Bohemian Rhapsody made a lot of money. $911 million for a Queen biopic that became a staple of airplane cinema and became an immediate punchline online for its questionable filmmaking. One would think that when a movie makes almost a billion friggin’ dollars, they would pay the person who wrote the thing. But here we are.
Screenwriter Anthony McCarten filed a breach of contract suit against the film’s producers, per Deadline. The suit names producer Graham King and his production company GK Films, who McCarten says owe him money.
McCarten’s suit claims that he made a deal for 5% of GK’s returns on the film. However, when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, King turned his deals over to them, and according to McCarten, he hasn’t gotten any of that backend deal.
According to Deadline, this type of backend points tomfoolery is common among blockbuster films. The outlet notes Coming To America, which made more than $350 million, and Harry Potter And The Order Of The Pheonix, more than $938 million, were technically in the red, too.
McCarten, for his part, tried to avoid this with his deal. The suit states:
Relevant here, at the time he entered the Writer’s Agreement, McCarten was aware of the reputation major studios have for snatching losses from the jaws of profits-most notably, by “defining” profits in byzantine ways and then applying arbitrary, onerous distribution fees administrative fees, overhead fees, etc. At the same time, McCarten knew that indie producers, such as GK Films-which had famously financed the $156-$170 million Hugo, among other mid- and big-budget projects offered a little less money upfront than did the major studios, but more favorable backend definitions. GK Films, for its part, embraced the reputation. For example, late in the negotiations, when he was frustrated over the low fixed fees that would inspire the side letter, McCarten called Denis O’Sullivan, a then-GK Films executive. O’Sullivan told McCarten, “The number is what it is, but Graham wants me to tell you that as he did with Cameron Diaz on Gangs of New York, he will take care of you in success.”
McCarten is no novice to this game. In addition to Rhapsody, which earned Rami Malek an Oscar and nabbed a Best Picture nomination despite being directed by an alleged pedophile and rapist, McCarten wrote other Oscar bait-y prestige films as The Two Popes, The Theory Of Everything, and Darkest Hour.
Maybe they can open the Disney Vault to pay the writer, but we all know how important and believable it is to say a billion-dollar movie didn’t make any money.