‘John Henry’ Producers on Netflix Hit and Dwayne Johnson Controversy – Variety

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Producers behind the Terry Crews micro-budget drama “John Henry” are taking a victory lap this week, as their movie has discovered an exhilarating second life and huge viewership on Netflix.

In a interval that noticed dominance from the second season of the Christina Applegate sequence “Lifeless to Me,” and stiff function competitors from the Michelle Obama documentary “Changing into” and the continued reign of Chris Hemsworth’s “Extraction,” the Crews movie stood tallest — ranking because the primary film on Netflix this Wednesday, based on the platform’s personal high ten record.

“John Henry” comes from debut writer-director Will Forbes, and producers Maurice Fadida, Eric B. Fleischman and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones.  UTA Impartial Movie Group bought the venture to L.A.-based Saban Movies final 12 months, which bowed in a quiet restricted theatrical run in January.

Early this week, Fadida and Fleischman seen solely in looking the Netflix app that their movie had turn into obtainable. Then the messages began pouring in.

“It’s widespread that the distributor will launch the movie to SVOD and not notify you instantly. However then folks began texting us saying, ‘Hey, you’re quantity 5! Quantity two! Primary!” Fleischman advised Variety, admitting he and Fadida had been “baffled.”

The venture relies on the John Henry of folklore, an African American man identified for his unimaginable energy. Many variations of the story, interpreted most frequently in music and literature, have been advised because the 1800s on the start of the American railroads. Henry was stated to have been more proficient at hammering metal than any machine, and the software turned his image.

Crews performs a personality impressed by, or maybe an emotional “descendant” of, the legendary John Henry, producers stated. Crews’ Henry had a violent gang life in his youth in South Central Los Angeles, solely to swear it off and internalize his intense properly of energy as an grownup. A gang kingpin performed by Ludacris has totally different concepts.

Fleischman met Forbes, a composer by commerce, whereas he was nonetheless in class and creating this world. 

“He grew up in upstate New York. When he moved to L.A., he lived within the Crenshaw space, and all of his associates turned or had been gang members, present or former. He discovered himself on this world and listening to these folklore tales,” stated Fleischman.

Fadida stated Forbes insisted on authenticity, and “introduced his associates from the hood to set sure scenes, as a result of he wished the realest actual.” 

Judging by social media reactions, the movie brings an genuine grit and an unexpectedly subdued flip from Crews.

“Finally, if we had been to distill the success, the film is entertaining for a broad scope of individuals. I feel that’s why it rushed to the highest,” stated Fleischman.

Each producers, Fadida of Kodiak Footage and Fleischman of Defiant Studios, discover the success encouraging as indie filmmakers. {That a} movie like “John Henry” might obtain such heights proves that Netflix could be a place of discovery for titles not fronted by Marvel stars and premium budgets, with over 182 million subscribers worldwide in addition, they stated. 

“We had been very completely satisfied to see this platform democratized. We’re not a Netflix unique, and this was a micro-budget film with zero advertising and marketing {dollars} behind it,” stated Fadida.

The pair had been meant to take the movie to Cannes earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit and search overseas consumers, as Saban solely took North American rights on the property. Given its success on Netflix, it’s possible the streamer might scoop up worldwide rights and dub the movie for its world viewers — although an attention-grabbing wrench comes within the type of a parallel venture the studio is creating with Dwayne Johnson.

Introduced within the fall of 2018, Johnson and his “Jumanji” director Jake Kasdan have a take on the character known as “John Henry and the Statesmen,” which goals to be a franchise starter populated with folklore characters. Information that Johnson would himself play John Henry was met with backlash, given the character is a dark-skinned black man.

“Quite a lot of the constructive feedback have been about Terry taking part in a dramatic function that he usually wouldn’t play,” Fleischman famous, “and from a cultural perspective, him being the proper casting for John Henry as an alternative of somebody like The Rock.” 

Representatives for Johnson didn’t instantly return Variety‘s request for remark. Netflix didn’t instantly remark on exploring worldwide rights on Forbes’ movie.

Given their overwhelming week, the producers stated sequel talks with Forbes have but to take form although they will simply see “a world the place John Henry’s hammer goes on.”

The lads had been set to reunite on the thriller “The Knocking,” whose begin date has been pushed attributable to COVID-19. On the Cannes digital market this 12 months, they’ll additionally promote the would-be SXSW 2020 participant “Witch Hunt,” and the style thriller “Phobias.”

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