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Netflix and MRC Hit Fincher Reality with 'House of Cards'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 7, 2012 at 6:28PM

Surprise. 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.
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David Fincher on the set of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
David Fincher on the set of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Surprise.

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.
 

This article is related to: David Fincher, David Fincher, Television, TV, NetFlix, Kevin Spacey, IN THE WORKS


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.