Paul Greengrass Celebrates Christmas Opening of ‘News of the World': ‘We’re Only Going to Recover by Daring to Release Movies’

“As an expression of faith in our business and faith in the healing power of the movies, I think that what we gain is beyond measure,” director says

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Director Paul Greengrass applauded Universal Pictures on Wednesday for its decision not to follow other studios by pushing big releases — like his Christmas Day-bound Tom Hanks drama “News of the World” — into 2021 and beyond.

“I’m proud that they’re doing it, and I think it’s … an expression of belief in our future,” Greengrass told TheWrap. Although his large-scale Western starring Hanks and Helena Zengel will open in a limited number of theaters due to the pandemic, it will largely be seen in its subsequent VOD release.

Greengrass acknowledged “there’s a cost to that” plan both creatively and financially, but insisted that it was necessary that Hollywood studios continue to release films now. “We’re not going to recover by talking about it,” the director of “Captain Phillips” and the “Bourne” movies said. “We’re only going to recover by daring to release movies.”

“News of the World” was shot in New Mexico in late 2019 and features Hanks as a former soldier in post-Civil War Texas who travels from town to town reading stories from newspapers for gatherings of people. Along the way, he encounters a young girl, played by 12-year-old German actress Zengel, who was kidnapped by Kiowas as a child but whose Native American family has now been killed.

Here is Greengrass’ full response when I told him that I loved the film, but watched it in my living room wishing that I could be seeing it on a big screen.

“You break my heart. Look, in the end, there’s nothing any of us can do. This is an extraordinary situation for our industry. But here’s the thing — of course I want everybody to see it on a big screen. Of course. I made it on the big screen and it’s a film that’s particularly well suited to a big screen … I think it’s a very beautiful film and (cinematographer) Dariusz Wolski did a fantastic job.

“But we can’t. Or in large measure we can’t. Some people will be able to, because it’s going to be released (in theaters). But I really admire that Universal released this movie theatrically this Christmas. That was always our plan, and they’ve stuck to that plan. And part of the reason, if not the main reason they’ve done it, is because it’s an expression of faith and belief in movies.

“We will come through this pandemic. By the summer, I’m convinced that people will be back in theaters in large numbers. But we’re not going to recover by talking about it. We’re only going to recover by daring to release movies.

“And there’s a cost to that — creatively to me, financially to the studio. But as an expression of faith in our business, faith in the healing power of the movies, the collective experience of movies, I think that what we gain is beyond measure. So I’m proud that they’re doing it, and I think it’s wonderful thing that the movie is there, and it’s an expression of belief in our future.”

An interview with Paul Greengrass will run in the upcoming “Race Begins” issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.