November 01, 2023
‘The balls. The nerve. The chutzpah’: De Niro’s tough guy texts revealed in court
Explosive private text messages between Robert De Niro and girlfriend Tiffany Chen attacking his former personal assistant were revealed to a New York City jury on Wednesday. De Niro, 80, is accused of causing “extreme emotional distress and reputational harm” in a $12m (£9.9m) workplace discrimination lawsuit brought by his assistant of 11 years Graham Chase Robinson. In a counter suit, the Goodfellas Actor alleges Ms Robinson stole cash, gift cards, electronic equipment and $450,000 worth of air miles from his company Canal Productions before she quit in 2019 over repeated clashes with Ms Chen. A day after De Niro’s fiery testimony , his attorney of 30 years Tom Harvey took the witness stand on Wednesday where his role negotiating her exit from the company was probed. Mr Harvey told the court that he had been charged with seeking the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of company property from Ms Robinson that was discovered after she left. Ms Robinson demanded a large severance package and a letter of recommendation to the London School of Economics to go quietly, but an incensed De Niro refused to sign, Mr Harvey said. In a July 2019 text exchange shown to the court, De Niro wrote to Ms Chen: “Can you believe Chase? Who the f*** does she think she is?” “She thought she was your girlfriend. I saw it from the beginning,” Ms Chen replied. “The balls. The nerve. The chutzpah. The sense of entitlement. How dare her,” De Niro continued, evoking his tough guy movie persona. “Tom will get her,” Ms Chen responded. Ms Robinson’s attorney Andrew Macurdy played a recording of a phone call that Ms Robinson secretly taped in which Mr Harvey told her: “You have to understand that it’s possible Tiffany has made you out to be a lunatic right?” After Ms Robinson left De Niro’s company in 2019, staff allegedly discovered she had used company credit cards to buy groceries at Whole Foods and Dean and Deluca, pay for restaurants, flowers, and personal travel, and taken five million air miles, the court heard. Over a two year period, Ms Robinson spent $37,327 of company money on her Uber and car rides. Mr Harvey said he was surprised to learn about the travel expenses, saying: “I was aware that Mr De Niro sometimes takes the subway, I’m aware he expects his children and employees should sometimes take the subway instead of Ubers and limousines.” Earlier on Wednesday, two of De Niro’s employees took the witness stand to describe the culture of fear they experienced working under Ms Robinson. Michael Kaplan, who carried out “special ops” for De Niro, testified that Ms Robinson would “go nuts, slam doors”, make off-colour remarks, and generally “make life hell” for the other assistants. Mr Kaplan recalled De Niro getting a back rub from Ms Robinson on a couple of occasions. Once, the actor was trying to “get a shimmy on” by rubbing his back against a doorway, and Ms Robinson had said: “let me get that”. Ms Robinson, who was paid $300,000 (£247,000) a year, had a taste for the finer things in life, Mr Kaplan said. The native New Yorker never rode the subway, always flew first or business class, and complained that first class on American Airlines was basically “like flying coach” he said. Mr Kaplan, who earned $85,000 (£70,000) a year, said Ms Robinson had been upset to find out that staff had used air miles to book flights for De Niro during a round-the-world trip. It never happened again, he said. He added that she was “very secretive” about what tasks she carried out at Canal. “We realised afterwards it’s a little bit smoke and mirrors because the office would run smoothly without her,” said Mr Kaplan. Sabrina Weeks-Brittan, who was hired to be De Niro’s executive assistant in 2018, testified that she and another assistant Gillian Spear would take turns at being on-call 24/7, and Ms Robinson would often call their shared mobile — labelled the “Batphone” — late at night to check they would pick it up. She recalled getting a call from Ms Robinson at 3am on Christmas Day, when Ms Robinson said: “‘Hi just checking,’ and then she hung up.” A day earlier, De Niro shouted “shame on you” across the courtroom at Ms Robinson when he gave fiery testimony in the case. “Yeah, fine, I berated her,” De Niro admitted, but denied mistreating his former assistant. He conceded he might have called her “petulant,” “snippy” and a “f***ing spoiled brat”, but said he never yelled. “I was never abusive, ever,” he said. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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