WB casting blacklist pic

'Waldorf Conference' attracts Asner, Gazarra

NEW YORK — “The Waldorf Conference,” a controversial script about the Hollywood blacklist, has landed at Warner Bros. TV, which has begun casting on commission from John Malone’s pay TV network Starz.

Gregg Maday, senior VP of movies and miniseries for Warner Bros. TV, said the movie will try to personalize the issues surrounding the meeting of 48 top studio execs at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York in 1947.

At that convocation, the moguls caved in to the House Un-American Activities Committee, which demanded that the studios pinkslip writers, directors, actors, producers and all other employees who refused to denounce Communism. The first victims of what became known as the Waldorf Declaration were the Hollywood 10, a contingent of writers, directors and producers who ended up persona non grata in Hollywood, and some of whom served time in prison for refusing to cooperate with HUAC.

Asner & Gazzara to star

Edward Asner and Ben Gazzara have reportedly agreed to play two of the studio chieftains, and theater director Leonard Foglia (“Master Class”) is in discussions to helm “Waldorf,” which would be his first movie.

Maday considers “Waldorf” a prestige project, featuring 13 major roles. The real-life characters in the docudrama include Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Dore Schary, Harry Cohn, Jack Warner, Barney Balaban, Spyros Skouras and MPAA chairman Eric Johnston.

One source says all of the actors will come in on “favored nations” contracts, meaning that each will get the same low fee of about $150,000 to keep the overall production budget down to about $3.5 million.

Planned series

Although Starz hasn’t officially greenlit the production, network sources say “Waldorf Conference” represents the first of a planned series of telepics that Starz will set in motion, quarterbacked by just-hired VP of original movies Paige Smith Orloff.

Maday says Warner Bros. TV’s goal is to go into business with Starz and produce a number of the network’s firstrun movies.

“Waldorf Conference” originated as a 1993 radio play written by Nat Segaloff, Dan Kimmel and Arnie Reisman. The TV-movie version found itself twice-orphaned — first at Universal TV and then at Studios USA — before Warner Bros. TV came to the rescue.

One of the exec producers of the movie, John Korris, has adapted the play for television. Robert Harris, Stephen Israel and Laura Friedman are the other executive producers.

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