News Nuggets: Meryl Streep to play opera diva Maria Callas in HBO’s ‘Master Class’?

Columnist Liz Smith gets to the bottom of the rumors that Meryl Streep will play the legendary opera singer Maria Callas. She spoke with director Mike Nichols, who is in charge of the upcoming HBO production “Master Class,” and he confirms the story from Streep’s press agent Leslee Dart. The Terrence McNally play is about the late-in-life diva as she now is a teacher following the death of her lover, Aristotle Onassis. Various Broadway versions has seen Zoe Caldwell, Patti LuPone, Dixie Carter, and Tyne Daly in the lead role (with Caldwell winning a Tony Award in 1996). Will Streep and Nichols add yet another Emmy Award to their awards mantels? Huffington Post.

Longtime character actor Eli Wallach dies at age 98. His lengthy feature film resume included “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “Baby Doll,” “The Misfits,” “Cinderella Liberty,” and “The Godfather: Part III.” He was a Tony winner for the Tennessee Williams play “The Rose Tattoo” (1951) and an Emmy winner for the telefilm “Poppies Are Also Flowers” (1966). He received an honorary Academy Award in 2010 and said at the time, “As an actor I’ve played more bandits, thieves, warlords, molesters, and mafioso that you could shake a stick at.” Hollywood Reporter.

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Veteran journalist Diane Sawyer is stepping down as the anchor of ABC’s “World News.” She will depart the show in August to host investigation and interview specials for the network. Correspondent David Muir will replace her at the anchor desk on that show, but “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos is named as the “chief anchor” for the entire network. That means that he and not Muir would be the “go-to guy” for major breaking news and political coverage going forward. USA Today.

After drawing plenty of harsh criticism for their red carpet show this weekend, the National Academy of Televison Arts and Sciences (NATAS) is not offering comments. Executive producer Paul Colichman of Here Media is also not responding. Available only online as a streaming event, the hosts were Brittany Furlan, Lauren Elizabeth, Jessica Harlow, and Meghan Rosette. They were chosen for their social media popularity and not for their entertainment news experience. In addition to knowing little about the people they were interviewing, the quartet had “offensive rape and racial jokes” throughout. NATAS is not the same as the Television Academy, which produces the Primetime Emmys each year. The Wrap.

Americans continue to embrace binge-watching, with a new TiVo survey indicating 91% have engaged in the activity. TV dramas are at the top, with the most binged shows of this year being “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead,” “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “Mad Men,” “Doctor Who,” and “NCIS.” Variety.

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Anne Thompson analyzes “what went wrong” with the latest Clint Eastwood film “Jersey Boys.” Even though he has done well recently with period pieces (“Changeling,” “Invictus”), she says that this movie “looks bland and brown” and “not visually compelling.” She also wanted him to “try some new ways to make this story literally sing” and to cast actual film actors and not so many from the Broadway musical version. Thompson on Hollywood.

The Directors Guild of America announces key dates for their next DGA Awards, slated for February 7, 2015. Feature film nominees will be unveiled on January 13. Television nominees will be announced on January 14. One technical change this year is that TV directors must submit in the same category (movie, drama, comedy) for which they were hired to direct. That may or may not match the categories eligible at other awards events. Deadline.

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