This one’s going to make some waves. As it pushes to expand its lineup of original feature programming, Netflix has secured a jaw-dropping package. Today, the streaming service acquired distribution rights to War Machine, a high-profile drama starring Brad Pitt as a four-star U.S. military general modeled after General Stanley McChrystal. Far from a straight biopic, however, the pic is a satirical comedy that attacks U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East through the character of a “rock star” general who’s terribly representing American interests abroad.
David Michod, the white-knuckle helmer behind Animal Kingdom and The Rover, will direct from a script he wrote. Pitt and his Plan B partners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner will produce alongside Ian Bryce.
War Machine takes inspiration from The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, by the late journalist Michael Hastings. That bestselling book was an expanded account of Hastings’ experiences traveling with McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan war.
The journalist’s original Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General” gobsmacked the general population with its unmasking of McChrystal and his staff as individuals with undisguised contempt for the foreign government officials they were supposed to be supporting. The article, which found the general also badmouthing the White House and the approach America was taking to dealing with Afghanistan, led to McChrystal’s forcible return to Washington, D.C., where he tendered his resignation.
The acquisition is one of Netflix’s biggest advances into feature film distribution to date, with a budget ballparked at around $30 million. It also marks the first time that the streaming service has tapped a current A-lister for a project that could have easily gone to another major studio.
Along with Idris Elba starrer Beasts of No Nation, which was directed by True Detective helmer Cary Fukunaga and debuts sometime later this year, Netflix is aiming for feature programming that could stand a real chance in the Oscar race. Though theater chains are likely to boycott the release, Netflix will likely be able to find some avenue for a qualifying theatrical release, and it is expected to market War Machine heavily, as it did last year’s Oscar nominee Virunga (a documentary about the fight to protect mountain gorillas).
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, stated:
“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. Brad and David are a perfect team to make this timely, compelling and entertaining film.”
“We are so excited to be a part of the inspiring commitment by Netflix to produce cutting-edge content and to deliver it to a global audience.”
For his part, Michod also stated:
“I’m humbled to be making a big, bold movie about the whole sprawling, complex, cumbersome and crazy machinery of modern war and the many lives it touches.”