Netflix is delaying the beginning of production on The Gray Man – which had been scheduled for mid-January – amid surging COVID-19 cases in California, where the film was to begin shooting.
Variety said that sources close to the production explained that the indefinite pause stems from “an abundance of caution that’s driven by the relatively high numbers required to launch production at a time when California has seen record highs of new cases in recent days”. Sets had been under construction in southern Los Angeles County.
The thriller will star Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans and be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Endgame). It’s based on a series of best-sellers from Mark Greaney, and revolves around an ex-CIA operative who becomes a killer for hire and is pursued by a former colleague.
The film will reportedly cost at least $200 million, making it one of Netflix’s biggest ever investments. And with those names attached, it will be a big deal. So this is a major spanner in the works for the streaming platform as they seek to remain on top of the pile as the streaming wars get more competitive thanks to the recent introductions of Disney+, HBO Max, and Apple TV+.
Netflix do of course have the benefit of already being an over-the-top streaming service, so there’s no real need to worry about potentially shifting a release date. The film didn’t yet have one, but it’s safe to assume the company was using all their algorithmic data to figure out the best time to drop a huge blockbuster like this.
But it may have to wait. With COVID-19 cases rising sharply in many places, delays to production will continue being the new normal. The Gray Man will eventually arrive, but perhaps a little later than Netflix originally hoped.