EXCLUSIVE: A two-week bidding battle has finally ended and Netflix has won Bright, a Max Landis scripted cop thriller with fantastical elements and tent pole potential that David Ayer will direct, with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton starring. This is a game changer: Netflix’s Ted Sarandos got a big ticket feature, and he paid a premium for it. I’m told that Netflix will invest north of $90M in the entire package. That includes north of $3M for the Landis script, making it one of the largest spec deals for a writer in years. The film will cost around $45M to shoot, meaning that just about that much will be invested in talent fees, and also to buy out their back ends; while there could be a limited theatrical launch day and date, Netflix is doing this to serve subscribers to its streaming service in countries around the world and so there will be no backend residuals. This deal dwarfs by one-third the premium that Netflix paid to get the David Michod-directed War Machine, starring and produced by Brad Pitt.
This is a different kind of coup for Netflix. The package brought heat the moment Deadline revealed it was coming to market on March 2, because Ayer and Smith just completed the Warner Bros/DC film Suicide Squad, which is expected to be a major summer hit. Though it will be R-rated, Bright is much closer to Men in Black‘s commercial qualities and VFX than anything Netflix has done before, and it is meant to launch a franchise. It quickly got reported that Netflix put in a significant bid and won the property, but it wasn’t decided until much much later. The auction took so long because there were at least two other suitors. Warner Bros teamed with MGM, and they were willing to go as high as the high $50M, all in. Also bidding was PalmStar’s Kevin Frakes, who offered $4M for the Landis script and committed to a total budget around $60M. Both of those bids would have been to make a traditional wide release theatrical film. The principals made the decision for Netflix two days ago, and it has taken this long to make the deals, with Landis just closing. The producer deals are still not completely done, but Eric Newman, Ayer, Landis and Bryan Unkeless will share producing duties.
The film will shoot this fall in Los Angeles. The location was important to Ayer, who has made the city a location in all his cop procedurals. I will have more on why the principals took the leap here, but suffice to say, they all embraced the idea of a disruptive model. Netflix made it easier by ensuring they would be compensated as they would have with a hit movie. CAA packaged the deal, repping Ayer, Smith, Edgerton and Newman. WME repped Landis in the script deal. Landis is managed by Writ Large.