The Gray Man directors also suggest that the cinema world needs to move beyond an old-fashioned reverence for “author” filmmaking.
The Russo Brothers have officially entered the streaming versus theater debate, straining Hollywood’s “crisis” over a “culture war” over how movies are made and released.
“We’re in a crisis right now because everyone’s at war with each other,” Joe Russo told The Hollywood Reporter while promoting Netflix’s release of The Gray Man ahead of its July 22 streaming premiere in selected cinemas. It’s sad to see how guys grew up loving movies. One must also not forget that being able to go to the theater is an elitist idea. It’s damn expensive. So, this idea that was created – which we cling to – that theater is a sacred space is bullshit. And it rejects the idea of letting everyone under the tent.”
Joe Russo continued, “Digital distribution is valuable, aside from what I’ve said before about how it’s encouraged diversity, that people can share accounts; You can get 40 stories for the price of one story. But waging some sort of culture war over whether or not that has value is a damn banana for us.”
While Anthony Russo explained that the $200 million The Gray Man was made for a theater — “that’s how we shot it, how we styled it and, technically, how we supported it” — Joe shared with that the duo is so indifferent to the shipping method.
“When we worked with Marvel, we traveled the world for a decade,” said Joe Russo, who directed four films for the MCU with his brother. “What this gives you is an understanding that goes beyond a Hollywood-centric view of content creation. We are agnostic about delivery. You know what might make everyone happy is Netflix starts with 45 day windows and they have their huge digital distribution platform. Everyone wins. It feels like it’s going.”
He also suggested that the cinematic world needs to move beyond a traditional nod to the “author” model of cinema – recalling how directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have dissed Marvel’s production in recent years.
“At this point, auteur filmmaking is 50 years old. It was conceived in the ’70s,” said Joe Russo. “That’s what we grew up with. We were children, that was very important to us. But we are also aware that the world needs to change, and the more we try to stop it from changing, the more chaos we create. It is not for anyone to reject the ideas of the next generation.”
“We love everything about classic cinema, but that’s never been important to us,” said Anthony Russo, adding that the brothers don’t put much stock in theatrical distribution either. “How do you get away from the old models? How do you reach audiences who haven’t engaged before? Those are the most interesting things for us.”
Noting her Marvel legacy and partnership with Disney, Joe Russo added that Netflix was a breath of fresh air.
“Disney has become very conservative,” he said. “Post-[Bob] Iger, you appear to be in IP management mode. You’ll get all the ‘Star Wars’ and all the Marvel to handle for the next decade. They all change. It’s either an increased conservative approach from your traditional studios, or it’s forcing a tech company like Netflix to rethink their entire model.”
Former CEO Iger announced in February 2020 that he was stepping down from the executive role to serve as executive chairman. Disney’s former director of parks, experiences and products, Bob Chapek, took over as CEO.
Joe Russo went on to say that Netflix is ”easier to work with than a traditional studio” because their approach is “more of a tech company than studio mentality.”
“You are very revealing. Nobody bothers you,” he said. “They have a different approach to controlling the budget for the film. It’s not as stressful as being in a studio.”
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