“Netflix and the filmmakers of ‘Bird Box’ have decided to replace the clip,” a company spokesman said in an email to Variety. “We’re sorry for any pain caused to the Lac-Mégantic community.”
Previously, Netflix had said it would not remove the footage showing the aftermath of the train crash, which killed an estimated 47 people after a freight train carrying crude oil derailed in the downtown area of the town of Lac-Mégantic. But after pressure from Canadian officials — including Quebec culture and communications minister Nathalie Roy, who in January sent an open letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings urging the footage to be cut — Netflix decided to remove the clip.
In a tweet Thursday, Roy (translated from French), said: “This gesture was expected out of respect for the victims of this horrific drama, their loved ones and the entire community of #LacMégantic. This result shows that by being in solidarity and by putting our efforts together, anything is possible.”
The edited version of “Bird Box” eliminating the Lac-Mégantic stock footage is expected to be updated on the service within a few weeks. That footage is being replaced with a clip from an older U.S. TV series (not stock footage); Netflix didn’t identify the TV show.
The footage of the Lac-Mégantic disaster used in “Bird Box” came from stock-footage house Pond5. In a statement, New York-based Pond5 said, “It has recently come to our attention that our footage depicting the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster was taken out of context and used in entertainment programming. We deeply regret that this happened and sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended, especially the victims and their families.” Pond5-supplied footage from the train crash also was used in the third season of Netflix’s “Travelers,” which Netflix had already agreed to remove. Pond5 also said it is contacting all customers who have purchased any related clips “to ensure they are aware of the sensitive nature of this footage.”
“Bird Box” has registered as one of Netflix’s most popular originals ever. The streamer boasted of the strong reception for the thriller, claiming 45 million member accounts watched at least 70% of Sandra Bullock-starrer in the first seven days of its Dec. 21 release — and upwards of 80 million in the first four weeks. The initial claim was bolstered by Nielsen data.
In “Bird Box,” Bullock plays a single mom trying to save her kid’s lives after some kind of alien creatures (not shown in the movie) descend on Earth and somehow inflict psychic trauma that causes people to kill themselves. Survivors must wear blindfolds or be exposed to supernatural entities that embody their deepest fears and drive them to suicide.
“Bird Box” is directed by Susanne Bier, based on Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel of the same name. The cast also includes Trevante Rhodes (“Moonlight”) and Bullock’s “Ocean’s 8” co-star Sarah Paulson, along with John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, BD Wong, Machine Gun Kelly and Tom Hollander.