Apple Wins Bidding War For George Clooney-Brad Pitt Thriller From Spider-Man Director

Three days ago, it was announced that Jon Watts of Marvel Studios' Spider-Man trilogy was set to write and direct an original movie, with Oscar-winners George Clooney and Brad Pitt set to reunite from their "Ocean's" thieving days. A bidding war between studios and streamers saw Sony, Lionsgate, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Annapurna, Universal, MGM, and Warner Bros. among the hopeful to land the project. Now Deadline is reporting that Apple Studios has won the bid, and while exact figures aren't forthcoming, it is known that Clooney and Pitt collectively turned down as much as eight-figures to ensure the film will get a theatrical release as part of the deal.

The untitled thriller is said to be about two lone-wolf fixers assigned to the same job, and it is unknown if Watts will handle this before or after his commitment to Marvel Studios' "Fantastic Four" reboot (fourth time's the charm, maybe?). Watts' "Spider-Man: No Way Home" is scheduled to arrive on December 17, 2021. Clooney's last directorial outing "The Midnight Sky" was made with Netflix, while his next picture "The Tender Bar" is coming from Amazon, so he clearly has no qualms about working with streamers. This will be Pitt's first time headlining a streaming release, although he is acting as producer on Andrew Dominik's Marilyn Monroe biopic "Blonde" through Netflix.

The Next Level

Some might see Jon Watts being given the privilege of directing Marvel Studios' Spider-Man trilogy as having been handed keys to the kingdom. Weirdly, landing a superhero gig isn't necessarily the brass ring to reach for anymore, but rather a stepping stone to be in the even rarer position of getting to make the kind of original, star-led features that used to be the studios' bread and butter. 

Christopher Nolan was given a level of power and control by Warner Bros. unseen since Stanley Kubrick, but unlike the "Eyes Wide Shut" helmer, Nolan had to earn that power making three capes-and-tights movies for them. But not every superhero filmmaker gets to capitalize on it the same way. "Black Panther" filmmaker Ryan Coogler wanted to direct the Atlanta test cheating drama "Wrong Answer" after that Marvel triumph, but did not get to it before "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" called. The team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have only been doing episodic TV since their "Captain Marvel" success two years ago. Scott Derrickson has gone back to his low-budget horror roots for next year's "The Black Phone," almost six years after his last movie, "Doctor Strange." Even the Russo Brothers' Oscar bait followup to "Avengers: Endgame," the addiction drama "Cherry" starring Tom Holland, got a streaming-only release and was savaged by the critics. 

Getting to direct his own original script as a big budget movie for Apple with a contractual theatrical release and Clooney and Pitt in tow is a big moment for Jon Watts, perhaps the biggest. If he can prove himself as a guy who can make original, non-IP movies that still score big he can genuinely take his career to the next level. And if that fails, there's always capes-and-tights, right?