Rambling Reporter: James Woods’ Nuclear Secrets and Madeo’s $8 Sip Surcharge

James Woods’ Nuclear Secrets

By Christopher Nolan’s standards, Oppenheimer couldn’t be a more straightforward narrative. Scientist builds bomb. Bomb ends war. Government betrays scientist. But there is one part of the movie that has some viewers scratching their heads, and it’s right there in the opening credits: What the heck is James Woods’ name doing on the screen? The 76-year-old actor, best known today for his right-wing conspiracy mongering, is listed as an executive producer. But as far as anyone can tell, he had no part in making the film, never met with Nolan and wouldn’t know a neutron reflector from a People’s Choice Award. So, how’d he nab an EP credit? Woods, it turns out, is pals with businessman J. David Wargo, a onetime Discovery board member and longtime Trinity Project buff. Back in 2015, Wargo bought the rights to the Oppenheimer biography American Prometheus but couldn’t find a home for it in Hollywood, so he turned to Woods for help. Woods took it to another pal, producer Chuck Roven — the two have known each other since Roven’s late wife, Dawn Steel, greenlighted True Believer (1989) — and Roven brought the book to Nolan, who based his movie on its text. See, once you connect the dots, it’s as easy to understand as the plot of Tenet. ­

How Woody Allen Became the Hottest Ticket in Town

Want to watch Woody Allen’s Coup de Chance? Until now, you’ve had two options. You could fly to Europe, where since September the French-language thriller has been doing decent box office in countries like Spain, France, Italy and Russia. Or you could join the cabal of U.S.-based cinephiles who’ve been file-sharing the movie on invitation-only torrent sites and media servers and even holding secret screenings in undisclosed backrooms. Allen, of course, has remained semi-radioactive on this side of the Atlantic since 1993 accusations that he sexually abused his adopted daughter — which he denies — prompting attempts to cancel his films in North America, driving curious Allen aficionados to seek alternative viewing methods. “Watched this during my office hours and felt like I was pausing a dirty movie every time a student came in,” one University of Toronto professor confessed on Letterboxd, the social media service for film buffs where Allen fans have been posting their covert viewings of Coup. Well-placed sources tell Rambling Reporter that a bar in New York’s East Village even went so far as to hold an underground “premiere” for the movie. The good news, though — at least for the surprising number of folks who still care about Woody Allen movies — is that soon everyone will be able to watch Coup without acquiring clandestine download codes; MPI Media Group, which distributed Allen’s previous two movies in North America, has decided to pick up this one, as well, and will release it in April. — Reported by Jordan Hoffman

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White Lotus Casts an Actor Who Never Met Vladimir Putin

Rambling recently reported on the firing of Serbian actor Milos Bikovic from the third season of White Lotus. You might recall the uproar over his casting, which began when the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture posted about Bikovic’s history of palling around with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. This week, we’re happy to follow up with the news that the White Lotus part has now been filled by Julian Kostov, a 34-year-old Bulgarian actor who has appeared in such streaming series as Epix’s Berlin Station and Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, done voice work on the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III and who last year starred in a reboot of the classic splatterfest The Toxic Avenger. Best of all, it seems Kostov has never met Putin, let alone been awarded any medals by him. Pozdravleniya, Julian!

A Glass Half Full (for an $8 Surcharge)

When you dine at Madeo, you expect to pay a premium. That’s the cost of chowing down with Hollywood’s A-listers at Drake’s favorite Italian restaurant (the rapper famously name-dropped the place in one of his songs). Still, this is a bit much. Rambling has learned that the 35-year-old eatery, which has been bopping around various locations in recent years before settling on its current spot on Sunset Boulevard, has started collecting a surcharge just to taste a wine before ordering it, anywhere from $3 to $8, depending on the vintage. That’s something not even super-pricey hasheries like Providence or Urasawa have the chutzpah to try. “We had a problem with some customers taking advantage, taking two, three, four tastes and then not ordering any wine,” explains Nicola Vietina, son of Madeo’s husband-and-wife owners, Alfio Vietina and Elvira Buffoni. “So we put that tasting charge on the menu to discourage people. But don’t worry — we don’t usually charge that money, especially if you end up ordering a glass.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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