Duncan Jones’ quest to get his ambitious sci-fi drama “Mute” — a loose follow-up to his beloved “Moon,” and one set in the same so-called “Moon-iverse” — has been well-documented over the course of the last 16 years. Even when he was hitting the trail to talk about his 2016 studio effort “Warcraft” (itself a long-gestating labor of love) the filmmaker was fixed on finally bringing the film to fruition, telling IndieWire in June of that year, “I’ve always wanted to make ‘Mute,’ and I’ve been on ‘Mute’ for about 14 years. I’m determined, no matter what happens, I’m going to get that movie made, at some point.”
Later this month, that dream will finally become a reality when “Mute” arrives on Netflix, the kind of home for the project that, even a couple of years ago, would be hard to imagine. In a revealing new interview with Uproxx, Jones gets honest about why he opted to take the film, set in a “Blade Runner”-esque Berlin and centered on a mute bartender played by Alexander Skarsgard seeking justice for a twisted crime, to the streaming giant.
For the filmmaker, it was the only real hope for the kind of feature that studios don’t really make anymore, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t come with some sacrifices.
“You can’t bring that into a big studio and kind of expect them to sign on the dotted line,” he told the outlet. “It’s not the kind of movies studios normally make…There used to be a time when middle-budget movies had support from the independent arms of the studios to make films in that $20 million to $40 million range. And that just disappeared. It’s gone. Dead.”
For Jones, it’s places like Netflix, Amazon, and now Apple that are willing and able to pick up the kind of projects that studios are shying away from these days. “Allowing filmmakers to make stuff that doesn’t really fit into the studio machine. So I kind of have to give Netflix the credit for making films like this possible,” he said. He later added, “I promise you, of 16 years trying to get this movie made, this is the only way we could get it done.”
The filmmaker was also honest about the kind of deal he had to strike in order to finally bring “Mute” to the screen through the streaming service, including giving up some of the very trappings that he’s come to expect with studio releases.
“On a creative level, it’s now an outlet for different kinds of movies to get made,” he told Uproxx. “So that’s a huge ‘pro’ in the situation. The ‘con’ is you have to play by their rules. And as much as it hurts me sometimes to think, God, there’s never going to be a big opening of this movie, we’re never going to get the chance to show it on huge screens everywhere and do that side of it…But the benefits: if Netflix hadn’t picked this up it wouldn’t have gotten made. That’s just the truth of the matter.”
Jones also mentioned that he doesn’t believe that “Mute” will ever be available on physical media like DVDs or Blu-rays, another major change for a filmmaker used to working primarily on theatrical releases that inevitably spawn such versions.
“I don’t believe Netflix has ever released one of their original features on Blu-ray,” he said. “If you don’t have a subscription, you can’t see the film. So why would they ever sell DVDs? Because that would undermine getting a subscription. It makes total sense to me, but I hate it.”
Still, Jones doesn’t seem especially eager to jump back into studio work, especially after the reception to “Warcraft,” which he told Uproxx was “soul-crushing” to endure. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling it out, however.
“As far as me doing other big studio films, I just don’t know if I have the heart for it after that,” Jones said. “But, at the same time, if I want to keep working in this business, I have to hit a home run, I guess. So I’m still trying to work out where the next step is.”
Read the full interview with Jones at Uproxx.
“Mute” will be available to stream on Netflix on February 23.