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Directors Joel Coen (left) and Ethan Coen. Photo: Reuters

The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee among the big names Netflix has lured away

Steaming giant Netflix is putting its hands in its pockets and pulling in some of the biggest names in entertainment in its bid for original programming


With the news this week that Shonda Rhimes is leaving ABC for Netflix, the streaming giant added yet another big name to its roster. Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder and the final season of Scandal will still air on ABC, but much of Rhimes’s work going forward will be dropped in bulk, in perfectly bingeable doses.

Shonda Rhimes hit shows include Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. Photo: AP
Since it began investing large amounts of cash in original programming, Netflix has quickly won over executive producers and filmmakers interested in getting financed with few strings attached. So Rhimes is in very good company. Here’s a look at some of the other bigwigs who have made the leap.

Martin Scorsese

After Paramount balked at the US$100 million price tag of Scorsese’s gangster film The Irishman, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci, Netflix stepped in to finance it. Even with that budget, it’s hard to imagine that a project with so much talent to spare could be a risky bet for a Hollywood studio. The drama is scheduled for release in 2019.

The Coen brothers

The Oscar-winning duo can do blockbusters ( True Grit ) and cult hits (The Big Lebowski), but brothers Joel and Ethan have never written and directed for the small screen. That changes with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a six-episode miniseries set in the old west that’s slated for 2018.

Ava DuVernay

Before she filmed the forthcoming A Wrinkle in Time, one of Hollywood’s most talked about directors teamed up with Netflix for last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary 13th.
Ava DuVernay. Photo: AP
DuVernay will once again collaborate with the company, this time on a five-episode series about the innocent teens who were convicted in the infamous Central Park jogger case. The series airs in 2019.

David Fincher

The director behind Se7en, Zodiac, Gone Girl and the pilot of Netflix’s House of Cards will return to the murder theme for the series Mindhunter, about FBI agents who interview convicted serial killers to crack ongoing cases. It’s a little reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs, and the fact that Netflix has already renewed the series for a second season can only be a good sign. The show debuts on October 13.

David Letterman. Photo: EPA

David Letterman

He’s refusing to get rid of his crazy beard, but at least the former late-night favourite has agreed to return to television. Each episode of the new series will have Letterman doing what he does best – grilling his interviewees – although his special guests/victims haven’t yet been identified. The six episodes air next year.

Spike Lee

After working with Amazon on his film Chi-Raq, Lee is once again headed to a streaming outlet. This time he’ll be working on a series.
Spike Lee. Photo: AFP
She’s Gotta Have It is an update of Lee’s first feature film, about a woman juggling three men. The 10 30-minute episodes stream from November 23.

Chuck Lorre

The man behind the megahit shows The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, among many other popular series, has two more shows at Netflix. Disjointed, which streams on August 25, stars Kathy Bates as a pothead who has turned her favourite pastime into a business. The just-announced second series, The Kominsky Method, co-stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as a Hollywood acting coach and his cranky (we can only assume based on the casting) best friend.

Noah Baumbach

Netflix scooped up the rights to The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) in April, shortly before the film got a warm reception at its Cannes Film Festival premiere. The film stars another Netflix fixture, Adam Sandler, though in a much less inane role than you’ve seen him play lately. The film follows a dysfunctional family and co-stars Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Ben Stiller.

Matt Groening. Photo: AFP

Matt Groening

Having created The Simpsons – the longest-running US prime-time series ever – Groening must have seemed a sure bet for Netflix, which is already dipping a toe into the waters of adult animated series with Bojack Horseman and F Is for Family. Groening’s Disenchantment is a fantasy set in a medieval kingdom where an idiosyncratic princess (Abbi Jacobson) gets up to high jinks with her friends (voiced by Nat Faxon and Eric Andre). The first 10-episode season airs in 2018.