Madame Web star Dakota Johnson provides a downbeat summary of the Hollywood landscape. “Everyone who makes decisions is afraid,” she says.
The upcoming Spider-Man spin-off Madame Web will, presumably, aim to offer a couple of hours’ escapism for the world’s huddled masses – the kind of light-hearted superhero froth that Hollywood has traded in for decades now.
Back in the real world, though, that film’s star, Dakota Johnson, has offered a rather gloomy portrait of the mainstream moviemaking industry. Speaking to posh magazine L’Officiel (which comes to us via Variety), Johnson talks about her experience of making a small independent movie, Daddio, which debuted at the Telluride film festival last September.
Johnson, who was a producer on that film, said “it took a lot of fighting to get that made,” and puts the struggle down to what she describes as an increasingly risk-averse, fearful Hollywood – particularly among increasingly dominant streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
“I am discovering that it’s really fucking bleak in this industry,” Johnson said. “It is majorly disheartening. The people who run streaming platforms don’t trust creative people or artists to know what’s going to work, and that is just going to make us implode. It’s really heartbreaking. It’s just fucking so hard. It’s so hard to get anything made.
“People are just so afraid, and I’m like, ‘Why? What’s going to happen if you do something brave?’ It just feels like nobody knows what to do and everyone’s afraid. That’s what it feels like. Everyone who makes decisions is afraid. They want to do the safe thing and the safe thing is really boring.”
It’s a marked contrast to Christopher Nolan’s own recent temperature reading of Hollywood. On the 1st February, he described a “post-franchise, post-intellectual property landscape for movies,” and added that “there’s an appetite for something people haven’t seen or an approach to things people haven’t seen before.”
Then again, Nolan happens to be flying high on the $1bn success of the IMAX-shot biopic Oppenheimer, and not a tiny indie film about a conversation between a taxi driver (Sean Penn) and his passenger (Johnson), which is what Daddio is.
Given that streaming services are making cuts all over the place, and Bob Iger has talked about a safer, more sequel-heavy future for Disney, Johnson’s description of a risk-averse, fractious Hollywood probably isn’t too wide of the mark.
Madame Web is set to cheer up UK cinemas on the 14th February.