We don’t typically write about Hollywood paydays at /Film unless they’re especially huge, but a new report brings word of three new instances which absolutely fit that description. Writer/director Rian Johnson, producer Ram Bergman, and star Daniel Craig are all poised to make $100 million each thanks to the surprising Knives Out sequels deal that Netflix made last week. The deal itself was worth $469 million, but the fact that these three players will receive $100 million each puts them in rarified air in Hollywood history. That’s Robert-Downey-Jr-Avengers-level money.
According to a new piece in THR, “The pact gave Johnson immense creative control, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. He doesn’t have to take notes from the streamer. The only contingencies were that Craig must star in the sequels and that each must have at least the budget of the 2019 movie, which was in the $40 million range. Sources say that Johnson, Bergman and Craig stand to walk away with upwards of $100 million each.”
Again, that is a lot of money. Downey is the only person I can think of who’s in in the same stratosphere. For Avengers: Endgame, he’s rumored to have made around $75 million when you factor in his lucrative back-end profit participation deal.
If you’ll allow me to concern-troll for a moment: when you make that much money, you run the risk of becoming disconnected with reality to a degree and either being unwilling, unable, or uninterested in taking notes and advice from anyone when it comes to creative decision-making on future projects. That may sound great on paper, but it’s also probably how things like Dolittle end up happening. There is something to be said for the idea of compromises and restrictions being essential to creating the most interesting version of a film. But Johnson knows this, and he’s one of the most humble and hardworking people in the industry. I fully trust his creative instincts and have no doubt that these sequels will end up being great.
The THR piece mentions that in January, “with the pandemic in full swing,” Johnson and Bergman (who own the rights to Knives Out) “questioned the near-term viability of theatrical releasing” and decided to go out to streamers for the sequels, and a bidding war erupted, with Netflix coming out victorious. There may be some grumbling about this deal being a big blow to theatrical moviegoing, but considering the circumstances around which this decision was made (remember, it was long before the vaccine rollout was as effective as it has since become), it’s tough to blame Johnson and Bergman for doing what they had to do in order to guarantee that these sequels could get made.
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