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How Hollywood Cheats Actors Out of Residual Checks

The actor who played Darth Vader has yet to receive a single residual check. This is how Hollywood cheats actors out of residual checks.

During an interview with Equity Magazine, David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, argues that LucasFilm has yet to pay him a single residual check on Return of the Jedi because the money has never made a profit.
“I get these occasional letters from Lucasfilm saying that we regret to inform you that as Return of the Jedi has never gone into profit, we’ve got nothing to send you. Now here we’re talking about one of the biggest releases of all time,” said Prowse. “I don’t want to look like I’m bitching about it,” he said, “but on the other hand, if there’s a pot of gold somewhere that I ought to be having a share of, I would like to see it.”
In actuality, Return of the Jedi made over $572 million worldwide, which includes an estimated $88 million when the movie was re-released in 1997. So how come a movie a movie that is so popular never made a profit? Is Prowse exaggerating? TimesOnline contacted LucasFilm about the story but the company declined to comment. In the interview, Prowse provides some key acting advice to young actors to know exactly what kind of contracts they are signing:
“There is a big difference between having a share of the gross profit and having a share of the net profit. It is a huge difference in just one word. Sometimes, with net profit, with all the expenses and so on, it seems like you end up paying them.”
Hollywood contracts will typically never benefit the actors. That's why gross profit is only seen for big name actors or producer who actually demand this. You get a percentage of profit base on how much the movie makes before any costs. Therefore, you are garunteed to get paid. However, very few people can demand gross profit. That's why Hollywood studios typically make people sign net profit agreements because very few films show a net profit after studios try to claim every expense possible to keep the movie from showing any actual profit. How does this work? From Slashfilm.com
How do they do this? Well first, imagine that George Lucas decided to go to New York tomorrow to talk about showing Return of the Jedi in 3D. And he stayed at the Ritz Carlton, ordered sushi at 3 a.m. from room service and used the hotel phone to call Bahrain to make prank calls. Well, 26 years after the release of the film, the accountants at Lucasfilm are going to charge $86,000 to the costs of Return of the Jedi. I am NOT joking. This is what they do. If George Lucas utters the words Star Wars and he’s spending money, they’re putting it on the red line for one of those films.
So, if you want to make money in the movie business make sure you sign up for gross profit instead of net profit. Otherwise, you may never get a single residual check. Image Credit: Nando Machado / Shutterstock.com

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