Director Carl Erik Rinsch made a name for himself with acclaimed ads featuring striking visuals, as well as helming Keanu Reeves’ “47 Ronin” in 2013. Despite the film being pulled from the director as its budget hit $225 million and the picture failing with both critics and the box office, Netflix opted to give him another chance in 2018 with a new sci-fi series, which would come to be known as “Conquest” — until its plug was pulled, ultimately leading to an ongoing arbitration with Netflix over money Rinsch says the streamer owes him.
The New York Times explores the ambitious sci-fi show that the rest of us will never get to see in a new feature piece. No episodes were finished, TheWrap has learned, and the studio’s chosen to, as is the vogue these days, declare it a $55 million writeoff.
“‘Conquest’ was brought to Netflix partway through production,” a spokesperson for the streamer said in a statement provided to TheWrap. “We gave substantial additional funding and other support to help complete the series. After a lot of time and effort, it became clear that Mr. Rinsch was never going to complete the project he agreed to make and so we wrote the project off.”
The director is alleged to have spent a significant portion of Netflix’s money on crypto and stock gambles, as well as spending millions on five Rolls-Royces, a Ferrari and expensive furniture. He stated in a deposition that the cars and furniture were props for the show, but said in a later confidential arbitration with Netflix which he initiated that the money was contractually his and that Netflix owes him more.
The filmmaker reportedly transferred $10.5 million of $11 million supplied by Netflix in 2020 into his personal brokerage account, according to the Times. He later invested $4 million of the money in crypto token Dogecoin — an investment that was actually successful, turning into $27 million when Rinsch cashed out.
Rinsch allegedly exhibited other erratic behavior, according to the Times, citing private texts, emails, court filings in a divorce case and information from the project’s cast and crew. This included a claim to have discovered how to map Covid-19’s “coronavirus signal emanating from within the earth,” that his wife had plotted to have him assassinated and that he possessed the ability to predict lightning strikes and volcanic eruptions.
The Times’ article notes that Rinsch was on medication for ADHD, the amphetamine Vyvanse, which has been known to have serious side effects when overused, including psychosis. His wife and members of the series’ crew had worried about his use of the drug.
Rinsch appears to have deleted his Instagram account, but according to the Times, he wrote in a recent post that he had chosen not to cooperate with the outlet because he expected the resulting article to be “inaccurate.” He also expected it would “discuss the fact that I somehow lost my mind, adding, “(Spoiler alert) … I did not.”
“Conquest” was supposed to be a science-fiction series about artificial humans, known as the “Organic Intelligent.” Its original title was “White Horse,” referring to the first horseman of the apocalypse. Rinsch was a promising director early in his career, receiving acclaim for striking short films featuring stunning visual effects — he trained under the legendary Ridley Scott.
You can watch Rinsch’s sizzle reel here:
Filming began on the science fiction project initially with Rinsch self-funding it, before later receiving investments from 30West and his “47 Ronin” star Keanu Reeves, according to the Times. Rinsch used this funding to complete six short episodes of the show that ran between 4 and 10 minutes each, which he used to pitch streamers a 120-minute 13-episode season. Rinsch has been accused of mistreating the cast and crew on the project.
Suitors for the project included Disney/Hulu, Apple, NBCUniversal, HBO, YouTube, Amazon and Netflix. Amazon had reached an eight-figure agreement with Rinsch and his representatives, but Netflix topped Amazon’s offer and promised Rinsch final cut on the show, snagging the project from them at the last minute.
Rinsch alleges that Netflix breached its contract and owes him $14 million in damages, while Netflix denies owing Rinsch anything due to his failure to hit multiple production milestones and has called the director’s demands a shakedown. Early investors in the project, including 30West, have already received $14 million from Netflix in a settlement, according to the Times. Netflix suspended funding for the project in March 2021, but left Rinsch with the right to shop it elsewhere — though any buyer would have to reimburse Netflix for its outlay.
In their divorce proceeding, Rinsch’s wife alleged that his behavior had begun to change before filming the series. She also alleged that he had thrown things at her and punched holes in a wall.
Representatives for Rinsch did not immediately respond to requests for comment from TheWrap. While he was previously repped by CAA, he has not been a client of the agency for some time, TheWrap has learned.
A decision in the arbitration between Rinsch and Netflix is expected soon.