[Update: Netflix has released a press release confirming the acquisition, revealing that the film will be released simultaneously in select theaters in the U.S. and worldwide on Netflix, in all territories in which the streaming service is available. Read the full press release below our original story.]
Netflix made waves when it moved into the original series realm with House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, and now as the streaming service looks to expand its purview into feature films, its biggest move yet is on the horizon. Deadline reports that Netflix is close to a deal to acquire the adaptation of the Uzodinma Iweala novel Beasts of No Nation, which was directed by True Detective helmer Cary Fukunaga and stars Idris Elba as a Joseph Kony-type warlord. The story revolves around the experiences of a child soldier fighting in a civil war in Africa, and though he fielded a slew of offers after True Detective, Fukunaga stuck to passion project Beasts as his next undertaking.
Apparently Netflix’s deal is in the vicinity of $12 million for worldwide rights to the film, which wrapped production last year. The “big play” is reportedly for Netflix’s streaming service, but a theatrical component will be involved as well. I’m incredibly interested to see what becomes of this. Will the film be released day-and-date on Netflix and in theaters, or will there be a shortened theatrical window before it’s available on the streaming service? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer to watch movies in actual theaters, but I do find the burgeoning VOD industry fascinating.
I imagine we’ll have more info soon, but this is kind of a big development. Netflix has already signed a multi-picture deal with Adam Sander to produce features, the first of which is already in production, but acquiring a highly anticipated independent film like this is a different beast entirely, and signals that the streaming service isn’t just interested in entertainment—they’re in the market for prestige.
After his brilliant work on True Detective and having finished post-production on Beasts, Fukunaga is set to begin production later this year on the first film in what is planned as a two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic novel It.
Beverly Hills, Calif., March 3, 2015 — Beasts of No Nation, a powerful new film written and directed by Emmy Award winner Cary Fukunaga (True Detective, Sin Nombre) and starring Idris Elba (Luther, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) will debut later this year in select theaters in the U.S. and worldwide on Netflix
Produced by Red Crown Productions, and co-financed with Participant Media, Beasts of No Nation is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, bringing to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah gives a stunning portrayal of Agu, while Elba dominates the screen in the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.
The film will debut on the same day in select theaters in the U.S. and worldwide on Netflix in all territories where the world’s leading Internet TV network is available.
“Beasts of No Nation is a powerful film that unfolds beautifully in the hands of director Cary Fukunaga with Idris Elba delivering a career-defining performance,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix Chief Content Officer, “We are so proud to bring a film of this caliber exclusively to Netflix members around the world at the same time as it appears in select theaters.”
“Making this film has been one of the most profound professional experiences of our careers. Everyone, from Cary to our production assistants, sacrificed so much to make this film authentically in West Africa, where Uzo’s story was set,” said Daniela Taplin Lundberg, co-founder, Red Crown Productions. “To know that this harrowing and beautiful movie is going to reach the more than 50 million people within Netflix’s reach is beyond our wildest dreams. The Netflix team is bold and has the same pioneering spirit about distribution that I like to think we had about making the film in the jungles of Ghana. We could not be happier about this partnership.”
“There are hundreds of thousands of children fighting as soldiers in conflicts around the world and with Beasts of No Nation, Cary has succeeded in humanizing their terrible struggle with an incredibly emotional story and brilliant filmmaking built around Idris Elba and Abraham Attah’s performances,” said Jonathan King, EVP, Narrative Film at Participant Media.
Golden Globe winning actor Idris Elba showcases his creative versatility both on-screen in television and film as well as behind the camera as a producer and director. Elba was most recently seen starring as Nelson Mandela in The Weinstein Company biopic Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom. His performance earned him Golden Globe and NAACP Image Award nominations. In September 2014, he both starred in and executive produced box office hit No Good Deed, a thriller also starring Taraji Henson. He will next be seen in Pierre Morel’s The Gunman, alongside Sean Penn and Javier Bardem, and he recently completed production on A Hundred Streets, which he is also producing, as well as James Watkin’s Bastille Day and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book. On television, Elba is best known for his portrayals of the chillingly charismatic drug lord Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s series The Wire as well as detective John Luther in the BBC One series Luther. The latter won a Golden Globe plus he received an additional Golden Globe nomination and three Emmy Award nominations. Elba is currently in production on the final installment of Luther, which will appear as two, two-hour episodes.
Emmy Award winner Cary Fukunaga made his feature film writing and directing debut with the acclaimed film Sin Nombre for Focus Features, for which he won the directing award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. He also directed the 2011 film Jane Eyre. Most recently, he served as director and executive produced for True Detective, earning the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
Beasts of No Nation is produced by Amy Kaufman and Cary Fukunaga (who previously worked together on Sin Nombre), Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker and Dan Crown for Red Crown Productions, along with Elba. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King are executive producers for Participant Media and Donna Gigliotti is executive producer for Levantine Films.