Steven Sodbergh is officially the latest big name filmmaker to set up camp at Netflix, now that the company has formally acquired the worldwide rights to his next film, High Flying Bird. The drama is set against the backdrop of an NBA lockout and follows a sports agent as they try and get their client – a pro basketball rookie – to agree to what the movie’s plot summary describes as simply (and mysteriously) “an intriguing and controversial business proposition”.
Scripted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney, High Flying Bird features an A-list cast that includes Soderbergh’s The Knick lead (as well as McCraney’s Moonlight star) André Holland, along with Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) in key roles. As he did with this past March’s psychological thriller Unsane, Soderbergh filmed High Flying Bird entirely on an iPhone and was able to finish production all the more quickly for it.
Deadline is confirming that Netflix has picked up High Flying Bird and intends to begin streaming the film globally in 2019. Soderbergh released an official statement as part of the news, referring to the deal as being “the perfect way for me to begin my relationship with Netflix as a director”. As that comment implies, this could end up being the first in a string of Soderbergh movies that land at Netflix – followed by the Oscar-winner’s Panama Papers drama The Laundromat, which Netflix was reportedly circling just a few months ago.
If Netflix does wind up buying The Laundromat along with High Flying Bird in the near future, then it won’t be the first time the streaming giant has landed two projects from the same filmmaker in rapid succession. Just last month, Netflix picked up Andy Serkis’ long in development Animal Farm movie, having acquired Serkis’ Jungle Book retelling Mowgli from Warner Bros. less than a week earlier. Considering how quickly Soderbergh churns out new films these days, an announcement involving Netflix and The Laundromat might be imminent, for those very reasons.
Beyond that, bringing Soderbergh into the mix is part of Netflix’s larger strategy to start developing blockbusters on the scale of Marvel movies, while at the same time focusing on filmmaker-driven offerings and prestige fare. The company already has several such director-led Original Movies set to arrive later this year, ranging from Paul Greengrass’ 22 July to Alfonso Cuarón’s early Oscar frontrunner Roma and the Coen Brothers’ western anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Suffice it to say, Soderbergh is in fitting company here.
High Flying Bird begins streaming worldwide on Netflix sometime in 2019.