Why Apple Scrapped the Release of Its Oscar Contender, ‘The Banker’

Why Apple Scrapped the Release of Its Oscar Contender, ‘The Banker’


In an interview last month, Mr. Van Amburg and Mr. Erlicht described the company’s film strategy as modest and carefully considered — no more than 12 movies a year, each given a tailor-made promotional push. They contrasted the strategy with that of Netflix, a company that spends billions on content and makes roughly 90 feature-length movies annually, including documentaries and animated films.

“Netflix has chosen to be in the volume business,” Mr. Erlicht said. “But you can’t event-ize 80 movies a year. Each and every one of our movies will be special.”

With its largely positive message and strong performances by its two stars, “The Banker” had the potential to be a box-office and streaming hit while generating some Oscar buzz.

“You have an incredibly exciting and entertaining story with an A-plus cast, but it’s also saying something about the world we used to live in and the world we still live in today,” Matt Dentler, the head of Apple’s film division, said in an interview before the original release plan was canceled.

The film’s journey to almost making it to the screen goes back to 1995, when the original screenwriter, David Lewis Smith, conducted eight hours of taped interviews with the elder Mr. Garrett. Mr. Garrett described his rise as an entrepreneur in California decades ago, his efforts to buy banks in Texas and how he and his business partner, Joseph Morris, wound up drawing the attention of the federal authorities. Both served time at Terminal Island prison in Los Angeles and testified before Congress in 1965.

The tapes made by Mr. Smith, along with more than 1,000 pages of the congressional transcript, became source material for the script. In 1996, Mr. Garrett signed a deal giving the rights to his life story to New Day, a production company he formed with Bernard Garrett Jr. and Mr. Smith. (The New York Times reviewed a copy of the contract.) The project languished until 2012, when the producer Joel Viertel bought the rights from New Day.

As part of that deal, Mr. Viertel acquired the life rights of Bernard Garrett Jr. and his mother, Eunice Garrett, played in the film by Nia Long. The producer enlisted the screenwriter and director George Nolfi in 2015, along with the screenwriter Niceole R. Levy.



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