Liam Neeson took home a $2 million payday for 2009’s Taken (a career best at the time). However, for Taken 2 the Irish actor was paid a very impressive $12 million upfront and he looks set to score much more with his back-end participation.
Deadline is reporting that Neeson is set to bank in the region of $25 million by the time Taken 2 finishes its cinematic run. The action sequel has now grossed over $150 million globally, and it looks set to out-gross the original film at the international box office, although it remains to be seen if it will top the $145 million that it grossed in the US.
The success of Taken has seen Neeson become an unlikely action hero, starring in the likes of The A-Team, Unknown and The Grey. He also has the Joel Silver produced actioner, Non-Stop in production. You could say that he has Taken the money and ran.
In recent years movie star salaries have taken a hit (pun intended), with few stars getting the massive $20-25 million salaries that the likes of Toms Cruise and Hanks, Mel Gibson an Harrison Ford used to command upfront. The back-end deal is now key, as it’s a way of keeping costs low and ensuring that stars get a big payday. Although there are one or two exceptions like Johnny Depp and Will Smith who still get a big fat fee.
CBS Films has offered Chris Hemsworth $10 million to star in American Assassin (opposite Bruce Willis), a sign that Hollywood is beginning to open its purse strings and a indication that Hemsworth is a viable leading man – he’s got charisma and screen presence to burn – he also has Steven Spielberg’s awful sounding Robopocalypse on the way .
It is worth noting that Hollywood did try to turn Twilight’s Taylor Lautner into an action star. Lionsgate paid him $8 million for Abduction – it came out and bombed, and other movie offers came off the table. Hemsworth has the potential to be a major star outside of the Marvel universe, while Lautner won’t have a great post-Twilight career. Probably.