Hollywood is volatile, and when it comes to a movie’s success there can be no guarantees. No guarantee that the movie will go well, will include all the parts that were filmed, or will even be released.
There is one notable exception, however. And it’s a legal one. A “guarantee” clause in an actor’s contract, also known as “pay-or-play”, is a clause that guarantees payment for an actor when he or she signs on to the film.
Big name actors have been known to demand guarantees for their roles in films. It’s just good business: Their commitment to a script means they may have to turn down other tempting, well-paid roles. A guarantee ensures that an actor is paid for his or her time even if the film encounters production problems, fails to land a release, or if another actor is chosen for the role down the line.
Of course, most studios will be reticent about giving out contracts like this, but in some cases a star will refuse the role if the studio won’t put up a guarantee.
It’s an incredibly good deal for the actor, especially if the movie ends up failing before production even begins. In such a rare case, the actor in question is effectively paid for doing – well, absolutely nothing except signing a piece of paper.
The following are eight of those situations, where the pay-or-play clause meant these actors were paid, but never played.
8. Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland
Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland were Hollywood’s most buzzed about couple at one stage in the 90s. The engaged couple were set to capitalise on all their publicity by starring in a film together, playing an on-screen couple. A planned 1991 western film was supposed to star both Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland in the romantic leads.
However, the real life couple split as quickly as their whirlwind romance began, and the romantic movie fell apart at the seams.
Following the termination of their engagement, Sutherland was set to be paid off to leave the film, to the tune of $3 million. His part was going to be recast. In an attempt to salvage the film, Roberts was initially kept on and paired with Mel Gibson. However, this fell through, too.
The contract the two stars signed guaranteed payment, despite the failure of the roles and the film; the ill-fated movie never made it into production.
7. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger is one actor who was paid not to act in a movie, but not in the conventional way. He was set to star in a film called Crusades – but the film was never to be.
The projected budget for the movie was astronomical, and it just kept growing. Although $20 million was already paid toward its pre-production, another $200 million or more was projected as being needed its completion. As unpredicted costs mounted, the financing of the film collapsed.
Schwarzenegger was contracted to be paid $15 million for his part. However, he chose to be granted the rights to the script for free instead, as he wished to one day make the film after all.
6. James Garner
A part James Garner landed in 1960 dissolved when a writers’ strike hit Warner Bros. studios. By that time, he’d already signed a Play or Pay contract. Although at first compensation was denied to him, the Studio was forced to reimburse the actor when Garner took legal action.
Warner Bros. initially claimed that the Pay or Play clause was void as the strike was outside of their control, but the studio was still found guilty of breach of contract when they refused to pay up.
This instance is an important one, as it set the precedent for actors and their rights further down the road. Indeed, this is the first occurrence of an actor winning such a case against such a major studio.
5. Guy Hamilton
Guy Hamilton was originally signed on to direct the 1978 Superman movie. The film was set to film in Italy, but during pre-production the location was changed to Britain. This change was predicted to save millions in production costs, but it caused some significant problems for the director.
Hamilton was unable to travel to England for over 30 days, as he was a tax exile. This meant the producers were forced to chose someone else to direct the movie. Richard Donner was chosen to direct in his place.
Under his “pay-or-play” contract, Hamilton was paid to not direct the film.
4. Marlon Wayans
Some may find it hard to believe, but actor Marlon Wayans was originally signed on as Robin in Batman Returns and Batman Forever. Although he was supposed to appear in both films, he never did. Chris O’Donnell was chosen to play Robin instead, when a change of director occurred.
This did not stop Wayans from being paid for the roles though. He didn’t receive part compensation either. The actor was, reportedly, paid in full for both films despite the fact that he was not chosen to appear in either. This is due to his contract that ensured pay no matter what. To this day Wayans is still receiving royalty payments for his “role” as Robin, even though it never happened.
3. Billy Dee Williams
Billy Dee Williams was chosen to play Harvey Dent in the 1989 film Batman. It was long rumoured that he signed a pay-or-play contract for the 1989 movie – and its sequel.
The character of Harvey Dent was to shift into Dent’s villainous alter ego in the sequel, Batman Forever. However, Williams’ role was recast due to a change in director for the sequel.
Joel Schumacher, the replacement director, hired Tommy Lee Jones in Williams’ place. However, although Williams reports he would have liked to reprise his role, he has since debunked the rumour that he was paid in full for the sequel. He claims he only ever had a one film contract with the Batman franchise.
2. Bob Hoskins
Robert De Niro was originally intended to star as Al Capone in the film The Untouchables. However, De Niro rejected the role and director Brian De Palma was forced to turn elsewhere for the part.
British actor Bob Hoskins was the second choice, and so he signed on to the classic movie – until a change of heart from De Niro saw Hoskins ousted.
At this point though, Hoskins had to be bought out from his contract for £20,000. Hoskins chose not to complain about receiving a check for little to no work. He reportedly jokingly actually asked De Palma if he had “any other films you don’t want me to appear in”.
1. Hilary Duff
In 2011 Hilary Duff was set to appear in the remake of “Bonnie and Clyde”. She lost the role, though – reportedly due to her pregnancy. Duff was axed from the part and recast, but she was given a large sum for her intended commitment due to her play-or-play contract.
The actress received $100,000 without lifting a finger. Although some saw the change of role as a snub, others were quick to point out the merits of receiving such a large sum without the effort.
Producers encountered several issues in trying to land a replacement for Duff. True Blood star Lindsay Pulsipher was cast in the role, but later she too was replaced by Holliday Grainger.
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