Thursday, August 5, 2010

Old news packaged as new news: Tom Cruise to get less upfront cash for Mission: Impossible IV. He may have to settle for $40m instead of $90m.

Vulture is reporting today that Tom Cruise is receiving slightly less upfront money for his acting work in Mission: Impossible IV than he did in Mission: Impossible III. Does this mean that Paramount and Hollywood at large is so disenchanted with Cruise that he can no longer command mega-dollars for a seemingly safe project like Mission: Impossible IV? Of course not. As usual, Tom Cruise will get paid for his duties as a producer, and he will take a large chunk of back-end points. Cruise has played this way for nearly two decades, and this is simply a case of old news being reported as new news. Let's face it, the era of the $20-25 million upfront fee per picture is pretty much over. This has been a slow but steady process, as big stars have bargained away their fat paychecks in exchange for larger shares of the profits or grosses.

Jackie Chan was paid $15 million+ points for the 2001 sequel Rush Hour 2, while Chris Tucker wanted the claim-to-fame of becoming the second African-American actor to be paid $20 million for a film (after Eddie Murphy's The Klumps: The Nutty Professor 2). Chan ended up making around $30 million for the film. Jim Carrey famously took no money upfront for the 2008 comedy Yes Man, and he too ended up with $30 million in earned income for his troubles. The most famous of these 'and then some' deals was the one struck by Jack Nicholson for Batman, He received $10 million upfront, plus a cut of the merchandising. His payday for his work as The Joker totaled $50 million, and he even got paid a chunk from Batman Returns, the 1992 sequel that he didn't even appear in. Of course, the biggest payout for an actor not appearing in a given film is likely Crispin Glover's haul for Back to the Future II, but that's a long and complicated story.

As I mentioned in my article involving the relative nature of stardom, flexible paydays have long been a standard for big stars. Unless you're Harrison Ford and you demand $20 million to cameo on The Simpsons, you take different payouts for different projects. Big stars have often used back-end points as a bargaining chip, demanding less upfront in exchange for creative control and/or the ability to help greenlight a less commercial venture. Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks famously made $90 million and $70 million for Mission: Impossible and Forrest Gump respectively. Point being, less upfront for more points is pretty much the new status quo in this age of budget-tightening and cost-cutting. Also buried in the story is that Cruise's Knight and Day is nearing $200 million in worldwide grosses, putting it in the same realm as such 'flops' as Tropic Thunder, Valkyrie, and Vanilla Sky. Point being, Tom Cruise may not be the biggest star in the world anymore (that has been Will Smith for around a decade or so), but Mission: Impossible IV will still be coming to theaters in December of 2011, it will actually cost a bit less than MI3 ($137 million), Brad Bird is still directing, and Cruise will be just fine in the long run.

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...

sorry to be off topic here, scott, but the dates for your box office pole are off. i think it should be august, not july.
also, i dont mind the ads on your page, and have actually clicked on them once or twice, but the ad that keeps popping up about five seconds after the page has loaded and covers everything else up so that i have to click 'skip ad' is very annoying. i dont know if you can do anything about that, but it would be great if you could get rid of it (or at least have it load right away instead of popping up after i am midway through a paragraph of reading...)

Amy said...

I think it would be a good a idea to increase the role of the ensemble, and it would be natural to use the MI III groups of actors: they had a good chemistry.


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