Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bruce Willis and the art of Hollywood economics.

You know what I love about Bruce Willis? He loves to work.

Sure, he takes in $25 million to star in a Hollywood film. At least that's what they say he's getting to be in 'Die Hard 5'. But for every big Hollywood film he makes, he makes a bunch of little films.

Some, like 'The Sixth Sense', turn out to be huge moneymakers. But a lot of them are little, itty bitty films that nobody would ever notice if it weren't for the fact that he's in them. And when he is, he negotiates a deal that pays him on the back end instead of –– or in addition to –– the front.

I may be wrong, but that tells me two things about the guy:

1) He obviously doesn't have a problem being a big Hollywood movie star, but on films that don't have money set aside to bring in three trailers, a personal yogi, and a corral full of shetland ponies, he'll still show up and do his job.

2) He has taste. He knows that it's a pretty safe bet that 'Die Hard 5' is going to be a turd, and if you want to put him in your turd you're going to have to pay him. Handsomely. Up front.

More importantly, he knows how much his name contributes to the legitimacy (translation: profit) of a film, and he requires that you give up all of that except a small margin –– just enough to make it worth your while to take the gamble.

In other words, with Bruce in it, 'Die Hard 5' is pretty likely to make just a touch under $25 million more (plus whatever his percentage of the back-end is) than it would without him in it.

Wouldn't it be nice if we all knew just how much value we added?