UPDATED: Is Jim Carrey getting his chain yanked? Because I have breaking details about the Yes Man deal which the comedian’s reps negotiated with Warner Bros, and it’s a doozie — so much so that I almost fell off my office chair when I heard about it. He’ll receive NO upfront cash and NO first-dollar gross. So Carrey won’t get his standard $20M plus 20% (and in some cases $25M — but that was before he and his projects began to crash and burn). Instead, Jim has a cash-break deal in theory of at most 36.2% on the back end — which in reality may turn out to be a lot less. That’s right, CASH BREAK, which as everyone knows is just one step up from net profits and often referred to as ”real net” as a result. But that 36.2% starts to drop like this month’s Dow Jones average if Yes Man‘s cost doesn’t top out at $70 million and its P&A doesn’t max out at $50 mil. If more bucks than that are spent, then Carrey has to approve the overages otherwise his payday gets smaller even with pure video (explanation: a percentage of 100% of video and DVD sales). I told you this deal was weird: the actor is about to have all the headaches of a producer without the title or the guaranteed paycheck.
The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is always to get as much fixed compensation as you can upfront because you’re never going to see the back end thanks to the studios’ creative accounting. First-dollar gross changed that, as did rolling gross and the other 32 definitions of deals on movies. But getting top-tier talent for no money upfront with cash-break back end is like a wet dream for Warner Bros. “This is a deal you make with someone who’s star has fallen,” a studio source told me tonight. Which is why I’ve learned that Warner Bros execs were privately patting themselves on the back for coming up with it and then dancing in the hallways when Carrey’s reps finally went for it.
In turn, Carrey’s rep Eric Gold is claiming this is a new paradigm for talent. What I don’t get at all is why the co-manager is boasting about being the deal’s architect. I hear Gold is spinning that Carrey is now an “equity investor” in Yes Man since the actor is in effect handing over his $20 mil upfront to the production and thus partnering with Warner Bros on the movie just like Village Roadshow. Carrey’s interests are now completely aligned with the studio,” I’m told Gold is saying. ”This deal addresses the problem of superstars and studios not being on the same side of the table.” But aren’t they supposed to be bargaining on opposite ends considering their divergent interests? Isn’t that why there’s an impending strike? And if this is such a great deal for Carrey, then why are his reps still actively trying to get the actor his customary $20M upfront and 20% first-dollar gross on the next project?
In my opinion, this has to be the riskiest deal ever made for a major Hollywood star with a major Hollywood studio on a major Hollywood production. Showbiz attorneys tell me they’ve made deals with no money upfront and cash-break back end like this for top actors on small films for, say, Paramount Vantage. But never on a big film for a big studio. Yet sources close to Carrey insist that he is “more than comfortable” with this deal. Besides, they tell me, “if it all goes to shit, what does he care? He’s wealthy. He doesn’t need the money.” They say Carrey is going into this with “eyes wide open” having been advised by Gold and CAA’s Richard Lovett, who “was very supportive” of the deal. Yes, Gold co-manages Carrey with very busy producer Jimmy Miller. But Gold wants his fingerprints all over this one. An unabashed political conservative, Eric believes that Carrey’s Yes Man deal is ”free enterprise at its best,” sources tell me. I even hear that Gold wants to get a group of big stars together and convince them to give up their advance money and first-dollar gross deals in order to become what he calls “equity investors” in their movies, too.
But ever since my exclusive went up online, I’ve heard nothing but universal shock that Carrey’s reps could have recommended such a deal with so much potential downside. (One well-known manager emailed: ”Let me put it this way: if his reps were a hospital, they would be shut down for malpractice. This is a new kind of Hollywood stupid.”) Then again, their backs were surely against the wall. I’m told studios feel the need now to make Carrey responsible for the bottom line because of all the agita that usually surrounds him on movie sets. Carrey’s meltdown on 2005′s Fun With Dick And Jane may have been the last straw: it’s well-known in Hollywood that Sony had to shut down production for a time until the comedian had pulled himself back together. On Yes Man, he’ll pay for such behavior. (In turn, I’m sure the pic’s producers Dick Zanuck and David Heyman and director Peyton Reed will be thrilled at the prospect of having Carrey in theory look over their shoulder and monitor the cost caps that are key to his payday.)
True, the trades last month trumpeted Carrey signing on to Yes Man, a laugher based on a British memoir about a guy who aims to change his life by saying yes to absolutely everything that comes his way. (Think six degrees of separation from Carrey’s previous Liar Liar.) But the middling script by Fun With Dick And Jane‘s Nicholas Stoller had more than once made the rounds of Hollywood before landing in Jim’s lap. And the helmer is the uneven Reed, who followed up the excellent Bring It On with the execrable Down With Love and The Break-Up. And then there’s Carrey’s flailing career and failing popularity; movie after movie of his has collapsed in development (Spielberg’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty remake, 20th’s Used Guys, Paramount’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not) and his most recent release, New Line’s The Number 23, was dead on arrival. Since then, the actor has sat around booking no major movies beyond toon voiceovers (20th’s Horton Hears A Who, a sop for the Used Guys deal going south, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol directed by Robert Zemeckis) for nearly a year. See my previous Carrey postings here.
I hear financial model after model was done to figure out the risk reward across the board for Carrey’s Yes Man deal. Carrey’s comedies, once the older ones that made all that major moolah are factored in, did an average $146M domestic gross at the box office. (But that number drops down to $101M if the average of all Carrey’s movies, including the dramatic dogs, are taken into account.) Considering Jim’s waning popularity, it’s a big question mark whether Carrey can carry a comedy to $150 mil anymore. If he does, and the budget and marketing overages don’t occur, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then I’m told it’s possible for the actor to make a phenomenal $78M. Also, the way this deal is structured, he’ll pay less of it to the IRS. But why worry about Uncle Sam’s tax bite before winning the lottery? Really, this could just turn out to be the worst talent deal ever in Hollywood.
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