Netflix Produces Brad Pitt War Movie With Eye on Oscar, Emmy

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Netflix Inc. will produce “War Machine,” a satirical film starring Brad Pitt as a U.S. general loosely based on Stanley McChrystal, showing it can attract A-list talent for movies that largely bypass theaters.

Netflix will release the film for streaming in more than 50 countries and in selected cinemas, according to an e-mailed statement Monday. Filming starts in August, with the release planned for next year. David Michôd is writing and directing.

With its online service expanding worldwide by the end of 2016, Netflix is in the market for films and series that can lure new subscribers with big stars and compete for awards. Ted Sarandos, chief content officer, said in May at the Cannes Film Festival no producer would lose money selling a film to Netflix.

“War Machine is a rip-roaring, behind-the-facade tale of modern war decision-makers, from the corridors of power to the distant regions of America’s ambitions,” Sarandos said in the statement. “Brad and David are a perfect team to make this timely, compelling and entertaining film.”

The accord extends Netflix’s role in feature films. Last year, the company agreed to release a sequel to the Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” its first big-screen production.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix will release “War Machine” in a handful of theaters for a brief period. Such a release strategy would allow it to qualify for an Oscar without losing the option to compete for TV’s Emmy Awards.

Film Strategy

Netflix will adopt a similar strategy with “Beasts of No Nation,” a drama starring Idris Elba that it will be released later this year. Sarandos said at an investor conference in May that films in the $10 million to $25 million range make sense for the company.

“The investors in that movie made their -- doubled their money back before they released the film,” Sarandos said. “So, the risk is moved to me, and we’re highly confident in the size of the audience for that film.”

“War Machine” is based on the best-selling book “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan” written by the late Michael Hastings. Hastings wrote a profile of McChrystal in Rolling Stone that revealed the general mocking top politicians in Washington, which McChrystal said changed his world “suddenly -- and profoundly.”

Pitt’s Company

Pitt’s production company, Plan B, will produce the film with Netflix, Ian Bryce and Michôd, who directed the Australian thriller “Animal Kingdom.” Netflix will invest about $30 million in the film, according to the Hollywood blog Deadline.

That is more than the company is reported to have spent on “Beasts of No Nation,” but less than it spent on each of the first two seasons of “House of Cards,” according to industry trade publications.

Netflix will release its first Spanish-language series “Club de Cuervos,” in August in all territories where the service is offered, the company also said Monday. Netflix, which expanded into Latin American and South America four years ago, also will offer a larger selection of Hispanic titles to U.S. members, including telenovelas and movies.