A Few Words on the Meaning of Play or Pay & Then Some More Olympus Has Fallen Goodies!

When an actor accepts a role and signs on the dotted line of the contract , he or she takes a few things on faith, not the least of which is that he will be paid the agreed upon fee for his services. In exchange, the actor agrees to be physically available during the time period set forth in the contract (which will probably include the contingency of reshoots as well as the promotion of the finished product), to the exclusion of all other offers.

Now, since we all know that “shit happens”, and sometimes the best laid plans of mice, men and producers, go awry,entertainment lawyers have devised something called “a guarantee”.In filmmakers terms, a guarantee refers to a clause in an actor’s (or director’s) contract that guarantees him or her compensation if, through no fault of their own, the individual is released from the contract prior to the completion of their services. This is what is known in “the biz” as “play-or-pay”.

Why are we talking about this?Well, for those of us who follow such things, it’s been in the news recently as regards one of our favorites, Gerard Butler, who is suing the producers of the now-defunct Motor City, which as we know, shut down production late last summer just weeks before cameras were set to roll. Butler is claiming to have had a “play or pay” contract and he wants his money.

Of course the other side is claiming that he had no such contract and that all they had was what amounted to a verbal agreement and they owe him nothing. Seriously, regardless of what anyone thinks of Butler’s acting abilities (or even his ability to choose a quality project), does anyone actually believe he’d agree to do a movie on the basis of a handshake? Would anyone?

While some studios are reluctant to agree to guarantees, they accept them as part of the deal for signing major talent. They also have the advantage of enabling a studio to simply remove a player under such a contract with few legal complications – usually the lesser of two evils between legal and financial). Motor City wasn’t a major studio production, however.

Butler’s camp argues that it was on the basis of his name and bankability (and again folks, remember what I’ve said in the past, regardless of what you perceived to be the quality, Butler’s films generally make money) financing was secured for the flick. This point is difficult to argue since there is ample evidence of him working hard for the money down in the south of France during last year’s Cannes Film Festival.In addition to his duties promoting the sale of Olympus Has Fallen (which he went on to film shortly thereafter), he was doing the same forMotor City, which was to have been his second project of 2012.

Based on his commitment to Motor City, Butler alleges that he had the shooting schedule for OHF modified to accommodate that film.He also did not pursue, and indeed turned down, other projects.Those of you who may have been wondering why he’s been on an extended vacation for the last six months, now know why. Motor City was to have filmed, say late September to late November.Thunder Run, to be directed by Simon West and to costar Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey, which was changed from motion-capture, all CGI to live-action, was also pushed back (so that McConaughey could eat a sandwich after whittling himself away to nearly nothing for the filming of Dallas Buyers Club. Skeletons don’t make for very convincing tank commanders). Both of these things left Butler with a huge gap in his schedule.So the carnival rolled on.

Lending credence to Butler’s claims is the fact that he is not the only one unhappy with the producers of Motor City. Members of the various unions, who don’t have the luxury of “pay or play” contracts but who were relying on the weeks or months of employment, were told to pack up and go home. Many of them had turned down other work as well.Then there are the various suppliers of various services that had already been rendered to the location set when the plug was pulled, that have yet to be paid.

The producers can say anything they please (short of libel) with reference to the “frivolousness” of the lawsuit and the ridiculousness of Gerard Butler’s claims. that does not mean it is or they are.That’s for a judge to decide.My money’s on Butler. Whatever else you think he is, he’s not stupid.

Okay after all of that, let’s get back to Olympus Has Fallen.For whatever reasons, whether fairly or unfairly, both of Butler’s 2012 releases, Chasing Mavericks and Playing for Keeps, met with less than enthusiasm from critics and indifference from most of the ticket buying public (although not only did both do much better in foreign markets than domestic, but I do think both will do very well on dvd and VoD ).

As I’ve said before, perception is everything. So, despite the fact that the reasons for his inactivity were technically beyond his control, combined with the perceived failure of his last two films, the need for Olympus Has Fallen to hit and hit big, is even greater.

The good news is that, in my humble opinion, this flick just might do the trick. In Olympus Has Fallen, you’ve got a director not only capable of directing action but he’s also capable of directing actors.Antoine Fuqua directed Denzel Washington to a Best Actor Oscar in Training Day, after all. While I won’t be so bold as to predict any such thing will happen here, he has worked with some really fine actors including Clive Owen, Keira Knightely, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Stellan Skarsgaard, just to name a few.

Fuqua has assembled a truly talented cast this time around, including Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo, nominees Angela Basset and Robert Forster, Independent Spirit Award winners Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd as well as Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott.

The screenwriters for Olympus Has Fallen may be first timers, but the script written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt was so hot that it went into production very quickly and with virtually no rewrites. Well, until the producers got a hold of it. Still, practically unheard of, especially for first-timers.

The most promising news, in my humble opinion, is that the usually cynical coterie of movie bloggers and other web-based cinephiles, despite whatever reservations they may have about Butler of late, seem to be willing to give this one a chance. While some may snicker at the “Die-Hard in the White House” label, the majority seem to be saying “Hell yes!” to the full-on action. A lot of those that have been calling for Butler to abandon the rom-coms and return to his perceived (there’s that word again) macho roots are in that number. I even read a tweet from one the other day that said OHF should have been Die Hard 5 over what we were given instead (A Good Day to Die Harder).

We have the first featurette to share with you in which Butler and Freeman discuss the film. If the rest of the clips, featurettes and tv spots that are sure to follow in the next six weeks are met with the same generosity, I predict opening weekend for Olympus Has Fallen will be huge. (Okay at least better than average…Or pretty good…I don’t want to jinx anything!)

images courtesy of ComingSoon and Film District – video courtesy of Yahoo