fast-track a book about Ailes and the cable-news network. The Daily News reported Fox News granted extensive access to Chafets, published by Penguin’s conservative Sentinel imprint in the fall.
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