As the dual strike continues to chug along, the buzziest title of the fall festivals has found a home. The Richard Linklater-directed Hit Man, which was co-written by and stars Top Gun: Maverick breakout Glen Powell, has landed at Netflix after interest from multiple buyers, mostly the streaming services. Netflix landed it in a $20 million deal.
Hit Man tells the story of a real-life, mild-mannered psychology professor (Powell) who also posed as undercover hitman for the New Orleans police. But when he breaks protocol to help a desperate woman (played by Adria Arjona) trying to flee an abusive boyfriend, the character finds himself becoming one of his false personas, falling for the woman and flirting with turning into a criminal himself. The feature is based on a 2001 Texas Monthly true-crime article from Skip Hollandsworth, who worked with Linklater on Bernie.
Out of the Venice Film Festival, Hit Man received positive reviews. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the film reads: “Given the chemistry between the two leads that could restart a dormant nuclear power plant, viewers are likely to come away sated with pleasure after seeing this delightful work.”
Linklater and Powell have collaborated on several other projects, including Everybody Wants Some!! and Netflix’s Apollo 10 1/2. “Glen was a great creative partner. He’s a fucking smart guy and he’s so curious about stuff. We could just talk for hours and really dig into the story and details,” Linklater told THR in an interview ahead of the festival.
Mike Blizzard, Linklater, Powell, Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan produced the feature. Executive producers are AGC’s Stuart Ford, Zach Garrett and Miguel A. Palos Jr.; Cinetic Media’s John Sloss; ShivHans Pictures’ Shivani Rawat and Julie Goldstein; Monarch Media’s Vicky Patel, Steve Barnett and Alan Powell; and Texas Monthly’s Scott Brown and Megan Creydt.
Notably, Hit Man did not have a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement heading into its Venice debut. This meant that stars could not attend the premiere or do press, which is always considered a positive when a film is looking to attract the marketing departments at studio buyers. Linklater largely shouldered the press responsibilities alone.
But not signing an interim agreement made the film a more enticing prospect to streamers, who would not be bound to the terms of the agreement, most notably the union requirement that actors for streaming projects receive 2 percent of subscription revenue produced by those projects, as defined by metrics from Parrot Analytics. Of course, the terms of the interim agreements will be superseded by the terms of the eventual contract signed between the union and the AMPTP at the strike’s end, so streamers had the option to acquire the film and then sit on it until the strike was over. (“It is true a streamer could acquire content at a festival and just hold that content and not platform it until after the strike,” SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told THR earlier this month.) But as the strikes are dragging on, with both sides claiming a stalemate, it remains unclear how long it would be until a project with an agreement could be put onto the service.
With a solid amount of star power, a name director and no ties to terms that have already been turned down by the AMPTP — all buoyed by strong reviews and a high-concept plot — Hit Man‘s heat became undeniable.
Other notable deals as of late include Netflix acquiring Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut, Woman of the Hour, out of the Toronto International Film Festival in a low eight-figure deal. (This movie did not have an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA.) While other TIFF deals have been slow to materialize, there are many conversations happening between buyers and sellers. As with anything in Hollywood at the moment, insiders note, potential sales are slow-going due to the strikes.