It’s no longer about simply getting paid for playing a part in a movie. These days, major Hollywood actors want in on those box office percentage points because these poor artists don’t get nearly enough money just by acting in a film.
They want more, and gosh darnit, they deserve it.
More and more actors are entering into back-end deals where they either lower their salaries to get a percentage of box office grosses or they take the high salary and the percentage points.
Who said actors are dumb?
Actually, some movie stars have backed the wrong movies and have not made millions. They took the gamble and came up short. They actually have to reconsider redecorating their bathrooms now.
But most of them are pretty savvy and have chosen their projects well. And they have fat bank accounts to prove it.
Check out our list of Hollywood’s high rollers and the projects they’ve backed — for better or for worse.
Travolta took a dive on this year’s “Battlefield Earth.” He lowered his usual fee ($20 million) and did the film for $10 million. He was to get a $15 million bonus if domestic gross passed $55 million (sorry, John.) And if it was to be a big hit, his back-end would have been 50% of the gross (really sorry, John). Guess all the Scientology in the world couldn’t save this stinker — or make Travolta a fortune.
He’s the actor to get that first $20 million landmark figure for “The Cable Guy.” However, for 1999’s “Man on the Moon,” he lowered the fee to $12 million for percentage of gross points and lost out when the box office was so low. But don’t feel too bad for him. He’s making up for it — in spades — with “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Not only did he get the $20 mil up front this time around, but he also has share of gross. He stands to make a killing off this one.
Now, Hanks is just plain smart. He’d rather take a lower up-front fee for a share of the gross profits. And there’s a sound reason why he is successful at it: He picks his projects well. He’ll take his $20 million per picture if he doesn’t feel strongly about the project, but reports say he took no up-front compensation at all for 1998’s Oscar-winning “Saving Private Ryan.” Instead, he pocketed 20% share of the gross receipts and earned $40 million. (Note to Hollywood movie stars: Watch and follow what Tom Hanks does).
Here’s another smart cookie. Reports show that Cruise — the star and, more importantly, the producer — pocketed $70 million for 1996’s “Mission: Impossible.” Cruise has been labeled the “king of back-end deal makers” for negotiating a chunk of the overall $465 million gross for the film (domestic and international). He shared 25% of the gross with producing partner Paula Wagner.
The former “Saturday Night Live” star took little up front, but he negotiated a percentage as high as 20% as star and executive producer for this year’s “Little Nicky.” His asking price is now $20 million per picture and averages 12% of the gross. For playing guys with speech impediments?
Gibson deserves all that he gets. He asked for a $20 million fee against 17% of the gross for 1998’s “Lethal Weapon 4,” and the studio surrendered 40% of the grosses, much of this going to old Braveheart himself. He also finally entered the $20 million club with this film. So glad to have ya, Mel!
Willis asked for and received his usual $20 million salary for last year’s “The Sixth Sense,” plus received 17% of the gross and a share of video revenue. Not too shabby for playing a dead guy. Willis continually collects gross participation as high as 15%, although he usually earns about $20 million and averages 12% of the gross.
That crafty native Austrian made a cool $20 million up front for only six weeks of work as Mr. Freeze in 1993’s “Batman and Robin.” He also earned an additional $5 million toward the advance of merchandising (for all those hot-selling Mr. Freeze dolls) and 12.5% of the gross. Save your money, though, Arnold, cause it’s looking bad for you now.
And as a side note:
Reeves as the nefarious Neo is expected to rake in $60 million for his work in the two highly anticipated “Matrix” sequels. He will make $30 million for each of the two back-to-back sequels plus 15% of the gross. Now that’s a back-end deal!