Universal’s do-over on “American Gangster” has led to a flurry of creative dealmaking, placing Denzel Washington in a lucrative position to get two paydays for the same film.
“Gangster” was weeks away from lensing when it was scrubbed by U in late 2004. Washington, whose quote is said to be $20 million per pic, was to star opposite Benicio del Toro, with Antoine Fuqua at the helm. But with the budget threatening to surge past $100 million, U pulled the plug after Fuqua ankled over creative differences.
Both Washington and del Toro were pay-or-play, and U was forced to settle their contracts for more than $20 million.
The costs were written off, and when producer Brian Grazer sought to get the project rolling a second time, U wiped the budget slate clean.
Terry George was brought on to write a new script with plans to direct Don Cheadle, but in February Ridley Scott took over and Washington returned to the cast, along with Russell Crowe, who takes over del Toro’s role.
But since the “Gangster” redux is being treated as a new pic, Washington had to make a new deal.
He isn’t collecting his $20 million quote twice, but between the two “Gangster” paydays and his deal to star in “Inside Man,” Washington is taking in more than $40 million.
Also cashing in for a second time is scribe Steven Zaillian, who penned the last draft when Fuqua was attached. Last month he landed a seven-figure deal to rewrite his old script under Scott’s supervision.