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AP Exclusive: New film academy members talk #OscarsSoWhite

The newest members of the film academy say the #OscarsSoWhite crisis inspired them to seek membership.

At a private reception Monday for the latest academy inductees, actors Chadwick Boseman and Rita Wilson were among the new members who told The Associated Press they joined the organization to advance the diversity discussion in the film industry.

"I felt obligated to join," said Boseman, who plays Thurgood Marshall and Marvel hero Black Panther in upcoming films. "After a certain number of years when you see something happen and you feel like there are worthy films that should be nominated or presented, yeah, you have to join. You have to be a voice."

Wilson said #OscarsSoWhite moved her to join the organization her husband, Tom Hanks, has been active with for years.

"I have never been a member and I thought this is the right time," she said. "It feels right because it seemed to me the academy was really open to hearing what the issues were, not only with color but with women and all sorts of diversity."

After two years of an all-white slate of acting nominees for the Academy Awards spawned its own hashtag, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made significant changes to its voting practices and announced intentions to double the number of female and minority members by 2020. The organization has historically been overwhelmingly white and male.

Monday's reception at Catch restaurant in West Hollywood, California, celebrated the largest and most diverse class of invitees to date.

"You are proof that the academy is committed to and working toward its goal of inclusion," academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the guests as they sipped Champagne and snacked on lobster macaroni and cheese. "Together, you are among the 683 new members of the academy."

Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy said she wants to "open up the diversity issue" now that she's an academy member.

"I think we have to address everything," she said. "It's not just Oscars so white. It's Oscars so male, Oscars so straight...Hopefully the new member initiative that the academy announced will help."

The momentum is there, said veteran publicist Lisa Taback, who joined the organization this year.

"I think they're on a great track," she said, "certainly reaching out to more women and trying to find a little more of a gender balance, so that's very exciting to me and important to me."

The party had little agenda other than to mingle and enjoy. Boone Isaacs briefly addressed the crowd, followed by academy chief Dawn Hudson, who joked about the event coinciding with the presidential debate.

"I'm so impressed that you all came tonight," she said. "It just proves that art trumps politics."

She urged the new members to take their new responsibilities seriously by voting for Oscar nominees and winners.

"You can vote all year round at the academy," she quipped, referring to the organization's various contests for emerging talents.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

Marilyn Monroe's dresses, notes, checkbook seen before sale

Marilyn Monroe's dress from "Some Like It Hot." Handwritten notes and letters expressing the Hollywood icon's inner thoughts and, at times, despair.

These and dozens of other personal items the actress left to a friend and mentor were in Beijing on Tuesday for a private viewing by Chinese collectors. More than 1,200 items, including Monroe's shoes, purses, makeup and jewelry, will then be auctioned in Los Angeles come November.

The 1950s actress who achieved fame as a sex symbol led a troubled life and died aged just 36. The image and recollections of her have endured and made her into a pop culture icon. Now the personal items up for auction may invite new readings of the screen legend in the world as well as in China, a country she never visited.

"Last night I was awake all night again," she writes to her therapist in March 1961. "Sometimes I wonder what the night time is for. It almost doesn't exist for me — it all seems like one long, long horrible day." She goes on to describe her recent time in a mental institution, which she likens to a being sent to a prison "for a crime I hadn't committed."

"Oh, well, men are climbing to the moon but they don't seem interested in the beating human heart," she writes.

Around 800 items to be auctioned come from the estate of Lee Strasberg, the famed American acting coach who became a father figure to Monroe. The money will go to his widow, Anna. Other items come from the collection of David Gainsborough-Roberts, a major collector of Monroe's costumes.

The hundreds of items include dresses and outfits, the negligee she wore in the movie "Niagara" and the green and black-sequined leotard she picked out herself from a studio wardrobe to wear in "Bus Stop." There is a tube of her "non-smear" Revlon lipstick in "Bachelor's Carnation" shade, the shoes she wore to marry playwright Arthur Miller, and the pair of costume earrings that she wore to the premiere of "The Seven Year Itch."

Then there are the personal notes, crayon drawings and watercolors.

Lee Strasberg's son, David, said that he, his mother and brother found many of the items in suitcases and closets about six years ago during a clean-out, including one trunk he'd been throwing his football cleats on for years that turned out to contain some of Monroe's personal writings.

"She writes a note to my dad talking about something she heard in class, and she says, 'It helped me feel freer — you said two plus two does not necessary equal four in acting,'" said Strasberg, 45. "There's logic and then there's imagination, there's something more. And for Marilyn, I think she was always after that 'something more.'"

Monroe, who would have turned 90 this year, spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage and became one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, trading off her sex appeal and an image as a vacuous blonde. Off camera, she struggled with drug addiction and depression. She died from an overdose of barbiturates.

Some items up for auction have never been seen by the public before. They include a first-edition hand-bound 1957 volume of her third husband Miller's plays dedicated to Monroe, and a letter from a member of the Kennedy family.

The early 1960s letter is from Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of politicians President John F. Kennedy and Robert "Bobby" Kennedy. Smith writes to Monroe: "Understand that you and Bobby are the new item! We all think you should come with him when he comes back East!"

"There's always speculation about her relationship with the Kennedys and this speaks to the fact that there was in fact a relationship between Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe," said Martin Nolan, executive director of Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, which will be handling the sale.

Among the quirkier items are a receipt for a bottle of champagne, her 1947 contract with Twentieth Century Fox and a recipe for stuffing jotted down on a slip of paper with an insurance company's letterhead. Her final checkbook shows her payments to the window cleaner, her maid and the New York Telephone Co. She paid $200 to herself marked as "cash for trips."

"Marilyn kept everything. She was a hoarder," said Nolan. "She bought a pound of butter, she bought a bottle of tonic water she kept the receipt. It's incredible. We have a pair of strap sandals that she wore when she was Norma Jean, probably 1943, 1945. And all the money she made and how famous she became and she kept those."

Although Western movies were banned in China during Monroe's heyday, her pop culture image and aspects of her life are well-known among many Chinese.

Darren Julien, founder and CEO of Julien Auction's, said about 40 percent of their client base are Chinese collectors interested in Western pop culture, and particularly Monroe.

"A lot of people relate to her because she had actually a very difficult life in a lot of ways. She never had a lot of money, but she captured the hearts of so many people around the world," said Julien.

In recent years, wealthy Chinese citizens and private businesses have become big spenders in the art and pop culture worlds, often as a way to display their wealth or find a place to park their money. Real-time online bidding has made it easier for Chinese collectors to buy Western pop culture.

The auction takes place Nov. 17-19 in Los Angeles.

Filmmakers Ken and Ric Burns honored by historical society

Brothers and fellow filmmakers Ken and Ric Burns have received an honorary prize from the New-York Historical Society.

The Burns siblings, whose many credits together and separately include documentaries on the Pilgrims, baseball and New York, were presented with the society's History Makers Award at a gala benefit Monday night in Manhattan. Society executive committee chair Roger Hertog praised the filmmakers as "candle lighters" and "whistle blowers" who showed how understanding history was vital to the present. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a featured commentator for Ken Burns' "Jazz," performed a brief duet with pianist Dan Nimmer.

The Burns brothers, speaking together on stage, exchanged compliments and family memories. Ken Burns spoke of their mother dying of cancer when they were kids and how that loss has stayed with him through his long career, making his pursuit of the past deeply personal. He praised his brother for bringing a "gift of language" to their work, while Ric Burns noted the fierce dedication of his older border, with whom he first collaborated on the acclaimed Civil War documentary series released in 1990.

"If he thought you didn't care as much as he did, it literally would enrage him," Ric Burns said.

Previous winners of the History Makers Award include "Hamilton" playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, Henry Kissinger and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who on Monday night was debating Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts separating after 11 years

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts are separating after 11 years together.

The celebrity couple says in a joint statement Monday they've "come to the conclusion that the best way forward for us as a family is to separate as a couple."

Schreiber and Watts have been together since 2005.

They have two children and are not married.

They added in the statement "it is with great love, respect and friendship in our hearts that we look forward to raising our children together and exploring this new phase of our relationship."

No other details were provided.

Schreiber stars in the Showtime series "Ray Donovan" and his film credits include "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," ''Salt" and "Scream."

Watts has appeared in such movies as "St. Vincent," ''The Ring" and "Mullholland Drive."

Herschell Gordon Lewis, 'godfather of gore,' dies at 87

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the horror filmmaker known as the "godfather of gore," died Monday at 87.

The director of such films as "Blood Feast" and "Two Thousand Maniacs" died in his sleep at his home in Pompano Beach, Florida, his spokesman James Saito said.

Lewis pioneered the horror genre in the 1960s known as the "splatter film," which intentionally focused on gore and gruesomeness.

His low-cost, envelope-pushing films unabashedly featured blood, violence and nudity.

Other horror films created by Lewis included "A Taste of Blood," ''The Wizard of Gore," ''The Gruesome Twosome," ''She-Devils on Wheels" and "Scum of the Earth!"

Lewis worked in advertising and financed most of his own films.

John Waters, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and James Gunn are among the modern-day filmmakers who were inspired by Lewis' work.

Gunn posted his condolences on Twitter and said Lewis "changed cinema."

Review: Wee, weird heroes star in 'Miss Peregrine's Home'

After a steady stream this year of Batman, Superman, Captain America, X-Men and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's time now for a group of kids who float, are invisible, who spark fire, manipulate plants, control bees and give life to inanimate objects. Not really, X-Men exactly. Call them X-Tweens.

They're the unlikely young heroes and heroines of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," the Tim Burton-directed 3-D film loosely based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. Sweet, with some mind-blowing visual effects, it's the perfect film for your young disaffected mutant friends.

Asa Butterfield (Martin Scorsese's "Hugo") plays a young adult who stumbles upon a secret refuge for supernaturally gifted youngsters hiding in a time loop in 1943. Our hero befriends the mysterious schoolmarm Miss Peregrine (a delicious Eva Green, channeling a sexy Mary Poppins by way of Helena Bonham Carter) and learns that the children are in danger from ever-growing malevolent forces.

Burton is a natural choice to direct: The material already has that gloomy, Victorian vibe, a stylized dreamlike quality, and a sort of Goth-punk look, which is catnip to the director of "Edward Scissorhands." He also famously adores misfits; here, the screen is filled with them.

No surprise the job of turning the book into a film was handed to Jane Goldman, who is familiar both with mutants and the 1940s, having been the screenwriter for "X-Men: First Class." A somewhat ponderous first half leads to a hard-charging second, filled with ingenious fight-scenes, glorious ocean liners and sublime underwater moments.

The film should come with a Harry Potter-like warning for those allergic to new whimsical vocabulary terms like "ymbrines," ''Hollows" and "hollowgasts." But go with it. Your head will be in pain soon enough trying to make sense of the increasingly elaborate rules of time-travel and body shifting.

The peculiar children of the film's title are certainly unique but you can find plenty of other films in the DNA of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," particularly skeleton soldiers from "Jason and the Argonauts," the X-Men franchise for making freaks lovable, "Groundhog Day" and even the underappreciated Hayden Christensen film "Jumper," which also has time shifting at its core and the same sort of evil force in Samuel L. Jackson.

Hyper-stylized films like Burton's usually create stiff performances, but Terence Stamp is grounded as a knowing grandfather and Chris O'Dowd is perfectly oafish as a clueless dad. Other cameos are by Judi Dench, Allison Janney and Rupert Everett (blink and you miss them). Ella Purnell is lovely and understated as a love interest; she's buoyant, in more ways than one.

So stretch your definition of heroes to include, say, a cute little girl with razor-sharp teeth on the back of her head. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" has all the making of a super franchise — the call of destiny, the making of heroes and the embrace of kinship. Plus, of course, coming to terms with your inner freak.

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "intense sequences of fantasy violence and peril." Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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Online: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

Variety to host diversity conference, Pharrell to speak

Variety will host a conference of film executives and stars to discuss solutions to Hollywood's lagging record in diversity.

The conference, which Variety is to announce Monday, will include keynote conversations with Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Studios, and Pharrell Williams. The singer-producer is co-composing the score for the upcoming "Hidden Figures," a film about African-American mathematicians working for NASA in the early 1960s.

Dubbed "Inclusion," the conference is to be held Nov. 1 in Beverly Hills, California. It will include a number of panels focused on finding ways to support underrepresented groups in film and television.

"There is no issue in Hollywood more important and relevant than diversity and inclusion," Michelle Sobrino-Stearns, group publisher of Variety, said in a statement.

Age discrimination is also a planned discussion topic at the conference, co-sponsored by AARP. As a way to combat age discrimination, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed legislation to require websites like IMDb to remove an actor's age upon request.

"We hope the dialogue at the Variety conference will lead not only to greater awareness of the issue, but to more and better opportunities for talented actors, producers, directors and others in the creative community — whatever their age," said Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP chief executive.

'Birth of a Nation' launches voter registration initiative

Fox Searchlight will hold voter registration enrollment in theater lobbies ahead of screenings of the Nat Turner slave rebellion drama "The Birth of a Nation."

Though the film has been overshadowed by a 17-year-old rape case involving Nate Parker, the film's director and star, Fox Searchlight is trying to shift the attention surrounding "The Birth of a Nation." The specialty film distributor said Monday the voter initiative will roll out nationwide during promotional screenings on Sept. 27, National Voter Registration Day, as well as on opening weekend, Oct. 7-9.

Fox Searchlight said some 20 theater chains and independent theaters are participating.

The film dramatizes the events leading up to the Turner-led revolt in 1831 Virginia that was defeated, killing some 60 slaves.

Viola Davis describes becoming Rape Foundation advocate

Viola Davis said Sunday that her own experiences with sexual assault led her to become an advocate for the Rape Foundation and encouraged others to visit treatment centers so they'll become supporters.

"You must," she said. "And then let your heart do the rest."

"Myself, my mother, my sisters, my friend Rebecca, my friend from childhood, we all have one thing in common: We are all survivors of sexual assault in some way, shape or form," Davis said Sunday at a benefit for the foundation.

It provides free medical treatment, counseling and legal aid to sexual assault victims at its Rape Treatment Center and Stuart House, which specializes in caring for sexually abused children.

An advocate for the group since playing its founder in a 2010 film, Davis was among the guests of honor at the organization's annual fundraising brunch held at billionaire Ron Burkle's Greenacres estate in Beverly Hills, California

Davis said half of the survivors helped by the Rape Foundation are children, adding that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18.

Her own sister is among the casualties: She was sexually assaulted at age 8 and still struggles today.

"I continue to pray for my sister," said Davis, who has previously spoken publicly about her sister's attack.

The brunch was held in a tented space in Burkle's backyard, where "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman, "Vampire Diaries" actress Nina Dobrev and the supporting cast on Davis' "How to Get Away With Murder" were among the guests in 95-degree heat.

David Schwimmer was the master of ceremonies. The actor-director started working with the Rape Foundation during his "Friends" days and has served on its board of directors for the last 12 years. He said the brunch supports a year's worth of services at the Rape Treatment Center and Stuart House.

The Rape Foundation also provides educational programs for first responders and middle- and high-school students.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

'Magnificent Seven' rides Denzel's star power to $35M debut

Movie stars don't open movies anymore? Tell that to Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks.

The pair, once co-stars in "Philadelphia," have together dominated the last three weeks of the box office. After Clint Eastwood's Miracle on the Hudson docudrama "Sully," starring Hanks as Captain Chesley Sullenberger, topped ticket sales of the last two weeks, "The Magnificent Seven" rode Washington's star power to an estimated $35 million debut over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Though both Washington and Hanks are in their early 60s, their box-office clout might be just as potent as ever. The debut of "Sully" was Hanks' fourth best opening of his career; the opening of "The Magnificent Seven," Antoine Fuqua's remake of John Sturges' 1960 Western (itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai"), is Washington's third best.

Both films boasted other enticements. Eastwood is himself a draw. And the ensemble of "The Magnificent Seven" most notably includes Chris Pratt, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" star and a potential heir apparent to Washington and Hanks.

But Washington and Hanks ranked as the overwhelming reason audiences went to see either movie, according to comScore's survey of moviegoers.

"They are the model of consistency and they are the model of quality," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "These are guys who can draw a huge audience in any type of movie that they're in. It's not like they're pigeonholed into one kind of franchise. Denzel Washington can be part of a genre, the Western, that doesn't exactly have teenagers scrambling to the movie theater."

Sony Pictures' "The Magnificent Seven" wasn't cheap to make — it cost about $90 million — so its path to profitability isn't assured. Directed by Fuqua (whose "Training Day" and "The Equalizer" also starred Washington), the film made splashy premieres at both the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.

Coming in at a distant second was Warner Bros.' "Storks," an animated release where the large-winged birds have given up the baby delivery business for online sales. The film, which cost about $70 million to make, opened with $21.8 million. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, its voice cast is led by Andy Samberg.

The rest of the top 10 was populated by holdovers, with "Sully" slotting in at third with $13.8 million in its third week. It has now grossed $92.4 million domestically. A potentially bigger test of Hanks' drawing power awaits the actor next month with the release of "Inferno," in which he reprises his role as Robert Langdon in the Dan Brown franchise.

"The Magnificent Seven" slots in as one of the biggest openings for a Western ever, though the genre's heyday predated modern wide releases. The only Westerns to debut better, not accounting for inflation, bended the genre in other directions: sci-fi in the case of "Cowboys & Aliens" ($36.4 million in 2011) and animation in "Rango" ($38.1 million, also in 2011).

The Western, like Washington and Hanks, has proven quite durable at the box office in recent years. The Coen brothers' "True Grit" (which grossed $171.2 million in total), Alejandro Inarritu's "The Revenant" ($183.6 million) and a pair of Quintin Tarantino releases ("Django Unchained," with $162.8 million, and "The Hateful Eight," with $54.1 million) have all proven the genre's fortitude.

"When you read this script as well as Antoine's vision of it, you knew it was going to be cool and relevant," said Rory Bruer, distribution head for Sony. "When you talk about genres or things that might not, on the surface, look to be the best play, it's always going to about what's in the story and how that story is told."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Tuesday.

1. "The Magnificent Seven," $35 million ($19.2 million international).

2. "Storks," $21.8 million ($18.3 million international).

3. "Sully," $13.8 million ($6.5 million international).

4. "Bridget Jones's Baby," $4.5 million ($21.9 million international).

5. "Snowden," $4.1 million ($1.7 million international).

6. "Blair Witch," $4 million ($3.5 million international).

7. "Don't Breathe," $3.8 million ($4.3 million international).

8. "Suicide Squad," $3.1 million ($3 million international).

9. "When the Bough Breaks," $2.5 million.

10. "Kubo and the Two Strings," $1.1 million ($1.8 million international).

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Bridget Jones's Baby," $21.9 million.

2. "The Magnificent Seven," $19.2 million.

3. "Storks," $18.3 million.

4. "The Secret Life of Pets," $8.1 million.

5. "Sully," $6.5 million.

6. "A Chinese Odyssey Part Three: The End," $6 million.

7. "Finding Dory," $5.3 million.

8. "S Storm," $5.3 million.

9. "Soulmate," $5.2 million.

10. "Bad Moms," $4.6 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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