DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Investigation

Hollywood By The Numbers

Confidential movie budgets show how those millions are spent

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$71,682,975 - "The Village" Movie Budget

$25,000,000 - Mel Gibson, "Signs"

$20,000,000 - Bruce Willis, "Unbreakable"

$7,000,000 - Samuel L. Jackson, "Unbreakable"

$5,000,000 - Joaquin Phoenix, "The Village"

$2,500,000 - Robin Penn Wright, "Unbreakable"

$1,500,000 - Bruce Willis Perk Package

$300,000 - Mel Gibson Jet Allowance

$150,000 - Haley Joel Osment, "The Sixth Sense"

$5,000 - Samuel L. Jackson Golf Allowance

FEBRUARY 28--Faced with decreasing box office receipts, fewer blockbusters, and a reduced production roster, the motion picture industry is facing several daunting challenges as it gathers this Sunday for the 78th Academy Awards ceremony.

But, really, who wants to focus on all that negative stuff when we can celebrate the lofty salaries, outlandish perks, and assorted other benefits of being a movie star?

The Smoking Gun has obtained internal budget documents detailing where the money was allocated on an assortment of big-budget Tinseltown productions. The records provide a line-by-line account of spending on each movie up to its completion, but do not reveal what the studio paid after that point for marketing and advertising (that secondary sum usually adds tens of millions to a movie's total cost).

Since this is our first posting of such Hollywood records, TSG has decided to initially focus on a quartet of movies by the same director (M. Night Shyamalan) and which were distributed by the same studio (Disney's Touchstone). In each case, the financial documents were circulated up the ranks at Disney, where a succession of top executives had to sign off on Shyamalan's $70 million-plus budgets. One memo marked "confidential" shows that a dozen Disney officials, including the chairman and CFO of Walt Disney Studios, had to approve a film's total expenditures.

The budgets each run a minimum of 80 pages, so we've chosen to excerpt from three of the documents and reproduce one in its entirety. So cineastes, film school students, and completists can click here to plow through a line-by-line account of the $71.6 million tab for Shyamalan's most recent film, "The Village." The individual budget lines are divided into two categories: "above the line" and "below the line" expenses. In the "above," or ATL, category, you'll find costs associated with a film's cast, writer, producer, director, stunts, and story rights. The remaining expenses--set design, camera rentals, special effects, film, editing, etc.--are categorized as BTL, or below the line.

Shyamalan is one of the movie industry's most bankable directors, with his four major films--"The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," "Signs," and "The Village"--achieving an average domestic gross of $160 million, which compares favorably to numbers rolled up by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and the Wachowski brothers. In terms of revenue, Shyamalan far outpaces better-known contemporaries like Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, Kevin Smith, and the Farrelly brothers.

His films have featured actors from a revolving troupe drawn from all Hollywood strata: A-listers (Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis); children (Haley Joel Osment, Rory Culkin); young stars (Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard); veterans (William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver); a Tony winner (Cherry Jones); and Samuel L. Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson). His next film, "Lady in the Water" is scheduled for a July release and stars Paul Giamatti and Howard. And like his prior movies, it was filmed in Pennsylvania, where Shyamalan lives.

The budget records track the progression of Shyamalan's paydays following the runaway success of "The Sixth Sense," for which he was paid about $2.6 million to write and direct. With nearly $300 million in domestic ticket sales, "The Sixth Sense" ranks 22nd in terms of all-time box office receipts ("Signs" is at 48 on that list, with nearly $228 million in ticket sales). In his subsequent three productions, Shyamalan earned between $10 and $13 million per film. But what the internal documents do not show is if Shyamalan received a share of any film's "back end," which is often customary for major directors and stars. Depending on a movie's success, such "points" can put millions--perhaps tens of millions--in a principal's pocket.

Records show that while Bruce Willis made $14 million for "The Sixth Sense," the film's other star, 10-year-old Haley Joel Osment, was a major bargain. Osment played "Cole Sear," a boy who saw dead people and was the psychological drama's emotional core. And one that only cost $150,000. By comparison, Willis's private jet tab alone was $450,000 and an unspecified "other allowance" for him was budgeted at $339,492. Actress Toni Collette, who played Osment's mother, earned $1 million. For a small role, actress Mischa Barton (later of the Fox TV hit "The O.C.") was paid $26,050, records show.

Shyamalan's followup, "Unbreakable," carried a $73.2 million budget, though its U.S. gross ended up just shy of $100 million. However, overseas receipts and video/DVD sales surely landed the film in the black. Half the film's cost was attributable to paychecks for Willis ($20 million), Shyamalan ($10 million), and Jackson ($7 million). Actress Robin Wright Penn earned $2.5 million for her role as Willis's wife.

But the "Unbreakable" budget is more noteworthy (or entertaining, at least) for Willis's $1.5 million perk package. While that figure covered on-set staples like a costumer and makeup artist, the actor, who portrayed morose security guard David Dunn, also got a personal assistant, masseuse, mobile gym, trainer, bodyguard, and other "personal perks," including a $500,000 allowance for private jet charters. By comparison, the perk package for Jackson--who played comic art enthusiast Elijah Price--was relatively paltry. Jackson only rated first class airfares to Philadelphia from Los Angeles and a $200 per diem. But his gym and golf club memberships and his trainer's tab were footed by the production.

The $70.2 million budget for "Signs" was dominated by the whopping $25 million Mel Gibson was paid for his role as "Graham Ness," a widowed ex-minister bedeviled by crop circles and an alien. In addition, the actor's entourage expenses totaled nearly $1 million, with $300,000 of that figure earmarked for the star's "jet allowance" and another $57,000 for a "chiropractor/masseuse." Gibson also received in excess of $1000 a day in per diem payments (the average daily "walking around" money provided for other on-location employees was $65).

Phoenix, who played "Merrill Hess," Gibson's brother, was paid $1 million, while Culkin earned $100,000 in the role of Gibson's son, "Morgan Hess." Shyamalan made $12.5 million for writing, directing, and co-producing the film.

The success of "Signs," which recorded a domestic gross of about $228 million, surely resulted in a salary spike for Phoenix, who was paid $5 million for portraying the male lead, "Lucius Hunt," in 2004's "The Village." The $71.6 million film also starred Brody as "Noah Percy," Weaver as "Alice Hunt," Howard as "Ivy Walker," and Hurt as "Edward Walker."

Though his part was originally budgeted for $3 million, Brody was paid $2.75 million for "The Village," which he began filming a few months after being awarded the Best Actor Oscar for "The Pianist." Weaver got $2 million, Hurt $1.25 million, and Howard just $150,000, according to financial records.

While "The Village" earned about $115 million domestically (and another $140 worldwide), the film bowed to lukewarm reviews. In Slate, Michael Agger wrote that Shyamalan was continuing to make treacly and formulaic "sealed-off movies that fell apart when exposed to outside logic." Shyamalan "may have wanted to be Spielberg," Agger noted, "but money would be the measure of his success."

Whether or not that's the metric which guides Shyamalan, the director earned his usual fat salary for "The Village." The components of his $10.7 million payday were: story rights ($7.2 million); writing services ($300,000); producing ($3 million); and directing ($221,000).