Already winning critical praise, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, his Vietnam-set movie that debuted on Netflix this weekend, almost didn’t happen. According to the director, the major Hollywood studios were reluctant to take on a film with charged racial and historical subject matter, despite the recent success of Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.
Da 5 Bloods, which includes Chadwick Boseman as one of its stars, has been a hit on Netflix this weekend, justifying the streaming platform’s investment in Lee’s work. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter though, he was clear that Da 5 Bloods was a difficult movie for the studios to buy into, commenting as so:
“We barely got this film made. We had gone to every studio, and they all turned it down. I’ve had many, many projects turned down, and in my history, they don’t say they hate it, they just say, ‘No, it’s just not for us.’ I’m in this game a long time. So when someone doesn’t want to do it, I’m not going to say, ‘But why? Why don’t you want to make this film?’ I just say, ‘Thank you.’ And keep stepping. Like Jay-Z. On to the next one. And that is why I’ve been able to amass a body of work. I’m not going to sit around and cry. Keep it moving. There was nowhere to go after Netflix.”
It’s surprising that such an established filmmaker like Lee had such trouble with the studios, although his remarks show that he’s always able to find a way to get his projects off the ground. The director has worked for the major players in Hollywood, but has also found alternative and independent ways to get his films made.
In the same interview, Lee explains that premiering on Netflix will give Da 5 Bloods a potentially large worldwide audience, with the streamer also reported to be planning a limited theatrical release in the vein of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. For those who haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, Da 5 Bloods focuses on a group of Vietnam veterans who travel back to the country in search of a lost treasure.
With Netflix looking to have a subscriber hit on their hands, as Da 5 Bloods is pulling in very high numbers in its first weekend of availability, the Hollywood studios may regret not taking a chance on Lee’s project. At the very least, the option of going to Netflix has created an alternative window for filmmakers like Spike to make their movies without having to sacrifice high-profile casts or budgets.