Rob Reiner has admitted it’s been a struggle to secure US distribution for his Iraq War drama Shock And Awe, and believes American audiences still might not be ready to confront the subject.
Talking to Screen at the Zurich Film Festival, where Shock and Awe received its world premiere, the Stand By Me, This Is Spinal Tap and A Few Good Men director was candid about the distribution problems he’s had with the film.
“It’s difficult, we don’t have distribution yet, it’s one of the reasons we [premiered] the film here last night was to find a distributor.”
The film stars Woody Harrelson and James Marsden as real-life Knight Ridder journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, who investigated the reasons behind the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“I wanted to make this film for a long time, but I don’t think anybody in America could stomach it. I don’t think they can stomach it now to be honest with you.”
“I think we’ll have a better chance in European markets and around the world than we will in the United States with this.”
When the film premiered at Zurich, Reiner also collected a Tribute To… award and was given a standing ovation, but he doesn’t think this would’ve happened in the US.
“Would the film have got a standing ovation in the United States? The answer is no! That is one of the hard problems that we’re having in getting a US distributor. We’ve sold a bunch of international territories and I think hopefully some American distributor will see that it has value in America.
“I’d be happy if we can get distribution all over the world and forget the United States if they’re not ready to listen to a film like this.”
Reiner said financing Shock And Awe was not easy, with the budget coming from various funds (including London-based The Fyzz Facility) and international pre-sales. Reiner and his producing partner (and wife) Michele Reiner also put in money.
“Studios don’t make these kinds of pictures, there’s no way we could’ve got it financed at a studio,” he said. “We had to cobble together financing from different places and it’s very difficult. There’s two worlds, the studio world and the independent world and they are not intertwined.”
Reiner believes that none of his classic films, such as A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally or Stand By Me, would get financed by a studio anymore.
“These kinds of films don’t make ridiculous amounts of money. They make films with the word ‘man’ and a number in the title. They’re not going to make adult dramas, relationship movies and things like that.
“This are the kind of movie I like to make with [his production company] Castle Rock. We’ve made 125 movies and I’ve made like 20 of those [and] there’s not one of them that would ever get made at a studio right now, even the big hits like City Slickers, A Few Good Men, or The Green Mile.”
Reiner said he’d love for Shock And Awe to be distributed on Netflix, but the streaming giant’s preference for worldwide rights is a big problem.
“I would be thrilled if Shock And Awe went straight to Netflix only because I know a lot of people are going to see it because they are all over the world,” he said.
“The problem we have is that Netflix only buy worldwide rights, and we’ve already sold a bunch of territories, so maybe Amazon will be interested. That’s the way we’ve financed this because you get certain guarantees from foreign pre-sales and that way you can finance it. But then you’ve given away some rights already.”