'I should have been more polite,' the 'Dunkirk' director said

By Nick Romano
November 07, 2017 at 12:47 PM EST

In an interview earlier this year, Christopher Nolan stated that Netflix “has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films” and a “mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed and released.” Now, the director behind the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and this year’s Dunkirk says that while he stands by his feelings on the streaming platform, he did email Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, to apologize for the “undiplomatic” way he expressed them.

“I should have been more polite,” the filmmaker said in a new interview with Variety. “I said what I believe, but I was undiplomatic in the way I expressed it. I wasn’t giving any context to the frankly revolutionary nature of what Netflix has done. It’s extraordinary. They need appropriate respect for that, which I have.”

However, Nolan still believes the industry should respect the theatrical release model. In other words, films should not hit VOD and home release mediums within a week of their theatrical premieres — a plan that’s already being tested out.

“My entire adult life they have released straight-to-video films,” he said. “As a filmmaker, when I was starting out in the ’90s, your nightmare was the straight-to-video release. There’s nothing new about it — what’s different and new about it is selling it to Wall Street as innovation or disruption.”

He added, “Every other industry, whether it’s the car industry or whatever, controls when a product is launched. The idea that the film business should forget that and just throw everything together at the same time makes no sense. It’s not good business, and people will realize that eventually.”

Among the many bullet points Nolan offered to IndieWire when initially talking about this subject in July, Nolan said, “I think the investment that Netflix is putting into interesting filmmakers and interesting projects would be more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters. It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it.”

Netflix continues to push films like Okja and Mudbound as awards contenders, which has sparked some debate in the industry.

“Digital platforms are a new way of offering words and images, which in itself are enriching. But these platforms should not take the place of existing forms like the movie theaters,” Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar said at the Cannes Film Festival this year. “They should under no circumstances change the offer for spectators. The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and obey the existing rules that are already adopted and respected by the existing networks.”

Will Smith, who stars in the Netflix film Bright, came to the platform’s defense. “I have a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home. They go to the movies twice a week, and they watch Netflix,” he said. “There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix.”

To Variety, Nolan remarked, “I view movies and television as different, and the conventional thinking right now is that they must converge and become the same thing. A scenario in which movies and television become more similar elevates television but diminishes movies.

Head here to read his full interview with Variety.