Actors Paid Not To Act

Actors pay day

The examples are as diverse as the circumstances. An actor accepts a role and contractually gets paid. The cliché phrase left on the cutting room floor accounts for some roles never seen.

An example of actors left on the proverbial floor: Paul Rudd in “Brides Maids;” Jamie Dornan in “Burnt;” Sienna Miller in “Black Mass;” Kevin Costner in “The Big Chill;” Robert Pattison in “Vanity Fair;” Shailene Woodley in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2;” Uma Thurman in “Savages;” Tobey Maguire in “Life of Pi;” Tim Roth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood;” Harrison Ford’s cameo as the school principal in “E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial;” and Rachel Weisz in Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder.” There are others.

Play baby play

The term pay or play has floated for decades. According to a Backstage Magazine article in 2008 on the subject: “Memoirs of a Geisha’ is an example of a film on which the provision came into play.

“Several years before it was finally produced and released in 2005 with director Rob Marshall, the movie was slated to be shot by Steven Spielberg.

“At that time, several actors were hired by the studio under pay-or-play deals. When the contracted start date came and went, those actors began receiving their full salary as if they were rendering services.”

Nicolas Cage was famously attached to play Superman under the direction of Tim Burton in the late-1990s. When Warner Brothers pulled the plug on the production Cage still got paid a whopping $20-million. This story is chronicled in the 2015 documentary “What Happened? The Death of Superman Lives.”

Contract paid in full

Eric Stolz got paid for the month he worked on “Back to the Future;” and despite Marlon Brando being replaced in “Scary Movie 2” by James Woods money passed hands.

What about the payday Kevin Spacey received for “All the Money in the World?”

Director Ridley Scott at a reported cost of $10-million reshot Spacey’s supporting role in “All the Money in the World” replacing him with Christopher Plummer for scenes with dialogue and close-ups. There certainly one long shot in the film where it’s Spacey in the distance.

Also consider that Johnny Depp settled for a reported $10-million to step down from his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the third film in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” series after loosing a controversial British court case.

Mads Mikkelson is now playing Grindelwald.

Adjusted for attitude

Werner Herzog, speaking in a Rolling Stone interview from 1982, recounted how Mick Jagger played an important role as the assistant to Jason Robards in the original version of “Fitzcarraldo.”

In addition to the logistical problems of filming a giant ship being literally hauled oven Andean mountaintops, Robards became so ill that production was halted.

When filming resumed, with Klaus Kinski replacing Robards, Jagger’s part was completely written out.

“I liked him so much as a performer … any kind of replacement would be an embarrassment,” says Herzog in the November 11, 1982 article titled “Jungle Madness.”

Also, when “Fitzcarraldo” resumed filming Jagger was in the middle of a Rolling Stones tour and unavailable. Footage of Jagger can be seen in the Les Blank documentary “Burden of Dreams.”

Capone pays off

Bob Hoskins was paid not to appear as Al Capone in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchable.

At the time Hoskins was a go-to actor for tough guy supporting roles propelled by movies like “The Long Good Friday,” “Brazil,” and “Mona Lisa.”

In 2009 Hoskins had called in to the popular British radio Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show where he talked about the meeting with De Palma.

De Palma was up front telling Hoskins he was the second choice because De Niro was still hemming and hawing. “If he doesn’t do it will you do it?” De Palma asked Hoskins. Obviously De Niro suddenly became available and Hoskins was free to become even better known through his part as Eddie Valiant in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which came out the year after “The Untouchables.”

“I went off and forgot about it. Then I read in the paper that De Niro was doing Al Capone. Terrific.” Hoskins describes “sitting there having me corn flakes and Linda is opening the mail and she goes ‘We’ve got a check here for $200,000 dollars.’ There was a note from De Palma: “Thank you Bob for being my stand-by.”

Ultimate pay off

James Gandolfini was paid $3-million by HBO to refuse an offer, at a similar salary, to star in the NBC series “The Office” after Steve Carell left at the end of season 7.

In episode #68 of the podcast “Talking Sopranos” hosts, and former co-stars of “The Sopranos” Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli, discussed this fact with their guest Ricky Gervais.

The conversation diverts into the HBO payoff around the 40-minute mark.

Imperioli says: “The talked about Gandolfini replacing Carell, did you know that? To which Gervais answers “No,” later adding, “They paid him to keep the legacy of ‘The Sopranos’ pure.”

Schirripa points out that it was an overall deal connected to the fact that Gandolfini was attached to star in what would become the HBO series “The Night Of.”

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