Why Jennifer Lawrence deserves every penny of her $20 million payday

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Jennifer Lawrence Will Earn $20 Million for Upcoming Film


All major movies involve some behind-the-scenes salary negotiations, but Sony's sci-fi drama Passengers has endured more than its fair share of paycheck-related turbulence on its way to a green light. Two weeks ago, TheHollywood Reporter's Kim Masters reported that though Sony had landed the red-hot Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt to star in the spaceship-set romance, studio head Tom Rothman was balking at Lawrence's $20 million salary demand. Yesterday afternoon, Masters wrote that Lawrence had indeed secured her paycheck, measured against 30 percent of the profits after the movie breaks even.

I've noticed that many of the writers who've picked up Masters's story over the last two weeks have done so with a can you believe that tone of incredulity, as though Lawrence might not be worth her rare payday. They're not alone: Masters reported that even Rothman "was heard wondering aloud" about Lawrence's actual star power during budget meetings.

Allow me to allay their fears: If anyone in Hollywood is worth a $20 million paycheck, it's freaking Jennifer Lawrence.

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Why Jennifer Lawrence deserves every penny of her $20 million payday
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Jennifer Lawrence attends a special screening of 'Joy' at Ham Yard Hotel on December 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Jennifer Lawrence attends a special screening of 'Joy' at the Ham Yard Hotel on December 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'Joy' New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'Joy' New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 302 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress Jennifer Lawrence during an interview with host Seth Meyers on December 15, 2015 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Jennifer Lawrence arrives to 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' at Ed Sullivan Theater on December 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Variety)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends a screening of 'Serena' hosted by Magnolia Pictures and The Cinema Society with Dior Beauty on March 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 24: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 26th Annual Producers Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 24, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Jennifer Lawrence attends the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' at Odeon Leicester Square on November 10, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: Jennifer Lawrence attends the premiere for 'Serena' during the 58th BFI London Film Festival at Vue West End on October 13, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for BFI)
ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 14: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Premiere during The 8th Rome Film Festival at Auditorium Parco Della Musica on November 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
Jennifer Lawrence seen at the Twentieth Century Fox Global Premiere of 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York City. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox/AP Images)
Actress Jennifer Lawrence gestures to photographers as she arrives for the screening of the movie 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', at the 8th edition of the Rome International Film Festival, in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
LOS ANGELES, CA- NOVEMBER 18: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: (L-R) Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jena Malone attend the 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' New York Premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on November 20, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 7: Actress Jennifer Lawrence wearing Dior day 2 of Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014, on July 7, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: 71st ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives to the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014 -- (Photo by Christopher Polk/NBC/NBC via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the premiere of Lionsgate's 'The Hunger Games: Cathching Fire' at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Director David O. Russell arrive at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: 71st ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives to the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014 -- (Photo by Christopher Polk/NBC/NBC via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: (L-R) Actors Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner attend the 'American Hustle' cast photocall at Crosby Street Hotel on December 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 14: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Photocall during the 8th Rome Film Festival at the Auditorium Parco Della Musica on November 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 19, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Jennifer Lawrence attends the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Nominee for Best Supporting Actress in 'American Hustle' Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives for the screening of the movie 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', at the 8th edition of the Rome International Film Festival in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
From left, actors Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson pose for photographers as they arrive for the screening of the movie 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', at the 8th edition of the Rome International Film Festival, in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at 'The Hunger Games' Los Angeles premiere held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on March 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the premiere of Magnolia Pictures 'The Burning Plain' on September 14, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
US actress Jennifer Lawrence poses for the photocall of the movie 'The Burning Plain' directed by Guillermo Arriaga during the 65th Venice International Film Festival at Venice Lido, on August 29, 2008. AFP PHOTO DAMIEN MEYER (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
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It's not for nothing that Jennifer Lawrence landed the No. 1 spot on Vulture's Most Valuable Stars list last year: By practically every metric by which an actor can be measured, she comes out on top. The 24-year-old stars in two of Hollywood's biggest franchises, thanks to The Hunger Games and X-Men, and has been nominated for three Oscars, winning one for Silver Linings Playbook. She enjoys sky-high likability, terrific recognition ratings, and four-quadrant appeal in an era where new young megastars are very hard to come by. She is the only first-billed actress who has made more than one movie that's grossed over $400 million domestically (the few men who've managed that significant feat are comic-book heroes Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale), and she may add a third to her tally if the final Hunger Games movie hits its expected number this winter. Simply put, she's the most significant name that Sony could have possibly cast in this role.

Compared to Lawrence, other stars have gotten $20 million paychecks with much less scrutiny, and with far more meager results. Liam Neeson received $20 million for Taken 3, which didn't even crack $90 million domestically, and Sacha Baron Cohen got at least that much money (and by some accounts, even more once scripting and producing fees were factored in) for 2012's dud The Dictator, which grossed a measly $59 million in the States. When Baron Cohen inked his megabucks deal, it was greeted with rah-rah, "go Sacha" enthusiasm at Deadline; I can't help but wonder if the difference in tone now has something to do with Jennifer Lawrence's gender. If, say, her frequent co-star Bradley Cooper had upped his quote to $20 million on the back of last year's megahit American Sniper, would his reasonable request have generated nearly the same amount of scoffing?

To be fair, there are a few legitimate reasons that Rothman might have dug in his heels over the size of Lawrence's paycheck. After replacing Sony chief Amy Pascal in Feburary, Rothman may have had misgivings about spending big so early into his tenure at the studio, fearing that other stars might come to him seeking the same salary. (To them, I'd recommend that Rothman simply say, "You're not Jennifer Lawrence.") It's possible, too, that since $20 million deals are typically reserved for franchise paydays, and Lawrence is not likely to take on another series anytime soon, after wrapping both the Hunger Games and X-Men movies, Rothman wanted to bring her future salary demands down to a more acceptable standard so that Lawrence wouldn't expect the studio to pay $20 million for her next non-sequel, too.

But you know what? Fuck that. Lawrence is the rare star who has proven herself bankable outside her major franchises and is equally adept at action, drama, and comedy; with such an expansive wheelhouse, she more than deserves a paycheck that puts her on equal footing with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, especially since Passengers is a tentpole movie that will attract significant foreign interest on the basis of its big names and outer-space setting. Sony surely wanted Lawrence to take a reduced paycheck up front in favor of a less-risky backend deal that would pay her a significant amount after the movie's profits exceeded its costs, but even in negotiations like those, Lawrence has been stiffed before: The Sony hacking deal revealed that she got fewer profit-percentage points for American Hustle than her three male co-stars (including the less-valuable Jeremy Renner), and when Lawrence asked for a bigger share of the pie for her upcoming David O. Russell vehicle Joy, Fox proved so stingy that the project "nearly fell apart."

After Amy Pascal left her Sony post, she was asked about how little she'd paid Lawrence for American Hustle. "People want to work for less money, I pay them less money," Pascal replied. "Women shouldn't be so grateful. Know what you're worth. Walk away." Message received: Lawrence was ready to walk if she didn't get that top-tier paycheck for Passengers, and director Morten Tyldum indicated he'd leave the project, too, if he lost his leading lady. Some people may take issue with the fact that teachers still struggle while Lawrence stands to earn an exorbitant amount for Passengers — even though it's the kind of salary that has been given to stars for nearly two decades, since Jim Carrey first collected a $20 million payday for 1996's The Cable Guy — but I question their sudden interest in income inequality when it comes at the expense of a young female star. For as long as Hollywood is willing to hand out $20 million, Jennifer Lawrence more than deserves it. Sony can take that one to the bank.


Jennifer Lawrence | FindTheBest
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