On the heels of the Sandra Bullock-starring Bird Box reportedly streaming to 80 million viewers in one month, Netflix has acquired another enormously high-profile project. That would be director Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy adaptation, which has been initially developed by Imagine Entertainment (with a script coming from The Shape Of Water co-writer Vanessa Taylor) but has landed upon the streaming giant after an intense bidding war. Deadline reveals that the price tag for the deal amounts to $45 million — a number that may or may not go over well shortly after Netflix announced across the board price hikes to meet increased costs.
The project will bring J.D. Vance’s same-named acclaimed memoir of unlikely personal triumph in Appalachia to the big, er, small screen. Actually, Hillbilly Elegy will probably land on all-sized screens and in limited theaters like Best Picture-nominee Roma from the sound of things. As Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman writes, Netflix went in hard to score this deal:
Netflix will fully finance the pic to the tune of $45M. There were multiple high net worth backers in the mix and many other admirers but Netflix’s offer blew rivals away, I understand. By almost double. Not all of the $45M will go on production. A fair whack of that will go on fees. I gather there is a theatrical allowance here which could see the release potentially play out Roma-style.
As a memoir, Vance’s story sparked controversy, a sentiment that will only likely grow once production begins later this year. Another question, of course, is how Netflix can continue to pour money into high-dollar projects such as this one. Bird Box cost $19.8 million to produce, and one year prior, Will Smith’s Bright was directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad) on a $90 million budget, although a substantial amount of that total was picked up by Overbook Entertainment and a few other producers besides Netflix. With Hillbilly Elegy, however, Netflix is apparently picking up the whole tab. It seems like a huge gamble, to say the least, but the streaming service must feel that the project will pay off.
On a Howard-related note, Ron also recently signed on to direct a National Geographic documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, about the wildfires that decimated Paradise, California in 2018. “The people of Paradise lost everything in the blink of an eye,” Howard said in a statement. “The way in which the citizens are coming together to rebuild is beautiful and hopeful — but no one should have to live through this. Theirs is a cautionary tale about the impending effects of climate change and what it takes to restore the communities ravaged by it. Paradise could be any of us.”