EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has just locked what is arguably its biggest commitment to a feature film. In a dramatic switch of distributors for for a tentpole-sized star package, Netflix has greenlit and set a 2020 production start for the Rawson Marshall Thurber-directed and -scripted Red Notice. The film is a globetrotting action heist thriller that moves from Universal Pictures and has added Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Free Guy and 6 Underground) to star alongside Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and Jumanji: The Next Level) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman 1984 and Death on the Nile). The latter two were attached when Universal acquired the project as a pitch early following a ferocious bidding battle last year, one where Netflix was runner-up.
After Thurber drafted his pitch into a screenplay with a budget, the filmmakers sensed hesitation from Universal in a meeting late last month, even though the studio had dated the picture for November 13, 2020, sources said. The original pitch deal had specific progress to production timeline clauses and when a window opened, Thurber’s finished script was shown to Netflix 10 days ago. Led by Head of Film Scott Stuber, Netflix committed to everything the filmmakers delivered, and gets a big picture on its slate that is anchored by three global franchise-carrying stars who had tailored their schedules to make the production work in a specific time frame. The complex deal was brokered during the holiday break.
When first sold as a pitch, Red Notice was one of the biggest film packages brokered last year, including a $20 million salary for Johnson and an eight-figure deal for Thurber, who directed Johnson in Central Intelligence and Skyscraper. Adding Gadot and Reynolds to that mix made for no small challenge for Netflix’s dealmakers: instead of breakeven gross against upfront salaries dished out by studios in success, Netflix pays upfront salaries and buys out backend. All in all, Netflix has committed to arguably its biggest star-package feature film to date, with a production budget in the $130 million range, this for a project the company believes will deliver a new franchise with global appeal.
Red Notice is produced by Beau Flynn through his FlynnPictureCo., Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia through their Seven Bucks Production banner, and Thurber. Scott Sheldon is exec producer. FlynnPictureCo. and Seven Bucks most recently teamed on Rampage and Skyscraper.
The film is an international action thriller centered around the pursuit of the most wanted art thief in the world. It takes place in multiple countries.
It’s the second big film for Netflix and Reynolds, who stars in the recently wrapped Michael Bay-directed 6 Underground. It will be Johnson’s first big film vehicle to go into production at Netflix, which is separately developing John Henry and the Statesman as a star vehicle for Johnson, with FlynnPictureCo. and Seven Bucks producing. It’s also the first big Netflix project for Gadot, who ironically had been courted for the sci-fi pic The Expansion Project but was unable to take part at the time because she was committed to Red Notice.
Deal was confirmed by Netflix and the filmmakers, and Johnson had this to say:
“With Red Notice, our goal at Seven Bucks Productions was to break down traditional barriers and create a true global event for the audience. Netflix has illustrated that they are the perfect partners to accomplish this goal.
“I admire the ambition of Netflix to become one of the biggest movie studios in the world,” Johnson said. “Their original content generates critical acclaim and invites full collaboration on every level of production. Their unbridled enthusiasm for Red Notice is equally matched by their commitment to entertaining audiences on an international scale.
“As the landscape of movies, distribution and audience consumption continues to evolve, our Seven Bucks focus is to continue to find the best platform and partners to thrive in this ever changing environment. Director/writer Rawson Thurber has delivered a dynamic script that me and my co-stars and partners-in-heist, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, can’t wait to shoot.
“The fun we’re gonna have making Red Notice, but more importantly — the fun the worldwide audience will have watching it in 190+ countries — all at the same moment.”
Thurber said he was “beyond thrilled to be making Red Notice with Scott Stuber and Netflix, a company that believes in filmmakers and big ideas for a global audience.”
Netflix’s Stuber said: “Rawson wrote a spectacular globetrotting action-adventure film. We can’t wait to bring this story and this Dream Team of movie stars, Dwayne, Ryan and Gal, to audiences around the world.”
One doesn’t often see this many big stars in one big-budget movie. It runs contrary to a recent report in The Information that claimed Netflix had internal discussions about curtailing spending on big-scale movie projects, after Triple Frontier. That doesn’t seem to mesh with some recent deals that indicate that if anything, Netflix is turning a corner in getting A-list stars on the movie slate. This deal follows one in which Ryan Murphy committed to direct musical The Prom with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Ariana Grande heading up a strong cast; George Clooney agreeing to direct and star in Good Morning, Midnight; and Denzel Washington producing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the August Wilson play that will star Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.
Netflix doesn’t comment on its internal metrics and how it judges the success of its movies, but a spokesperson denied there was any downshifting beyond simply trying to be more efficient in spending: “There has been no change to our content budgets, nor any big shifts in the shorts of projects we’re investing in, or the way we green light them.”
Said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement: “We’re incredibly proud of Triple Frontier, one of our most popular original films. 63 million member households have now watched the movie since it launched in March, and we look forward to working on more projects with this talented cast, producers and writer/director J.C. Chandor.”
On Red Notice, Reynolds, Johnson, Gadot and Thurber are repped by WME; Johnson is managed by The Garcia Companies.