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Will Smith, ‘Bright’ Director David Ayer on Netflix: ‘They Let You Be a Filmmaker’

Variety logo Variety 7/20/2017 Brent Lang
© Provided by Variety

Put David Ayer squarely in the pro-Netflix camp.

The “Bright” director praised the streaming service for giving him creative freedom to make his upcoming fantasy adventure during a panel discussion on Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con.

“They let you be a filmmaker,” Ayer said. He later added that the picture, which reunites him with his “Suicide Squad” star Will Smith, “Ain’t no bull s–t, PG-13 studio movie. This is real s–t.”

Smith also praised Netflix for rolling the dice on “Bright,” a special effects-heavy picture that reportedly cost $90 million to produce. “I’m sure this will end soon, but they just give you the money and say, ‘Go make a movie,'” said Smith.

Ayer hasn’t had the happiest experience with big studio filmmaking of late. “Suicide Squad,” a Warner Bros. and DC release, was a commercial success, grossing $745.6 million, but the film was excoriated by critics. There were also reports of extensive reshoots and studio tinkering after Ayer’s vision for the film was darker than expected.

“Bright” follows Smith as an LAPD detective policing a “City of Angels” that is filled with fairies, orcs, and other mystical creatures. “It’s about a really f—-d up L.A.,” confirmed Ayer. “But the world’s f—-d up.”

Smith’s character is prejudiced about his orc partner, a role reversal that the actor embraced. “It was really great to be an African-American police officer who found someone to be racist against,” noted Smith.

In addition to the first trailer for “Bright,” Netflix also screened a brief action scene from the film that showed Smith’s character under attack. A car crashed through the glass window of a convenience store, and eventually ended up engulfed in flames. The scene ended with a climactic explosion.

Smith explained that his propensity for big-budget action films stems from the first time that he saw “Star Wars.” “I have never been smashed like that in a movie theater,” he said. “My mind was boggled.”

The star explained that he has been chasing that feeling ever since, and trying to deliver the same kind of feeling to fans that he felt then. “I had sex a few years later,” Smith said. “It was close, but no ‘Star Wars.'”

Ayer and Smith’s comments come the same week that “Dunkirk” filmmaker Christopher Nolan slammed Netflix, telling IndieWire he wouldn’t work on the platform because they release their films to their online subscribers instead of debuting them first in theaters. “If you make a theatrical film, it’s to be played in theaters,” he stated.

Netflix does screen select movies in some theaters, though, but most exhibitors refuse to show their films because the streaming service doesn’t make them exclusively available on the big screen.

While Ayer seemed willing to set up shop at Netflix, Smith doesn’t seem quite ready to officially say goodbye to traditional moviegoing.

“There’s something about that big screen that in people’s minds does something different,” said Smith. “But I don’t think that’s a competitive difference.”

Before introducing the audience to “Bright,” Netflix also spent part of the panel on another original movie “Death Note,” starring Nat Wolff.

When the panel of stars and creators was asked from an audience member, “Who is your super villain? Who is someone who scares you?” director Adam Wingard replies, “Uh, the president of the United States.” The crowd cheered at the punch line, while a few in the audience booed.

Then actor Lakeith Stanfield chimed in to say that his answer is the Joker. “Not necessarily the latest incarnation, but the one from Heath Ledger,” he said, as Ayer presumably waited in the wings. Stanfield then muttered, “Brokeback…”

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