Apr 1 • 45M

Pod: Bruce Willis and 'Years of Concern'

Plus: did the Academy muffle boos for Will Smith? And where are the missing seven seconds of footage?

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Photo of Bruce Willis by VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

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Today’s Ankler Hot Seat podcast is hosted by Janice Min, Richard Rushfield and Tatiana Siegel, and welcomes guest Meg James, a Los Angeles Times reporter. James co-wrote an explosive and heartbreaking story – Bruce Willis' aphasia was suspected by coworkers for years – with colleague Amy Kaufman about how Willis’ cognitive function became problematic and noticeable on movie sets over the last 3.5 years, during which time he made a staggering 22 films.

James discusses how the actor, worked for only two days on each movie yet made a staggering $2 million on each. However, he carried on this pace while requiring an earpiece for his lines, and was part of a frightening incident involving a gun and a blank.

“It just was chilling to hear that there were episodes that with less experienced and less professional people could have really been problematic and potentially dangerous,” says James. “There was a film that was shot two years ago in Cincinnati called Hard Kill. And Bruce was this father figure. And there was a reality television star, Lala Kent, who was cast as his daughter. And she told us in an on-the-record interview that…he had a line that he was supposed to deliver. And when he delivered the line, she was supposed to duck and then he would fire the gun. But his coordination didn't come off right and he didn't deliver the line. Instead, he fired the weapon.” James said the very same mistake happened on the subsequent take.

The veteran Hollywood chronicler also explained the conversations inside the Los Angeles Times about tackling the difficult subject of an actor’s health and how the story came together.

In other subjects, the hosts discuss new details about Slapgate:

  • Rushfield reports that audience members were openly booing Will Smith during his acceptance speech, but that it wasn’t audible during the broadcast. He asks, “Did the Academy sweeten the soundtrack to drown it out?”

  • Paging Zapruder: the hosts discuss the missing seven seconds of footage that would show what happened when the cameras were on Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith; Siegel discusses the footage taken by an audience member showing Pinkett Smith’s reaction from behind.

  • Rushfield criticizes Vanity Fair, where he had previously served as a contributing editor, for warmly hosting Will Smith at its Oscar afterparty: “You can sort of explain the Academy panic at the moment. They weren't prepared for this. Vanity Fair had [more than] two hours before he got there and they knew he was coming…so there was no last-minute panic there. They had all the time to think this through and they said, ‘Wouldn't that be great if all the eyes are on Will Smith? Wouldn't that be great if he came and danced at our party?'“

  • Rushfield refers to internet chatter that the strange on-screen banner coming on-screen during Smith’s acceptance speech was to block a Serena Williams’ wardrobe malfunction.

And finally, the podcast wraps with a discussion of the curious $108 million options bet on Activision stock made by Barry Diller and David Geffen that has now spawned an investigation by the Justice Department and SEC looking into the possibility of insider trading.

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