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How Taylor Swift Ended Up at Searchlight

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift at the 2022 MTV VMAs. Photo: Cindy Ord/WireImage
Matthew Belloni
December 11, 2022

I guess it was inevitable that Taylor Swift, who has been directing or co-directing her music videos since back in 2010, would try her hand at a feature. What might be a bit more surprising is that her untitled debut was announced this week by Searchlight, Disney’s arthouse label, and not Netflix, Amazon, Apple or even Searchlight sibling Disney+, which likely would have thrown tens of millions of dollars at a star this gigantic. After all, a Swift-directed movie—even if it’s terrible, and even if executives have to wait a year for her shoot after her 2023 tour—will eventually be marketed by T-Swift herself and gobbled up by the Swifties, making it a hot commodity for any well-funded streamer. But behind the scenes, the Searchlight move makes perfect sense.

Taylor developed a relationship with Searchlight president David Greenbaum while her boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, was shooting The Favourite, the 2018 Oscar winner. She came to the New York Film Festival opening of that film, the two kept in touch, and Greenbaum, knowing Swift’s Hollywood ambition and her admiration for auteur filmmakers, introduced her to people like Guillermo del Toro, who made The Shape of Water and Nightmare Alley for Searchlight. I’m told Del Toro invited Swift to tour his creepy memorabilia house in the Valley, and he offered career advice. “I gave her a few books that I thought would be interesting for her—among them, very importantly, a book that was useful for me in creating Pan’s Labyrinth called The Science of Fairy Tales, which codifies and talks about fairytale lore,” del Toro told W this week.