Denzel Washington is still Unstoppable

DenzelWashingtonI’m of two minds of what to think about the news from Variety that Denzel Washington is still in the cast of Unstoppable, a movie about two engineers who must stop an unmanned runaway train from spilling its toxic cargo all over the place.

Two weeks ago, pre-production on the film that’s will be directed by Tony Scott from a Mark Bomback script came to a halt when Washington and the executives at 20th Century Fox couldn’t see eye-to-eye on what he should be paid. The studio was looking to reduce the budget on the film to $90 million and one of the places they were cutting was the salaries of the movie’s leads: Washington and Chris Pine (Star Trek).

Pine was to be taking a cut from $9 million to $6 million and the studio wanted to shave $4 million from Washington’s usual $20 million income. Washington balked, and his people told everyone that he was now suddenly free to look at other movie offers.

It’s a risky move for actors to make while in negotiations, but it paid off in the end for Washington because Fox scrambled to get another deal and script together for him and while he was on the publicity junket for The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (which is also directed by Tony Scott, and wouldn’t you have wanted to be a fly on the wall when the two were in an elevator alone or at the bar?) and suddenly Washington’s back in the picture which will start filming in Pittsburgh in the fall.

The reason why I’m of two minds about the film is while I understand Washington’s need to maintain his current level of income because he is definitely a $20 million dollar-a-project caliber of performer, just like the guys at Film School Rejects.com, I don’t think that quality of production should suffer because an actor wants to maintain a certain level of income.

Unstoppable sounds like it’s going to be an effects-heavy film, what with having to build scale-model replicas of parts of trains for Washington and Pine to crawl and run around, perhaps some climactic train crash to either film as a model (oh, wouldn’t it be awesome to see miniatures in movies again?) or a CG-spectacle. It also has a formulaic plot, which means extra care has to be taken with the script and/or its on-set rewrites to make it seem more than just the average action flick.

At the same time, according to a study Forbes magazine made of how bankable a star really is, it wasn’t a well-schooled, well-trained veteran like Washington who draws the multi-million dollar crowds; it’s actors like Matt Damon and Jennifer Aniston who earned $29 dollars and $17 dollars respectively for each dollar they got paid in 2007 where Washington only earned $10.

Of course, the other thing that’s on my mind that I can never really escape from is the fact that actors like Washington who do help enrich our popular and social culture through their work are also paid several times more than what high school teachers and social workers make, and those people save lives. What’s a $4 million cut, honestly—or about $2 million after taxes get taken out?

In any case, the deal was made and the film’s back on schedule, and that’s what’s important, right?

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 06:12 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News