Road House | “I’ve very publicly lost here,” says Doug Liman of his “war with Amazon”

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Director Doug Liman still insists that Road House was intended for a cinema release, but concedes that he’s “very publicly lost” his fight to get the film on the big screen.

On Amazon Prime Video now, you’ll find Jake Gyllenhaal brawling with bad guys in director Doug Liman’s stylish, in-your-face remake of Road House.

As we’ve previously seen, though, the film is almost as famous for making headlines pre-release, with Liman vocally expressing his frustration that Road House wasn’t going to get a cinema release. The filmmaker wrote a guest column on Deadline, in which he said Amazon was using Road House to “sell plumbing fixtures.”

It’s something Liman says again in a terrific new video, spotted by World of Reel, in which filmmaker Casey Neistat visits Liman at a post-production studio in New York and talks to him about the director’s self-described “war with Amazon.”

Curiously, Liman wears a cowboy hat throughout the video; when asked why, he replies that he was in a shop in Aspen, Colorado when along came Jeff Bezos – the multi-billionaire owner of Amazon – riding a horse. The encounter, seemingly, prompted Liman to purchase a cowboy hat of his own.

“I’m kind of at war with Amazon, and it wasn’t lost on me the difference in scale,” Liman said; “Bezos on his horse with a cowboy hat on… There’s always a man above you.”

Liman then insisted again that he made Road House specifically for cinemas, and that Amazon had ‘dumped’ the film on its streaming service.

“We made Road House for the big screen,” he said. “I shot it with IMAX cameras. Big stars in it like Conor McGregor. And it’s a party. There are some movies you watch alone or whatever, but there are some movies that are a party, like Road House. It’s got great music and great bar fights. There’s obviously a lot more to it, but at the heart of it, it’s a party… and it turns out Amazon never had any intention of putting the movie in theatres. They want to put it on their streaming service and sell toilet paper and toothbrushes.”

It’s a line that star Jake Gyllenhaal has publicly refuted, saying that “Amazon was always clear that it was streaming”. Other sources have said that Liman was offered the choice between a budget of $65m and an $85m budget – if he plumped for the former, it would be put in cinema. If he went for the latter, it’d go straight to streaming. Liman reportedly opted for the bigger budget.

In early March, Liman climbed down from an earlier insistence that he would boycott his own movie as it premiered at the SXSW festival in Texas. Neistat’s film captures the moment when he changed his mind; when asked why, Liman replies:

“You know, it’s tough to do, but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you lost. You took on Amazon, you fought for your movie… I literally did everything in my power to get this movie into theatres, and I lost. So onto the next. If this is going to be literally the only screening where people can buy tickets and go see the movie [then] I want to be there.”

Read more: Road House review | Jake Gyllenhaal is the standout in a boisterous remake

Incredibly, Neistat is then flown from New York to Texas by Liman in his tiny aeroplane, and gets a ringside seat as Liman sits down at the screening – still in that cowboy hat – and enjoys a drink with his cast and crew.

“It’s so much friggin’ work to make a movie,” Liman says on the way to the premiere. “The payoff is when you get to show it when it’s all done. I hate fucking losing. I mean, I’m not a good loser. And I’ve very publicly lost here.”

Exactly what the truth is behind this whole standoff – whether Liman simply forgot about the straight-to-streaming deal, was mistaken, or the reports themselves are wrong – is something we may never know. But all the same, it’s hard not to admire Liman’s tenacity and passion for his work. Hats off to him.

Road House is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video. Sorry, Doug.

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