Motion picture fiscality

In the 14-20 May issue of Radio Times, James McAvoy (Charles Xavier in X-Men: Apocalypse) claimed that a director pretty much has no say in a film that costs more than 40 million U.S. dollars (the same budget for Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies). I thought about the budgets for action films of differing types – fashion, fantasy, sports and science-fiction. Two of the best action films have hard in the title – Die Hard and Hard Target. The former cost 28 million (a million more than the more ambitious Underworld), whereas the latter cost 18 million. I’m grateful about not being born in the `60s. The reason is because I often imagine what would have happened had I started writing in the mid-80s and was forced to see the titles become macho. The fashion film would have been titled Try Hard. The fantasy film would have been titled Schools of Hard Knocks. The sports film would have been titled Hard Pass. The Sci-Fi film would have been titled Hard Nails to Crack.

I’m sure because the titling of action movies became formulaic in the `90s – Hard to KillHard to DieThe Hard WayHard-BoiledHard ViceThe Hard Truth, Hard Bounty and Hard Rain. Legend (starring Tom Cruise) had proved that a prestigious fantasy film could cost no less than 30 million. As a matter of fact, that figure went from being a safe bet to a safety net when you factor in the success of films in general like Legend of the FallForgetting Sarah MarshallSpeedToy StoryThe Addams FamilyThe Notebook, Mystic RiverMillion Dollar Baby, Analyze ThisThe Princess DiariesGet ShortyThe Hunt for Red October, Remember the TitansBabeFriday Night LightsChicagoFour Brothers, Warm Bodies, Rugrats in ParisDistrict 9 and Ghostbusters.

A film’s budget depends on the net-worth of the cast (since most movie goers watch films based on who’s in front of the camera). There’s always the probability that a film won’t recoup half of its budget due to competition in the form of TV, sport events and concerts, so the net-worth of a megastar like Tom Cruise has to be halved. For instance, the budget of Terminator: Genisys was rightly guaranteed to be half (150 million) of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s net-worth (300 million). The extra 5 million was due to Emilia Clarke (1.5 million guarantee), Alan Taylor (a director of Game of Thrones who guaranteed 2.5 million) and J.K. Simmons (a 1 million guarantee).

Taking into account that The Flock cost 35 million and still went straight to DVD (in Canada, U.S. and U.K.), the aforesaid 40 million price tag could save a film from such a ridiculed fate (which is better than Amazon-produced fodder but still worse than Netflix-produced fare). Net-worth is subject to change to the extent that things can’t be set in stone. Even so, I want to assess the financial breakdown of each action movie that I intend to get made. If my novels were adapted, and I was entrusted with casting, this is how the financing would be raised if things went my way…

Fashion movie:

Ryann Shane (as the writer) would guarantee 100,000 dollars.

Juno Temple (as the secretary) would guarantee 500,000 dollars.

Olivia Wilde (as the photographer) would guarantee 10 million.

Annabella Sciorra (as the managing editor) would guarantee 1.5 million.

Sean Young (as the editor-in-chief of the magazine) would 1.75 million instead of 3.5 million.

Linda Fiorentino (as the designer) would guarantee 1 million.

Dakota Fanning (as the actress) would guarantee 8 million instead of 16 million.

Amanda Seyfried (as the sniper) would guarantee 5 million.

Samantha Mathis (as the police captain) would guarantee 1 million.

Evan Rachel Wood (as the policewoman) would guarantee 4 million.

Eliza Dushku (as the fitness trainer) would guarantee 5 million.

The total sum is 37 million. The exact budget was allocated to Magnolia, Twilight and Creed. There are other actresses who I want for roles but their values have yet to be decided – Jenny Bede (as the sponsor), Marama Corlett (as the principal ballerina), Gia Mantegna (as the tailor), Dayle McLeod (as the model), Lia Marie Johnson (as the singer) and Lindsley Register (as the albino assassin).

Fantasy movie:

Danny McBride (as the father) would guarantee 12.5 million instead of 25 million.

Jeff Fahey (as the uncle) would guarantee 2.5 million instead of 5 million.

Emma Stone (as the presenter/teacher) would guarantee 9 million instead of 18 million.

Brie Larson (as the Hapkido instructor) would guarantee 5 million.

Olivia Munn (as a Hapkido sparring partner) would guarantee 6 instead of 12 million.

Jackie Chan (working behind the camera as a fight choreographer) would at least guarantee 4 million.

The grand total is 39,000,000. I’m sure that many movie accountants would agree that I dodged the bullet. This is the same budget as Serenity. The reason for Brie’s casting is that there is a British lookalike, Tilde Jensen, who is both an actress and a Taekwondo stylist. Toni Huston would be ideal as the female protagonist’s mother. Lisa Eichhorn would play the protagonist’s grandma (who would be ideally played by Leigh Bourque because of the lead in the next movie).

College movie (a sports/horror amalgamation):

Britt Robertson (as a law student) would guarantee 1 million.

Robert Amell (as a jock) would guarantee 1 million.

Eden Sher (as a culinary student) would guarantee 1 million.

Henry Rollins (sports coach) would guarantee 6 million.

Mae Whitman (as a stylist) would guarantee half a million.

Chloë Moretz (as an artist) would guarantee 6 million.

Emilia Clarke (as a dancer) would guarantee 1.5 million.

Alessandra Torresani (as a debater) would guarantee 2.5 million.

Jane Levy (as a scientist) would guarantee 1.5 million.

Renée Felice Smith (as a writer) would guarantee 2 million.

Eliza Taylor (as a beautician) would guarantee 1 million.

Emmy Clarke (as the cheerleader’s sister) would guarantee 1 million.

Olivia Thirlby (as an activist) would guarantee 1 million.

Shailene Woodley (as a cheerleader) would guarantee 4.5 million instead of 9 million.

P.J. Soles (as an acting coach) would guarantee half a million.

Kristy McNichol (as the principal) would guarantee 3.5 million instead of 7 million.

The accounting summary is 38,500,000. This is slightly higher than the budget for Rush (another sports movie). I also want Paloma Kwiatkowski to be in it as a guitarist ever since I saw her in season 2 of Bates Motel. She has no net-worth yet.

Science-fiction thriller (with decidedly low-key technology):

Brit Marling (the heroine) would guarantee 1 million.

Jennifer Lawrence (the hairdresser) would guarantee 30 million.

Bex Taylor-Klaus (the hairdresser’s sister) would guarantee 250,000.

Eric Stoltz (the businessman) would guarantee 2.5 million.

Melora Hardin (the businessman’s wife) would guarantee 2.5 million.

Mary Stuart Masterson (the detective) would guarantee half a million.

The final figure is 36,750,000. This is in the ballpark of Gattaca (another Sci-Fi film).

By the way, the featured image is of Evan Rachel Wood and Olivia Wilde (they were in episodes of Doll & Em as themselves). Back to before, it’s possible for a novelist to sell the film rights while retaining the right to veto casting choices. Gregory Mcdonald did the same thing when his Fletch series were optioned in the second half of the seventies. As a result, he rejected Burt Reynolds and Mick Jagger as the titular protagonist. This precedence should have installed certainty in upcoming novelists, but then not many of those know about Gregory’s situation.


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