It was to be a flagship series from Amazon Prime Video, with top Hollywood talent guiding what was envisioned as a major franchise for the e-commerce giant. However, cost overruns and creative differences plague a series that has quietly become one of the most expensive shows ever produced.
To encounter Citadela series of global events from avengers and gray man directors Joe and Anthony Russo and film and television scribes Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.
Several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the differences in vision led to the exit of half of the creative team and threw the show – a spy thriller intended to launch local spinoffs – into a series of costly revivals.
Now, a seven-episode series that already cost at least $160 million net, adds $75 million, sources say, and is on track to become the second most expensive show ever made. Spiral of costs and rework comes when Amazon launches The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Powerwhich has the distinction of being presented as the most expensive in the history of television, with the rights alone costing $250 million and the first season costing at least $465 million.
The streaming wars have driven up show and movie budgets in recent years as companies try to compete for streaming eyeballs. In the case of rings of power, it may have worked, as the show garnered mostly rave reviews that also praise the production value seen on screen. When it’s too early to judge Citadel fate, behind-the-scenes struggles show how the pressures of such series can cause a rift in a creative partnership — and how there doesn’t seem to be a spending cap on researching marquee event series.
Citadel was a passion project for Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, who was looking for a big headline to make waves. And she got it: a avengers-style spy show, with spies from key countries, coming together for the ultimate mission. And, cooler still, it would be a show that would generate local spinoffs, with the spy characters having their own adventures in their home country. India, Italy and Mexico were among the targeted countries.
Citadel was set up and given the go-ahead with great fanfare, commensurate with the talent involved. The Russo Brothers, who would be executive producers, were fresh off their sequel blockbuster avengers movies. And Appelbaum and Nemec, part of the screenwriting collective known as Midnight Radio, were notable writers known for their television work and acclaimed films such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The group was simpatico with the Russos, having a partnership that included a first-look deal with the filmmakers’ company, AGBO.
game of thrones actor Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas have been cast in the lead roles, with the actors spending most of 2021 filming the series, ending in December.
That’s when the production team behind Citadel began to crumble into factions. According to sources, Amazon had some reservations about the early footage, with the Russos less involved due to the focus on their own expensive action project. gray manThis resulted in creative differences and led to two competing cuts, one pushed by the Russos, the other by Appelbaum and Nemec. Over the weeks, other project commitments had reduced the creative camps to two opposing forces, Joe Russo and Appelbaum, who was the showrunner of the series.
Amazon chose to bet on the Russos, and a few days before Christmas, Appelbaum was let go. According to a source connected to the project, “What should have happened was that Joe turned to Josh and said, ‘Let’s get together and work this out’ instead of going solo. It’s not what the partners are supposed to do.
He wasn’t the only one to leave, however. Brian Kirk, known for his work on game of thrones and dreadful penny and who directed five of the seven episodes, also exited, as did executive producer Sarah Bradshaw, among others.
Amazon did not comment on the budget or releases. Two insiders noted that while the budget reached over $250 million gross, it included high COVID-19 costs, not factored in when the series was originally greenlit. Nor does it include significant tax credits for filming in places like London.
AGBO had no comment. WME, which represents Appelbaum and Nemec, also had no comment.
Another insider said that in the TV landscape, cost overruns and show revisions have been happening more frequently in recent years. “A lot of shows suffer because the executives are inexperienced for that level of production or artist relations,” says a television veteran. Citadel The ladder was so complex that it pulled three units at a time, sources said.
It is unclear where and how the divergent visions of the series emerged. A person familiar with the conflict said Appelbaum’s version of the pilot introduced the spies via a spectacular sequence of skiing and hang-gliding, setting up a spy-versus-spy situation before passing the story on five years later. , the heroes having no memory of their previous occupation. Russo’s version, according to this source, began at that five-year mark, dropping the action sequence.
Anyway, AGBO is now in charge of Citadel, and Amazon hired David Weil to rewrite the series and make it stronger. Weil is best known as the creator of HuntersAmazon’s well-received Nazi hunting show that starred Logan Lerman and Al Pacino.
Thomas Sigel, a seasoned cinematographer who had directed two of the episodes of Citadel, officially took over the direction of the revivals, which took place in the spring and early summer. Sigel has an established history with the Russos. He was their cinematographer on Cherrythat they led, and on Extraction, the action movie they produced. A source, however, says Joe Russo was heavily involved in the filming. The show is now in post-production. No start date has been set.
Appelbaum, Nemec and their Midnight Radio banner no longer have first-look contracts with AGBO. The duo moved away from television and returned to writing films. Ironically, they’re back in business with Amazon, working on a feature titled Heads of State which has Idris Elba and John Cena attached to the star.
Behind-the-scenes events at Citadel asserting the reputation of the Russos as perhaps the least spendthrift of filmmakers. Their latest movie gray man, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, cost over $250 million and was Netflix’s most expensive film ever. Even a little character drama, the Tom Holland-starring Cherrybecame known for significant cost overruns.
The filmmakers have earned enough goodwill to justify those budgets as the makers of some of the greatest movies of all time with the avengers and Captain America franchisees. In streaming, Extraction is Netflix’s sixth most-watched original film, while gray man is the fourth most-watched original, according to Netflix.
The filmmakers remain adept at finding companies to dip deep into their pockets, including for their latest, the sci-fi thriller titled Electrical condition. As gray manit’s also being made for Netflix, but only after a budget dispute with Universal, the project’s former home, caused the studio to restart it after the makers made it clear that $200 million wasn’t sufficient for their vision of science fiction.