In the cosmic battle for Hollywood talent, Netflix secured a significant victory over the Disney empire.
Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who last year agreed to develop a new film series in the Star Wars universe for Disney, will in fact not venture to a galaxy far, far away. The pair announced yesterday (Oct. 28) they’re reneging on the agreement with Disney in order to focus on a deal they signed earlier this year with Netflix.
“There are only so many hours in the day, and we felt we could not do justice to both Star Wars and our Netflix projects,” the duo said in a statement. “So we are regretfully stepping away.”
Benioff and Weiss inked a five-year, $250 million partnership with Netflix in August to make film and TV projects exclusively for the streaming service. The move was head-scratching at the time, considering the pair had already committed to producing Star Wars movies for Disney—an undertaking that was likely to take many years and leave little room for anything else.
So it’s not a shock that the former Game of Thrones writers ultimately decided they could only move forward with one company. It may seem counterintuitive, but in choosing Netflix over the chance to work on the most lucrative movie franchise of all time for Disney, Benioff and Weiss are just following the money. (It’s unclear if their pact with Disney was an actual contract they are now backing out of, or just a handshake deal.)
Their $250 million agreement with Netflix is one of the richest overall content deals in history, although short of the $300 million Netflix is paying prolific TV producer Ryan Murphy. It’s also the same value of WarnerMedia’s exclusive deal with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, who reportedly turned down $500 million from Apple.
In order to populate the plethora of new film and TV platforms with content, every major entertainment company is shelling out huge amounts of cash to proven creators and world-builders. As divisive as the finale of Game of Thrones was, the HBO show’s success was undeniable, endearing its creators to Hollywood executives looking for household names to make the next big thing.
Netflix, more than most of its rivals, generally lets its storytellers make what they want, how they want to—for better or worse. The money is attractive, sure, but so is the creative freedom. That would not necessarily be the case if they remained as writers and producers of a new Star Wars series at Disney. The Mouse House prefers its storytellers to fit inside its existing tone and aesthetic—especially with respect to the Star Wars cinematic universe. Disney’s resistance to creative autonomy is reportedly why Kathleen Kennedy, president of the Disney-owned Star Wars studio Lucasfilm, fired directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from Solo.
While Benioff and Weiss cash in at Netflix, Disney will look to replace the duo as it moves ahead with its ambitious, though largely unclear, plans for the future of the Star Wars movie franchise. The studio has several projects in development, but little is known about who’s making them or what they’ll be about.
Disney CEO Bob Iger recently admitted that they had probably tried to make too many Star Wars movies too quickly, though there are no plans as of yet to pump the brakes. The company will debut The Mandalorian, an original Star Wars TV series, alongside the Nov. 12 launch of its streaming service, Disney+. It’s not showing episodes to critics in advance, fearing that they’ll spoil the future of the Star Wars universe.