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With street closures, multiple security checkpoints, fan-filled bleachers and Ted Sarandos bobbing his head to beats from a nearby DJ all within the L.A. Live event complex, Wednesday night’s world premiere for Netflix’s Red Notice delivered a scene reminiscent of a major Hollywood award show like the Emmys. Or, you know, that other one.
“This is the biggest carpet I have been to since the Oscars,” Gal Gadot told The Hollywood Reporter as she surveyed the surroundings, designed to celebrate the reveal of Rawson Marshall Thurber’s heist film that pairs her with Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds. “The Oscars right before COVID.”
Aside from the scale of Netflix’s premiere, the pandemic was the other topic dominating the conversation last night — and for good reason. Production on the film — the streamer’s most expensive project ever — was halted on March 14, 2020, just as COVID-19 tightened its grip in the United States and brought much of everyday life to a grinding halt. It resumed months later — one of the first major Hollywood productions to do so — in September in Atlanta, amid strict protocols.
For a film so delayed, there was much to celebrate at the premiere, and it was clear that Netflix spared no expense. The red carpet sprawl — “I love the color,” Gadot noted, having dressed for the occasion in a sparkly Loewe gown and Tiffany and Co. gems — featured re-creations of the set, towering images of the star trio, and a mini-arena with a custom stage, hype man (flown in from San Francisco) and host (E!’s Justin Sylvester) for a YouTube live stream.
Johnson, Gadot, Reynolds and Thurber each took a turn onstage to speak with Sylvester and participate in a Q&A with both in-person and virtual fans. During his spin in the spotlight, Johnson announced the news: “This is the biggest event Netflix has ever had — ever!” Moments later, during a chat with THR, he explained what that means to him, both as a star and a producer on the film (the latter alongside Beau Flynn, Seven Bucks Prods. partners Dany and Hiram Garcia, Thurber, Scott Sheldon and David Householter).
“I was telling Ted Sarandos earlier that I really feel it’s reflective of the ambition that the company has, not only to make great movies but also to deliver for people,” said Johnson, in a Ralph Lauren Purple Label velvet suit jacket and trouser. “And the surprises are in there for the audience, too. People are going to have to watch.”
Pay close attention to his interactions with Reynolds. “Between this movie and Jungle Cruise with [Emily Blunt], I have not laughed more. With Ryan, we have great chemistry, and not only that, we have great trust. I’ve known him for 20 years, but in terms of being a star, the truth is when you work with someone of Ryan Reynolds caliber or at his level, a lot of actors that I’ve worked with, they don’t necessarily have a real funny bone or a real sense of humor. Ryan has that,” explained Johnson. “But dude, as he likes to say, we wasted millions of dollars of Netflix’s money by laughing constantly and ruining takes.”
Reynolds got specific by saying it’s actually 21 years, and they met during respective press tours while Johnson was promoting Scorpion King and Reynolds Van Wilder. “We hit it off and have been friends ever since,” said the actor, in a Giorgio Armani burgundy corduroy three-piece suit and accompanied by his mother, who was often spotted proudly filming her son during his interviews. “There’s such an easy, crazy shorthand between us when we’re on set. We had it on Hobbs and Shaw, and we knew we’d have it here as well.”
The big difference this time around was managing the work amid a deadly pandemic that forced the crew to isolate in a bubble for months while filming. To help soften the blow, Reynolds recorded personal videos for each crewmember that they could send to anyone in their life. As THR previously reported, Reynolds recorded more than 400. “Sometimes their families were a mile away, they were in a van and they couldn’t go anywhere because of this lockdown,” he recalled. “It was a privilege to do it. I just did it in between takes, whenever I could. It was lovely. I know it sounds like a lot, but it was nothing.”
Red Notice casts Johnson as the FBI’s top profiler John Hartley, following him after Interpol issues a Red Notice, the highest-level warrant for a most-wanted individual. His global pursuit lands him in the middle of a heist where he’s forced to partner with the world’s greatest art thief, Nolan Booth (Reynolds), in order to catch the world’s most wanted art thief, known as the Bishop (Gadot). Oh, and Thurber also has a role playing “exhausted film director” — quite a stretch, he laughed.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life,” quipped Thurber, though he didn’t have to exhaust much energy to get his cast, each of whom, he noted, was his first choice, or “three number ones.” “And certainly for this entire production, this was a real challenge. We were halfway through shooting when the pandemic hit. We had to shut down. So it was exhausting, but I always try to have a little cameo if I can. And Dwayne made it easy for me. I’m at the bar, and that’s where I’m most comfortable.”
Producer Dany Garcia echoed Thurber, explaining what a heavy lift the film was due to stopping, starting, and navigating protocols and an expanding budget. But, she said, it was all worth it: “There’s no version in our industry where you commit to using individuals, their skills and talents, and you don’t take ownership for their wellbeing and safety. It’s just part of doing business, and it’s the right way to do business.”
Garcia added that seeing the film celebrated the way it was at the premiere made her a bit emotional because of what they went through in making it: “Our crew was phenomenal and so was our talent — they all just came through and delivered. So to have this land in this manner here tonight and have a premiere like this, it feels appropriate and so open and so Hollywood.”
That’s a credit to Netflix, a company Flynn also praised for paying the crew for two months after the March 2020 shutdown while they figured out how best to proceed. “We took a weekend off, and we were right back at it. We spent six months trying to figure out how to get the movie back, all over Zoom. They paid our crew for two months while we were down, over 700 people,” said the veteran producer, who has collaborated with Johnson and the Seven Bucks team on nine movies over 11 years. “That was amazing because a lot of people were not prepared. They thought they had a big job ahead of them, and then it was just gone in a day. It really incentivized everyone to work really hard.”
But on a night like Wednesday, it was less work and more play. Ahead of the film’s premiere, Netflix hosted a VIP reception that featured dueling bars pouring Johnson’s Teremana Tequila from a “Mana Mobile,” while Reynolds’ Aviation Gin was being offered up across the way. “To have an event like this, where all this is going on, there’s just a sign that we are getting back to a new norm,” explained Hiram Garcia. “And to be able to have a premiere like this, this big and open out in the wild, it’s pretty awesome.”
Epic is the word Flynn leaned on. “It’s also so cool, especially on the back of COVID. Everyone had to show their vax cards and be tested in order to be here, and they really went for it, but it feels good. This is why we’re in this business, right? That’s why we’re here.”
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