As theaters and studios struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic, celebrities are still getting major paydays to helm big pictures.
As Hollywood adjusts its way of thinking in light of the rise of streaming, the once reliable metric of success, the theatrical box office, is now taking a back seat to things like the number of views on platforms like Netflix and HBO Max as well as how many subscribers a film like "Suicide Squad" can bring in.
As priorities shift, so too do contract negotiations for celebrities to bring their star power to movies. According to a new report from Variety, some stars still get the standard $20 million deal to star in a Hollywood picture. Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt and Chris Hemsworth hit that benchmark for upcoming movies like "The Lost City of D," "Bullet Train" and "Thor: Love and Thunder" respectively.
However, now that places like Netflix can’t factor in bonuses to actors for films hitting theatrical benchmarks, the initial upfront salaries paid to stars like Daniel Craig and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are getting inflated to make up for it.
The outlet reports that Craig, for example, is getting a massive payday of $100 million to appear in the two upcoming sequels to Rain Johnson’s "Knives Out." The reason is that Netflix has agreed to pay him and other stars for the projected back-end box office participation they would have gotten if the film released exclusively in theaters. In Craig’s case, the streaming giant also had to factor in the salary bumps he would have received for signing on to a second and third movie in a franchise.
A less pricey example is Johnson’s role in the upcoming holiday movie "Red One" from Amazon Studios. The star is getting a reported $30 million which could inflate to $50 million when his backend is finalized. Other stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts and Ryan Gosling are reportedly getting above the industry-standard $20 million upfront for upcoming roles set to debut on streaming platforms as well.
While this has been happening in Hollywood for years, the coronavirus pandemic kicked things into high gear, making payouts for stars on streaming services more common than ever — and it’s not been without its headaches. Variety notes that Denzel Washington and Will Smith both earned $40 million for their respective Warner Bros. titles "The Little Things" and "King Richard" after some controversy regarding the studio’s decision to release its 2021 slate of movies both in theaters and on HBO Max, which affected the contracts of stars who signed on for films pre-pandemic.
Perhaps one of the most public situations of the old way bumping up against the new streaming-centric way occurred when Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney arguing that the company breached her contract when it simultaneously released the superhero film on both Disney+ (for a $30 fee) and in theaters.
Johansson says in the suit that her contract guaranteed exclusive theatrical release of the film and a large part of her salary hinged on the film having successful ticket sales.
Of course, there are outliers in the streaming system. Variety’s report noted that Robert Pattinson is only getting $3 million for his outing as the caped crusader in Matt Reeves’ upcoming film "The Batman." However, that’s likely a move to allow him to charge top dollar for any subsequent sequels.
Variety’s list of 17 stars and their most recent salaries can be found below:
Daniel Craig, Knives Out sequels (Netflix) - $100 million
Dwayne Johnson, Red One (Amazon) - $50 million
Will Smith, King Richard (WB/HBO Max) - $40 million
Denzel Washington, The Little Things (WB/HBO Max) - $40 million
Leonardo DiCaprio, Don't Look Up (Netflix) - $30 million
Mark Wahlberg, Spenser Confidential (Netflix) - $30 million
Jennifer Lawrence, Don't Look Up (Netflix) - $25 million
Julia Roberts, Leave the World Behind (Netflix) - $25 million
Sandra Bullock, The Lost City of D (Paramount) - $20 million
Ryan Gosling, The Gray Man (Netflix) - $20 million
Chris Hemsworth, Thor: Love and Thunder (Disney) - $20 million
Brad Pitt, Bullet Train (Sony) - $20 million
Michael B. Jordan, Without Remorse (Amazon) - $15 million
Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount) - $13 million
Keanu Reeves, The Matrix 4 (WB/HBO Max) - $12 million to $14 million pre-buyout
Chris Pine, Dungeons and Dragons (Paramount) - $11.5 million
Robert Pattinson, The Batman (Warner Bros.) - $3 million