Christopher Nolan tells Variety that he sent Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos a personal email, apologizing for comments he made about Netflix in July.
Nolan caused a small stir over the summer with his hardline stance against Netflix, telling IndieWire that he considered the company’s strategy of releasing films on their platform and in theaters on the same day “mindless,” and “an untenable model.” He acknowledged the fact that Netflix has puts tons of money behind innovative filmmakers like Bong Joon-Ho and Dee Rees, but said this would be “more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters.”
“It’s so pointless,” he concluded. “I don’t really get it. The only platform I’m interested in talking about is theatrical exhibition.” There was an obvious irony to these arguments being made by one of the rare directors who has been able to make increasingly expensive, critically-acclaimed blockbusters throughout his career, and many pointed out that Nolan’s view was divorced from the reality of most people who want to watch movies. On Twitter, director Ava DuVernay asked Nolan, “But, what if there's no movie theater in your neighborhood?”
The apology he sent Sarandos isn’t strictly a reversal of any of these opinions. Nolan told Variety, “I should have been more polite. I said what I believe, but I was undiplomatic in the way I expressed it.” He also restated his opinion about Netflix’s theatrical model, saying “As a filmmaker, when I was starting out in the ’90s, your nightmare was the straight-to-video release. There’s nothing new about it — what’s different and new about it is selling it to Wall Street as innovation or disruption.” That sounds more like I’m sorry for being rude, but I was right.
Nolan concludes by saying, “I wasn’t giving any context to the frankly revolutionary nature of what Netflix has done. It’s extraordinary. They need appropriate respect for that, which I have.” That’s a stark difference from his previous comments, where he claimed, “It’s not good business, and people will realize that eventually.”
Nolan has publicly refused to work with Netflix in the past, but judging from his about-face — if not philosophical, then at least rhetorical — it seems the industry has hit a point where even its biggest, most successful artists don’t want to burn the bridges that could be key for production and distribution in the future.