This is not exactly new news, because it was originally reported by THR last year, but it’s being re-reported by The Guardian as part of a huge profile they’re doing on how Christopher Nolan re-booted the blockbuster, and now that we have a better idea of what Interstellar is — a nearly three-hour film involving quantum physics and black holes — the news is even more significant.
In the piece, in which other directors like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson give their opinions on the film after a special screening he held for select directors, it reiterates just how much Warner Brothers wanted to be a part of the film. The Jonah Nolan screenplay, you see, was originally written for Steven Spielberg and Paramount. However, when Spielberg passed on it to do another film, Christopher Nolan jumped in and merged many of his own ideas into the screenplay.
The rights, however, remained with Paramount, but Warner Brothers — who worked with Nolan on the Dark Knight films — wanted to play, too. And Nolan wanted them involved. So, a deal was worked out:
The deal that Paramount and Warner Bros negotiated was anomalous to say the least. For the right to distribute Interstellar internationally, Warner Bros traded the rights for two of their franchises, Friday the 13th and South Park, plus “a to-be-determined A-list Warners property”, while its subsidiary, Legendary, agreed to trade Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a further piece of the pie. To say this disregards the reigning economic logic of modern Hollywood is not quite right - it reverses the normal logic by which Hollywood operates. Franchises are the lifeblood of the studios. For Warner Bros to hand over the rights to two of its well-known properties, representing money in the bank, for the opportunity to take a spin on an original idea - a film with no sequel potential and few merchandising opportunities, based on the dimly understood recesses of quantum physics - speaks both to the value placed by the studios on Nolan, and also the extent to which he has become a franchise unto himself.
I don’t completely understand the logistics of that deal — WB didn’t completely own either South Park or Friday the 13th, they only owned a portion of them — but I do understand that giving up one’s rights in two franchises — plus a “to-be determined A-list property” — is a huge deal, and a massive vouch of confidence in Nolan not only as a filmmaker, but as a man who knows how to turn a profit.