Netflix’s ascent out of the wilds of the Internet and into showbiz legitimacy is no longer a recent development. The digital-content-streaming behemoth has been gathering Emmy Awards for a minute, but when Netflix earned a coveted Oscar nomination last year for the gorilla-preservation documentary Virunga, it was a sign that the time to take online media seriously has come. Now, Adam Sandler signs multi-picture deals with Netflix (bad example, but still), Vimeo lays claim to TV’s next cult comedy, and Crackle continues to do whatever it is that Crackle does. Netflix has already got a serious contender for awards consideration in Cary Fukunaga’s upcoming Beasts Of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a merciless African warlord.
But even so, nothing cements a studio’s legitimacy like being able to walk into a boardroom, write a massive check, and walk out with the rights to a major feature attached to an A-list star and a prestige director. That’s precisely what Netflix did with War Machine, an investment of approximately $30 million that represents the company’s biggest play to date, and yet another seismic shift in the film industry’s landscape. Deadline reports that Netflix head Ted Sarandos has secured distribution rights for the true story of General Stanley McChrystal, the hard-drinking, hard-living commanding general of forces in Afghanistan during America’s early-2000s invasion.
And none other than Brad Pitt has signed on to portray the general in this wartime satire. The actor’s easy, down-home charm should be an excellent fit for the larger-than-life McChrystal. In The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story Of America’s War In Afghanistan, the book on which War Machine is based, McChrystal comes off as a big-mouthed and cocky star soldier. Though the film was originally conceived as a straight military picture, the cartoonish lapses in McChrystal’s character (such as denouncing the White House’s handling of the invasion, and a “resignation” that followed soon after the remarks were made public) made this fraught subject ripe for black humor. With Aussie director David Michod also on board, this’ll be a huge get for Netflix. No release date has been set, but expect this one before the year’s end. Something tells me the higher-ups at Netflix are hungry for gold.