Movie stars make a lot of money, a fact you are probably aware of. More than me, for sure, and probably more than you.
Photo: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
How do they make all of that money? Like big time athletes and musicians, who also make significantly more money than you and me, they have agents who negotiate for them. On the front end, on the back end, and probably in the middle, too.
Vanity Fair has a nice break down of the major ways their agents negotiate for them via the quote system, which you can use to impress people at your Oscar viewing party:
- An actor’s quote is “the base amount of zeroes it will take to get above-the-line talent – shorthand for a film’s creatives – to show up on set”. It’s the actor’s starting compensation (usually in the millions) for a movie, based on his or her previous work. Someone like Mark Wahlberg, who’s starred in a franchise, earns a higher quote (VF puts him at $US15 million) than someone like Michelle Williams, who is a significantly better actor but opts for artsier, lower-budget pictures. But Wahlberg will take a lower quote to be in a more prestigious movie, such as All the Money in the World, for which his fixed salary was reportedly $US3.5 million.
- Agents can negotiate for a back-end deal, “the Holy Grail” of which is called “gross points“, and is a percentage of the film’s gross revenue, which gets very complicated because Hollywood loves creative accounting.
- Perks include things such as private jet travel, assistants and hotel rooms.
- A bump is typically a six-figure bonus that gets added to the actor’s quote when their agent is unable to get them perks such as a private jet (the horror). It can help bump up their future quotes.
Here’s how something might break down for a big star:
Another leaked Sony email negotiating Will Smith’s total compensation for the movie that became Concussion broke down his points, citing a $US15 million quote and an additional $US5 million in bonuses tied to various worldwide box-office benchmarks. And then there’s his “2m perks.”
Who doesn’t want “2m perks”? We get free bagels every Monday in the US office (with lox), and lunch on Wednesdays, so I won’t complain too much. But “2m” would also be nice. Now I’m no Will Smith, but Concussion pulled in less than $US50 million at the box office, and $US2 million of that went to Will Smith’s private jets and hotel rooms.
The stars also get paid for merchandising and TV syndication and, assuming their agent is savvy, if they have to do reshoots (recall that Wahlberg’s agent negotiated for him to get much more money for reshoots than Williams’ agent did: $US1.5 million vs. less than $US1000).
Again, this is for the big time stars. Below-the-line workers (crew members, the hair and makeup team, and so on) receive a salary based on union rates. I imagine that while they get paid much less than the stars, they also get free bagels sometimes.
You can read more about Hollywood salaries here.