Bob Greenblatt, WarnerMedia’s entertainment and direct-to-consumer chairman, called the decision to temporarily pull Gone With the Wind “a no-brainer” but said it will be restored because “we can’t censor these films.”
The executive made the comments Thursday in an interview on Sirius XM with Jess Cagle, the former editor of People and Entertainment Weekly. (Listen to an excerpt above.)
“I don’t regret taking it down for a second,” Greenblatt said. “I only wish we had put it up in the first place with the disclaimer. And we just didn’t do that.”
Had the film been airing on a linear network, as it often has on WarnerMedia’s Turner Classic Movies, it wouldn’t need a disclaimer because “because they’re often talking about these issues,” Greenblatt said. When the film returns to the streaming service, he added, it will have a disclaimer attached to the feature. It will also be accompanied by footage from an hour-long panel discussion held at the 2019 edition of TCM’s annual festival in LA, with academics, writers and producers assessing the film’s legacy.
“This is a complicated film, undeniably one of the most watched films of all time, and most award winning,” Greenblatt said. “And it has these issues which are not insignificant. Especially, you know in this moment in the world that we’re in right now.”
The film has been under a harsh spotlight even outside of the U.S., where its depictions of Reconstruction and slavery have the most direct implications. The Grand Rex movie palace in Paris is reopening June 22 and had programmed classics including Gone with the Wind, but has scrapped the 1939 title.
Greenblatt credited writer and director John Ridley for raising the issue in an LA Times opinion piece. But he said Ridley agreed that “we can’t censor these films, or edit them, or just lock them away in a vault. We shouldn’t deny that they exist, we should show them to people, but also in the right context. And, hopefully shed some light on these issues, which you know, affected Hollywood. The last century in Hollywood, there are many darker moments on film that we need to talk about.”
Cagle also asked Greenblatt about the Friends reunion, which was initially slated to be the marquee draw for HBO Max when it launched on May 27. Production of the special was on the verge of happening when COVID-19 shut down production in March.
Greenblatt said the concept of the special was to get the show’s main cast together on the original set, in front of an audience. That will not be an easy feat to pull off even once production resumes across the world. Studios in LA County have the green light from health officials to restart shooting as of today, and unions have weighed in with recommended safety protocols.
“We’re looking at getting sections of it done with an audience and there may be some of it that’s a little bit more remote,” Greenblatt said, “but we’re working hard at trying to get all those details right because people are just so excited about the prospect of this happening.”
HBO Max broke out the checkbook to secure exclusive streaming rights to the Warner Bros. sitcom for $425 million, ending its run on Netflix, where it was consistently a top-viewed title. That made the reunion special an appealing concept, not only as a stand-alone but as a gateway to binge-viewers.
Greenblatt said the cast members have maintained strong friendships over the nearly two decades since the show aired, and enthusiasm remains high for the reunion.
“I remember when, you know, Jan Brady would never do the Brady Bunch reunion back in the day, you know she had other things to do,” he said. “They’re all excited to come back so we have no Jan Bradys in this group.”