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How Studios Put Together Valentine’s Day…

News broke last week that Julia Roberts received $500,000 a minute for her screentime in this year’s romantic ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day. Yes, for six minutes of screentime, she got $3m (which really doesn’t seem that impressive without the zeroes – so $3,000,000). However, that wasn’t the most interesting part of the coverage of the movie – well, at least for me. A bit of commentary revealed how Hollywood can attract so many big names under one matinee sign (which is, undoubtedly, a key part of the movie’s success).

Here's to you, Mrs. Roberts(on)...

In fairness, it should be pointed out that Marlon Brando attracted a similar wage for Richard Donner’s Superman. Not that I would compare Julia Roberts to Marlon Brando. Maybe what Brando is to film nerds, Roberts is to romantically-inclined people. I don’t know.

Anyway, I would have believed that the studio attracted the hip-and-happening young stars like Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway (among many others) simply by throwing money at them. Not half-a-million-a-minute, but fairly huge amounts of money. Apparently not. The lure of movies like this seems to be the speed at which they are produced, rather than the huge amount of money.

So Anne Hathaway gets paid a fairly standard amount, but only works a really short time on the film, freeing her up to go off and do her own little independent-minded productions. It makes sense – apparently the average time any of these actors were working on the film was three days. No matter how much less than $3m it was, you can be damned sure that it was good money for three days of their lives. Apparently what convinced the actors to sign on was Julia Roberts – she was the first to sign on, as a ‘thank you’ to director Garry Marshall, who gave her her huge break in Pretty Woman. It must be reassuring to know that she is still the queen of the romantic comedy.

Another surprising aspect of the production was the only other actor to receive a deal that could compare to Roberts. Look at the line-up and take a guess. Apparently Jamie Foxx was able to get a little bit extra for his time. Which seems odd – he’s always struck me as “that Oscar-winner who will do anything”. It’s reassuring to know that the gold statuette still gives him a fair bit of leverage even after Stealth.

All this basically explains why Hollywood can churn out these movies starring this laundry list of celebrities on a near-regular basis. I had always assumed that they were the romantic counterpart to the big-gbudget actioners – spending an equivalent amount of money on big-name actors rather than explosions and CGI. It turns out I was wrong: the budget for Valentine’s Day came in at about $50m in total, which is significantly less than even your lowest-tier actioner.

As a guy relatively unfamiliar with the workings on the romantic comedy, it’s certainly an interesting thing to read about. The more you know.

2 Responses

  1. And this flick made it’s money back in it’s first weekend. Crazy. I want to know how they can work around all these actors schedules but the people behind X-3 can’t and, as a result, start killing off characters. WTFrack?

    • I agree, but I thought that there were all sorts of conspiracy tehories that James Marsden was killed to (a.) make (more) room for Hugh Jackman and (b.) to punish him for jumping ship to Superman Returns ith Bryan Singer. They weren’t going to let Marsden carry the plot, which he needed to, favouring the more popular Jackman, so the character had to go. I am really ticked with how Cyclops got the short shrift in the franchise, but I also think the movie was brought down by a lot more than that (mostly trying to do too much, abandoning character for spectacle and overloading the secondary characters with 1,000,001 useless mutants – what’s the point of shadow-walking Psyclocke?)

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