The great Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix debate -- in which the old guard Oscar-winner seemed to be trying to keep the streaming service from qualifying for Oscars in the future -- gets a new twist.
Speaking at a SXSW panel , Spielberg's former DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg said that he asked Spielberg about the controversy. "I talked to Steven about this yesterday. I asked him very specifically. He said, 'I absolutely did not say that.'"
That is, according to Katzenberg, Spielberg didn't say anything specifically about Netflix, which had its first Best Picture nominee this year with Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma."
"What happened is a journalist was onto a story about this and had heard a rumor about Steven," said Katzenberg. "They called a spokesperson to get a comment and honestly, just twisted it around."
Spielberg, who is on the Academy's board of governors, told ITV in March of 2018: "Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination."
That became a much bigger debate about whether smaller, independent films made by less famous directors were in danger of being squeezed out of the Oscar race. Netflix weighed in, as did directors including Ava DuVernay, whose Netflix documentary "13th" was nominated for an Oscar in 2017.
Katzenberg said Spielberg does not have a "grand plan" to block Netflix from the Oscars. "He has not opined at all, nor has he aligned with some specific thing. He knows there is a realignment coming and he wants everyone to win and prosper."
As several people have pointed out, Spielberg got his start in feature filmmaking with the 1971 made-for-TV movie "Duel."
Fellow directing legend Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" is being distributed on Netflix, but, largely thanks to this debate, is also aiming for a wide release in theaters to qualify for all the Oscars.