Catherine Hardwicke -- "The Twilight Saga: New Moon"
Tim Burton -- "Maleficent"
Brenda Chapman -- "Brave"
Patty Jenkins -- "Thor: The Dark World"
Richard Thorpe -- "The Wizard of Oz"
George Cukor -- "Gone with the Wind"
Steven Soderbergh -- "Moneyball"
Anthony Mann -- "Spartacus"
Alex Cox -- "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"
The historical drama “is nothing if not ambitious in the scope of its storytelling,” says Conroy of the History series. The designer has matched that ambition by building a world of Viking ships, early medieval villages, courtyards, stone castles and mountain landscapes enhanced to fjord-like grandeur with CGI extensions. The show is shot on soundstages and on location in Ireland, which, Conroy points out, doubles well for the greener parts of Scandinavia as well as the English countryside that the Norsemen habitually raided. One of the series' most impressive undertakings: repurposing a Roman ruin into King Egbert's palace.
Critics have been seduced by FX's Cold War-era spy drama, heaping praise upon Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys' sly performances as KGB agents posing as a married couple.
Hats off to James Spader for delivering NBC a hit show. “It deserves to make the top six list because it's first-rate, hot out of the freshman season gate,” says Richard Licata, NBC's executive vice president of communications. “It's superbly acted by Spader, who's giving the performance of the year and of his career.”
Terence Winter's Prohibition-era mob drama deserves recognition for its lush, elaborate sets and costumes — and a scene-stealing turn this season by Jeffrey Wright as a ruthless gangster with charisma to spare, but little patience for Nucky Thompson.
A flawless finale should guarantee creator Vince Gilligan's masterpiece, which won the Emmy last year, a nomination. “But every time we think it's a foregone conclusion, the voters pull the rug out from under you,” says one insider. “You can never predict it. Yes, it deserves it. It went out in a grand way. But the academy's tastes tend to be a little more conservative.”
“It's one of our best seasons yet,” says executive producer Gareth Neame of PBS' hit, which grabbed record ratings. “At its heart, the show is a combination of something that's very old with something that's very new. And somehow it works.” Adds executive producer Julian Fellowes: “I think it's very flattering for people to think we may be in the running in the fourth year, so I have a reasonably philosophical view. These things can't go on forever, not only the series but being nominated.”
Emmy voters may not be fans of genre, but “Game of Thrones” breaks the rules in every way. “There are shows every couple of years that raise the bar,” says Bert Salke, president of Fox 21. “'Game of Thrones' is one of them.”
“I consider it the best drama on television,” says David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios. “All you can do is make the best show you can, but the Kings (showrunners Michelle & Robert) make a phenomenal show and sustain it over 22 episodes. It's a remarkable feat making an episode every eight days on a network TV budget, and making 22 of them. They're brilliant storytellers, who hit on two different pivot points this season (splitting the firm and killing off Josh Charles' character). They continue to defy expectations.” Points out an insider, “'The Good Wife' is the only broadcast contender.”
“Homeland” burst out of the gate with a win its first season, and still carries the hallmark of an important show. “'Homeland' always generates controversy,” says Showtime President David Nevins, pointing out that viewership was up by 25% last season. “It was a pivotal season anchored by three amazing performances in Claire (Danes), Mandy (Patinkin) and Damian (Lewis). If Bryan Cranston can get nominated in his swan song, so can Damian Lewis.”
Never bet against Netflix. “House of Cards” racked up the binge-watchers. And Emmy voters will want to show that they're hip enough to embrace streaming.
Emmy has always gone “Mad” for Matt Weiner's men (and women), nominating it every season, and crowning it four times.
“'Masters' is a seductive show,” says Nevins. “It's dramatic and has real wit. It has period lushness that has been a positive for shows in the past. It's got Lizzy Caplan, who is a real surprise in her role, and Michael Sheen, who has been a very honored actor. That show is going to be a player.”
Says Nevins, “It has a good combination of heavy drama, but it's really fun to watch. Plus, you've got two really powerhouse performances in Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight.”
Movie stars doing TV is as sure a bet as you can make. “'True Detective' was incredibly compelling, incredibly well-done,” says Salke, a sentiment shared by the industry.
After being attached to helm the superhero tentpole for a whopping eight years, Edgar Wright abruptly exited Marvel's “Ant-Man” last week due to creative differences. The director was reportedly upset that the studio altered his and Joe Cornish's script without their consent.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened.
Click through for 10 filmmakers who bailed -- or were given the boot -- from major directing gigs.
Despite the mega success of the first "Hunger Games” movie, Gary Ross exited the franchise and Francis Lawrence came on to direct the following films. Ross shot down reports that negotiations with Lionsgate for “Catching Fire” were problematic following speculation about salary disputes. “As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule," he said.
Despite rumors that Summit had fired Catherine Hardwicke, who launched the “Twilight” series, for being difficult, she said she “had the first right of refusal” in her contract. Hardwicke said she decided against directing the sequels because the first book of Stephenie Meyer's YA trilogy was her favorite and the studio's production schedule was too intense.
Tim Burton was loosely attached to “Maleficent” in 2011 and his commitment was significant enough for Disney to hire his “Alice in Wonderland” screenwriter Linda Woolverton to pen the script. “Harry Potter” director David Yates was then thrown into the mix before Robert Stromberg, the production designer for “Alice in Wonderland” and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” came on board. The live-action “Sleeping Beauty” reimagining marks his directorial debut.
“Brave” was supposed to be the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman before Brenda Chapman was suddenly replaced by Mark Andrews about a year before the movie's release. “Some other people that this has happened to have just disappeared and not done much afterward,” Chapman told The Huffington Post after getting the ax. “But I didn't want to do that. I have a fighting spirit.” She ultimately retained a small credit and shared the Oscar for best animated feature with Andrews.
After “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh decided to produce instead of helm the sequel, the pic was passed around several times before Marvel found TV veteran Alan Taylor. Much to everyone's surprise, Patty Jenkins was hired for the “The Dark World” after “Game of Thrones” director Brian Kirk withdrew from negotiations over financial issues. Jenkins abruptly left the film less than two months later in what she said was an amicable parting. Reports later surfaced that the director was let go for not moving decisively enough to meet the goal of the looming release date.
The classic film was a revolving door for directors in the late 1930s. Original helmer Richard Thorpe was fired two weeks into shooting and replaced by George Cukor, who overhauled the makeup and costumes for the major characters, forcing all their scenes to be reshot. Victor Fleming then stepped in and shot the majority of the movie when Cukor left to work on "Gone with the Wind," only to later assume Cukor's job on the Civil War drama. King Vidor ultimately completed the movie, shooting the iconic "Over the Rainbow" sequence, but refused to take credit until after Fleming's death.
This seemingly unending game of director's chairs also took place during the filming of another 1939 classic, “Gone with the Wind.” Although he spent two years in pre-production, George Cukor was let go three weeks into filming after having left “Oz” to steer “Wind.” Cukor reportedly butted heads with producer David O. Selznick over the script and production rate. Victor Fleming was pulled away from “Oz” to take over on the movie, which was far behind schedule. The grueling work hours caused Fleming to suffer a nervous breakdown after 10 weeks. Although Sam Wood completed the final scenes, Fleming received sole credit as he made the most sizable contribution.
“Moneyball” would have been a completely different film under original director Steven Soderbergh's control. Sony questioned the commercial value of a documentary-style drama starring real-life athletes, so they stopped production three days before shooting was scheduled to begin after five years of development. Star Brad Pitt eventually recruited Bennett Miller to elevate it to an Oscar-nominated pic. The screenwriter was also changed multiple times: Steve Zaillian was hired for the job, replaced by Aaron Sorkin, only to be called back again.
David Lean turned down the dark historical epic, forcing star and exec producer Kirk Douglas to turn to his second choice for the job: veteran director Anthony Mann. But he regretted his decision a week into filming. "It was clear that Tony Mann was not in control," Douglas wrote in his autobiography. "He let Peter Ustinov direct his own scenes by taking every suggestion Peter made." Douglas later went the opposite route, despite the crew's concerns, and hired up-and-comer Stanley Kubrick, who had directed him in "Paths of Glory."
Although Terry Gilliam's fingerprints are all over “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” another director had his hands on the drug-fueled roadtrip movie first. Original helmer Alex Cox reportedly clashed with star Johnny Depp and author Hunter S. Thompson, especially over his animation ideas. “Alex had some dream that he could make Thompson's work better,” Depp once said in an interview. “He was wrong.” Cox was dismissed and Gilliam was brought in to fix the script in 10 days with writer Tony Grisoni.