Matt Damon: Hollywood's Bargain Investment?

Who would have thought that Matt Damon would be a better investment for a studio than Tom Cruise? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

A recent study by Forbes pointed out that on average for his last three films, Damon has made $29 in gross income for the studio for every dollar paid to him. That is almost twice as much as Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks. The number 2,3 and 4 guys on the list are Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Vince Vaughn.

Apparently the worst return on investment is Russell Crowe who, thanks to his back-to-back Oscar nominations more than six years ago has the phone-chucking Aussie demanding $20 million paychecks or more. However, Crowe’s films have ended up being relatively low profit turners for the studios. For example, Crowe's last film, "A Good Year" was made for $35 million, with almost 1/3 of that going directly to his salary. However the film only made $40 million at the box office worldwide, which makes for a very poor investment for the studios.

It’s all about the money.

Hollywood isn't about creativity or originality. That's too risky of an investment for most billion-dollar-corporations that own studios. This is the main reason why there have been so many sequels like Bourne Ultimatum, remakes of past films, like Rob Zombie's resurrection of the "Halloween" franchise, conversions of films from comic books or Hollywood’s latest tactic, nostalgia: The generation that spent so much time in front of the television before the internet is now being pandered to with high-tech incarnations of stuff from their youth. Case in point: Michael Bay's Transformers or the Wachowski brother's upcoming Speed Racer film.

Millions of dollars are spent to ensure that a film is as popular (read: profitable) as possible and Hollywood will do whatever it takes to keep that going. Rest assured that the talent agency that represents Damon is keenly aware of their client's substantial value to the studio. Damon has already said in a Variety article in May that he would not return for a fourth Bourne film. Perhaps he feels that there is only so many movies that can be made about a guy trying to remember his own identity while kicking the ass of every bad guy that gets in his way.

Regardless, as "The Bourne Ultimatum" continues to pummel the box-office and Matt rides the current wave of popularity, this will only provide further ammunition for his agency to negotiate more money for the next deal. As his paychecks go up, the studio's return on their investment will go down. But such is the way life is on the A-list.

As they say in Hollywood, “you’re only as good as your last project.”

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