EXCLUSIVE: In a real shocker, the WWII naval drama Greyhound that Tom Hanks wrote and stars in has abruptly changed course and will berth at Apple. Originally on the Sony Pictures theatrical calendar for Father’s Day weekend, the film instead will become the biggest feature film commitment made by Apple to premiere on Apple TV+. It is the latest in a growing indication that Apple is making its move, and becoming as aggressive as any streamer or studio in auctions for the acquisition of films and TV projects.
Hanks will test the waters in putting out one of his star-vehicle films direct to a streamer for the first time with a premiere in more than 100 countries, and it is all because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has wrecked studio theatrical release calendars this year. Hanks already had been indelibly linked to the pandemic when, on the set of the Baz Luhrmann-directed Elvis Presley movie for Warner Bros in Australia, he became the first major movie star to test positive. He and wife Rita Wilson were quarantined and luckily overcame the affliction. When Deadline broke that Hanks had tested positive, it nearly crashed the website. How his WWII movie will fare hopefully will be a far more pleasant experience as the industry reboots itself. Apple has not set a date to release yet, but the expectation is it will be soon.
Deadline revealed in 2016 that Hanks would re-enter the high seas for the first time since Captain Phillips — well, there was that short detour of landing the plane in the Hudson River in Sully — with this WWII film he wrote for himself to star in. He’ll play George Krause, a career officer finally given command of a Navy destroyer, Greyhound, during the Battle of the Atlantic, which took place in the earliest months of America’s alliance with England and the Free Forces. Along with the enemy, Krause fights his self-doubts and personal demons to prove he belongs.
The project was assembled by CAA Media Finance and FilmNation, with Get Low helmer Aaron Schneider directing and Hanks’ Playtone partner Gary Goetzman producing as a Playtone Production from Sony Pictures/Stage Six Films. Sony Pictures acquired world rights just before the Berlin market the following February, where the picture was poised to be the big acquisition title. It was going to be a major theatrical release for Sony — first slotted for May 8 but then moved into Father’s Day weekend June 19, until the pandemic washed out every studio’s plans and shuttered movie theaters around the world.
That’s when the decision was made to alter course. The picture quietly was shopped in stealthy fashion, and it became a bidding battle between the big streamers. I’m told a deal closed in the $70 million range, with the auction brokered by CAA Media Finance and FilmNation.
For Apple, this is further indication the company is becoming a major player in features, as this marks its biggest picture commitment. The Apple TV+ slate includes Beastie Boys Story, the docus Dads from director Bryce Dallas Howard and the Sundance acquisition Boys State as well as On the Rocks starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones and directed by Sofia Coppola. Streaming now is 2019 Sundance Film Festival selections Hala and The Elephant Queen. The service also premiered the George Nolfi-directed The Banker, which stars Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson and Nia Long.