Brad Pitt on the Economics of Stars’ Salaries During the Current Recession

The economic instability that hit most of the world in 2008-2009 and still lingers didn’t just hit the lower classes — A-list stars who used to command paychecks hovering upwards of $20 million per film are finding that paychecks that high are far less common than they were before the recession.  For a major star like Brad Pitt, who earned a reportedly $20 million salary for Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005, hasn’t gotten paychecks close to that in recent years.  In an interview with the BBC, Pitt explains the positives and negatives about the hit he took in his salary.

With so many films saturated with expensive special effects sequences, Pitt explains that the days of $20 million+ salaries per film are over.  He says, “Yeah, that thing died.  That arithmetic doesn’t really work right now… that deal’s not flying these days.”

But he’s quick to point out that since studios concentrate on producing big-budget “tent pole” features it leaves smaller, cheaper opportunities to emerging filmmakers.  He says, “It’s a really interesting time.  A lot of the studios have been challenged because of the economic downturn as well so they’ve been betting on bigger, more tent pole kinds of things.  At the same time that opens up a vacuum for really interesting new film makers to come in.”

Of course, Pitt still takes roles with big paychecks, like voice-over work in Megamind and Happy Feet 2, along with films with much smaller budgets like Moneyball and The Tree of Life.  Pitt admits that like anyone else he has to balance the high paying roles with the lower paying ones.  He says, “You take the roles for the roles, and you’ve just got to balance economics like everyone does.”

…and I imagine if he and Angelina Jolie adopt any more children he’ll have to keep going for the higher paychecks!

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