By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 7, 2012 at 6:28PM
In a much ballyhooed deal that was too good to be true, Netflix and MRC (Media Rights Capital) outbid HBO to stream and finance, respectively, the $100-million production "House of Cards," an American remake of the 1990 hit Brit TV series about a politician's rise to the top. Now on the verge of production, reality intervenes.
Kevin Spacey, who is one of six executive producers along with his Trigger Street partner Dana Brunetti, stars with Robin Wright Penn in the "Richard III"-inspired story, which "Ides of March" Oscar nominated co-writer Beau Willimon describes as "bad people doing bad things in the world of Washington." (Video below.) Willimon has been working with the project's uber-boss, executive producer David Fincher, for months; the start date has been pushed from March to April.
Yes, Netflix and MRC managed to get hold of prime content that HBO wanted. (HBO refuses to license its high quality exclusive content to Netflix, which recently lost its Starz deal.) But are these distributor/financeers equipped to supervise production with such high-level talent? (This isn't Netflix-backed "Puffy Chair.")
Of course, THR reports, Fincher wants more money. Why wouldn't he? Although he showed his ability to shoot frugally on $40-million "The Social Network," which was a high-profile but not overtly commercial project, Fincher tends to spend heavily on such studio projects as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which was exquisitely executed and won the editing Oscar, but too expensive at $90 million. Most directors are more invested in making their films and series come out as well as possible than the bottom line.
Whether or not "House of Cards" keeps Fincher, many in Hollywood are skeptical about how you commit to spend $100 million on 13 much less 26 episodes in advance, before you've seen them, and before they have proven that they will draw an audience. A-list talent like Fincher require careful handling from supervisors with power, such as producer Scott Rudin or Sony's Amy Pascal. MRC, which tends to be hands-off with productions like "The Adjustment Bureau," is on the hook for the money; Netflix is the distributor. Will MRC chiefs Asif Satchu and Modi Wiczyk get tough? That is the question.