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Power 101: Power Contracts

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How do you measure your power place in Hollywood’s pecking order? Besides filthy lucre, you negotiate a perk-heavy package. Be careful what you ask for—remember all those embarrassing (and hotly denied) rumors that Kim Basinger insisted on using bottles of Evian to wash her hair?—but ask away. Here’s an update on the bargaining chips.

* Money: Last year, facing the lingering recession, agents were predicting that stars, particularly second-echelon stars, would have to take pay cuts. It never happened. Take the case of Emilio Estevez. The too-long-hitless actor had been reduced to starring in a Disney family flick, The Mighty Ducks. But even before Ducks became a surprise hit, he was negotiating to appear in the thriller Judgment Night. As the first day of shooting neared and Largo Entertainment chief Larry Gordon found himself with no other options for a lead actor, Estevez’s agent, Brian Gersh, coolly exploited the situation and won his client $4 million.

* Director approval: Only a few stars win this right, and writers—who are lucky to be allowed on a set—almost never get to say a word. But when novelist Michael Crichton sold his new book, Disclosure, to Warner Bros., he asked for $3.5 million and choice of director—probably to avoid the kind of run-ins he had with Rising Sun‘s Philip Kaufman. Crichton got what he wanted, and gave Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) the nod.

* Billing: Stars always get their names above the title. The question is, how big is the name? For In the Line of Fire, Clint Eastwood was guaranteed that his name would be at least half as big as the movie’s title in posters and print ads.

* Photo approval: Even minor stars are allowed to kill some of the publicity shots taken on a set. How many photos is what counts. For The Age of Innocence, Michelle Pfeiffer was allowed to veto 75 percent of the photos in which she either appeared alone or with other actors who did not have photo approval; in shots that included other actors with photo approval, she could kill only 50 percent.

* Likenesses: With the right clout, a star can control the photographs or illustrations used in ads, right down to the video packaging. Nicolas Cage okayed the head shot used for the Amos & Andrew video, but when his face was stripped onto a model’s body (a common practice when actors are unavailable for ad shoots), he objected to the stand-in’s physique. So that image was replaced by a picture of Cage—head and body—from the movie’s original artwork.

* Grooming: The bigger the star, the bigger the support staff. In addition to the ubiquitous personal assistants, stars will insist that their favorite hairdressers and makeup experts be hired. Increasingly, personal trainers are also part of the team. And according to a Paramount insider, William Shatner is said to have demanded that the studio provide him with a suitable toupee for his Star Trek movies.

* Time out: Industry lore has it that Jack Nicholson’s contract guarantees that he doesn’t have to film during a Lakers game. In fact, not even Nicholson can dictate shooting schedules. Still, especially during play-off season, producers make every effort to wrap a day’s shooting by game time. When that’s impossible, TVs are brought onto the set.

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