A higher quote. More offers. Better opportunities. All of the above.
What exactly does an Oscar nomination or win mean for Hollywood’s decorated scribes? It’s no surprise that films recognized by the Academy enjoy a bump at the box office. Reps note that screenwriters, too, can count on their own windfall after landing a nomination or a statuette, particularly those involved in the lucrative uncredited rewrite business.
“The bump is not set in stone,” says a tenpercenter who handles a recent winner in the adapted category. “It’s not scientific, and it’s not like there’s an Oscar premium. But it will up your quote. (As a rep), you come in from a point of strength in negotiating. It gives you one more big argument for more money.”
One agent who handles a number of past winners says that Academy recognition best serves the so-called discovery voices like “Milk’s” Dustin Lance Black, “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Michael Arndt or “The King’s Speech’s” David Seidler. The agent estimates that their quotes typically increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars for a nomination and seven figures for a win.
“The box office success of the film will also play a significant role,” the agent adds. “In a world that is increasingly challenging representatives to fight for raises, Oscar attention remains one of the last true dependable weapons.”
For a discovery voice like Diablo Cody — who scored a trophy for “Juno,” her first credited screenplay — the payday couldn’t help but improve. “I think it would have been impossible for me to make less than I made for ‘Juno,’ ” jokes Cody, who is once again in the awards-season mix for her original screenplay “Young Adult,” which she began penning shortly after her Oscar win.
But Cody herself is quick to point out that “Young Adult” wasn’t about making a killing. “It was a passion project, and not something I did for money,” she says.
Cody, like a number of recent Oscar winners including Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”) and Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”), parlayed their Oscar-winning status into directing jobs. Post-“Juno,” Cody was offered a number of high-paying gigs, most of which she turned down, including studio directing offers, romantic comedy rewrites and even shampoo endorsements.
Though Cody accepted a few studio writing assignments including a spin on “The Taming of the Shrew” for DreamWorks and a “Sweet Valley High” adaptation for Universal, she waited for the right moment to leverage her Oscar. In February, she will begin lensing her directorial debut, an untitled comedy starring Julianne Hough and Russell Brand, for “Juno” and “Young Adult” backer Mandate Pictures.
Similarly, Sorkin, already one of Hollywood’s highest-paid scribes, is using his Oscar trophy to segue to the director’s chair for the John Edwards biopic “The Politician.” The “Moneyball” scribe, who used his own coin to option Andrew Young’s insider account of Edwards’ 2008 presidential bid that ended in scandal, penned the screenplay.
Likewise, Fletcher cashed in on his Oscar-winning cachet by assembling a cast of in-demand thesps for his helming debut, “Violet & Daisy.” The pic, which is based on his screenplay and stars Saoirse Ronan and James Gandolfini, screened as a work-in-progress at the Toronto Film Festival.
For a two-time nominee like John Logan, Oscar love translated into a surplus of high-profile screenplay offers. Following his most recent nomination for “The Aviator,” the scribe booked a trio of assignments — “Hugo,” “Rango” and “Coriolanus” — which find him once again vying for a statuette.
“The fact that all three came out at the end of this year is happenstance,” says Logan, who is working on the next James Bond pic. “But (the Oscar nominations) are definitely keeping me hopping.”
Perhaps the biggest benefit that comes with Oscar recognition is entry into the studio frequent rewrite club, where scribes can command $250,000-$300,000 a week for uncredited polishes. Even Cody, who turns most rewrite offers down, says she typically takes on one such project a year.
Says a tenpercenter: “If you’re nominated for or win an Oscar, you’re going to get more interest, more to choose from and more opportunity, including lots of rewrite offers. It puts at least one arrow in your quiver, and it’s a big arrow at that.”