We learned earlier this week that acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan was jumping ship from Warner Bros to make his next movie. According to a more recent report, Nolan’s new studio didn’t recruit him without making some big promises.
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter dished on the negotiations that ended with Christopher Nolan bringing his next movie to Universal Pictures. According to THR, everything took place “in secret at the highest executive levels.” Nolan found himself in an enviable position, able to dictate demanding terms. The director was reportedly able to secure himself complete creative freedom, a production budget of $100 million, an equal amount for marketing, and a blackout period of three weeks both before and after the film’s release in which Universal won’t put out any other movies.
Christopher Nolan was also able to get himself 20 percent of the first-dollar gross (i.e., his cut begins as soon as ticket sales begin, regardless of whether the movie turns a profit or not). His deal includes a significant theatrical window for his next film of — according to conflicting reports — somewhere between 100 and 130 days.
THR’s report says that Universal claimed the prize chiefly because it was one of only two studios willing to meet Christopher Nolan’s demands. Paramount was out of the running early, mainly due to the studio’s new focus on streaming. Apple was apparently willing to commit to the theatrical window, but not to much else. Sony was apparently neck and neck with Universal for a while, but THR implies the latter studio’s stability, infrastructure, plus carefully cultivated relationships helped it pull ahead. Not to mention, rather than negotiate with Nolan, Universal apparently simply said “Yes” to all of the director’s demands.
Considering Christopher Nolan’s presumed reasons for leaving Warner Bros. behind, his demands aren’t surprising. Deadline says the trouble began with the Warner Bros’ handling of the release of Nolan’s thriller Tenet and only got worse when the studio announced its entire 2021 film slate would be released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. In response, Nolan angrily spoke of the filmmakers who had gone to bed thinking they worked for “the world’s greatest movie studio” but woke up to learn they were employees of “the worst streaming service.”
The film Christopher Nolan brought to Universal Pictures will reportedly be about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer was both a theoretical physicist and the director of the covert project that produced the first successful detonation of a nuclear device as well as the two atomic bombs — known as Fat Man and Little Boy — that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Beyond the subject matter, almost no specifics are known about Christopher Nolan’s next film. Cillian Murphy is reported to be attached, which isn’t a very risky guess since he’s appeared in a lot of Nolan’s movies. No release dates or other casting information has been revealed, though production is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022.