The 2016 adaptation of The Little Prince featured an impressive lineup of voice actors including Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Benicio Del Toro, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti and Marion Cotillard. Though it had a successful premiere at Cannes and solid theatrical runs in other countries, Paramount Pictures suddenly dropped the film a week before it’s scheduled U.S. theatrical release, without explanation.
In the latest episode of The Industry podcast, director Mark Osborne explains for the first time what the thinks went wrong. He describes a rather ridiculous situation in which the film was released on airplanes before it came out in theaters, which led to Paramount dropping the film. Representatives for Paramount Pictures did not respond to MovieMaker‘s request for comment.
“Well, here’s the deal,” Osborne says on the episode, which you can listen on Repod, Apple, Spotify or above. “I’m going to tell you things that I’ve never gone on record that I know.”
He then recounts the story of the 2016 Little Prince. If you’re curious about the 1974 live-action version starring Gene Wilder — also from Paramount Pictures — take a listen to the last episode of The Industry.
“The way I understand it is, there was some debate over who actually had the rights. Paramount had made the live-action movie, so they had certain rights. The family believed they had certain rights, my producers aligned with the family, my producers enlisted me. We started making the project — we had a partnership with Paramount at one point. That partnership soured,” he said.
Osborne says one Paramount executive who really believed in the movie left, and after that, things fell apart.
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“To be honest, there are details I don’t know, but I know that a lawsuit did occur, and a lawsuit did affect the production and created a dynamic where we had a home at Paramount until an executive who left Paramount — we stopped being shielded, in some respects, because it was a fragile relationship. And what happened after that became very complicated because it costs a lot of money to release a movie. There was a deep commitment to release the movie, but there was confusion or lack of clarity on who was going to pay for the release of the movie,” he said.
The film’s downfall, Osborne says, came down to a small but significant oversight.
“After a lot of challenges, it felt as though we were getting a release, and because the dates moved — and this is so stupid, but I’ll just tell you, from what I understand — the theatrical release date moved, but they didn’t change the release date for airplanes. They got bundled with other films, and so in November… it started showing up on airplanes. And when that happened, it breached the contract. Because it was a mistake on Paramount’s behalf, it breached the contract that existed for the release of the movie, because the release of the movie had to be in theaters before airplanes… but ultimately, because they made themselves liable, the only way they could make themselves not liable was to cancel the release. And the reason that they canceled the release was to free themselves of liability, but I believe the way they did it was to inflict pain on the producers.”
The film eventually found a home at Netflix, where it streamed as a Netflix Original for five years. It has since left Netflix and is back into the hands of its original owners. It remains available to stream on Apple TV and Vudu.
Main Image: Mark Osborne, director of 2016’s The Little Prince.