Sometimes, even God must take a pay cut. To play the man upstairs in ”Bruce Almighty,” Jim Carrey agreed to reduce his usual $25 million salary by several mil. The first actor to hit the $20 million-per-film mark – for 1996’s ”Cable Guy” – worked a little divine intervention so Universal could contain costs. Has Hollywood hit a salary cap? No, but the once unthinkable – studio execs asking a meal-ticket star for a pay cut – is happening, on occasion.
In the case of Carrey, it didn’t take long for the laws of supply and demand to kick back in and reinstate his standard deal for the soon-to-be-filmed comedy ”Fun With Dick and Jane.” ”In trying to find economic meritocracy, that feels right. If you marry Jim Carrey to a comedy theme, it makes everybody a lot of money,” explains Brian Grazer, producer of ”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and ”Dick and Jane.” ”There are fewer people making the top-tier salary and gross profits. If there were 10 actors before who got those big dollars, there are 5 now.” Hollywood studios are no longer serving as ATMs for some actors, not only because the studios must answer to corporate shareholders but also because certain moneymakers have fallen from grace. John Travolta’s salary hit the $20 million mark on 1996’s ”Broken Arrow” but dipped to a still-solid $15 million for this year’s ”Basic.” Vin Diesel pocketed $10 million for ”XXX,” but when the movie underperformed, Revolution Studios passed on his $20 million option deal for the sequel.
With these beefy guys pulling wimpy box office, it’s clear why every studio wants a piece of The Rock. After just three films, the ex-WWE wrestler wrangled $12.5 million and a hefty chunk of profits for ”The Rundown.” With 2004’s ”Walking Tall,” he’s on tap to join the ranks of the $20 Million Club, thanks to a $15 million paycheck (or a double-digit share of MGM’s ”Tall” grosses, whichever’s greater).
As membership in the elite club of men thins, Hollywood’s top tax bracket is welcoming more leading ladies. For years, Julia Roberts was the only actress pulling $20 million, until Cameron Diaz cut in for her work in ”Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.” ”The biggest change has been that the salaries of actresses have gotten much more parity,” says Joe Roth, founder of Revolution Studios. ”The top end hasn’t really moved much for the men, but the actresses’ salaries have definitely gone up.”