EXCLUSIVE: 'How Do You Know' Price Tag: $120 Million, $50 Million Just for Talent

2:36 PM PST 12/09/2010 by Kim Masters
Columbia TriStar Marketing Group
"How Do You Know"

This week's The Hollywood Reporter looks at the James L. Brooks dramedy featuring Reese Witherspoon ($15 million) and Jack Nicholson ($12 million).

The following story appears in the current issue of The Hollywood Reporter available now. Subscribers can read the issue here.

Oscar-winning filmmaker James L. Brooks doesn’t work often, and he doesn’t work fast. And when he does work, he commands a budget as jaw-dropping as his history of brilliant work (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News). When many studios are shying away from star-driven adult dramedies, Sony lavished a budget on Brooks’ How Do You Know that even has talent reps with clients in the movie marveling.

THR has learned that the film, which centers on a love triangle, cost $120 million to make, though the studio drove that down to about $100 million thanks to tax rebates from Pennsylvania and D.C. One reason for the price tag is old-fashioned salaries for the pic’s talent: Reese Witherspoon ($15 million), Jack Nicholson ($12 million), Owen Wilson ($10 million) and Paul Rudd ($3 million) received their quotes, and Brooks will earn about $10 million plus backend for writing, producing and directing. That’s about $50 million for the major talent alone.

The cost also was high because of the time Brooks devoted to production and postproduction and his decision to reshoot the beginning and end of the movie. “He’s slow and meticulous,” a person familiar with the production says.

Another challenge: How Do You Know opens Dec. 17 against Tron: Legacy, Gulliver’s Travels and Yogi Bear. “That’s a big weekend,” sighs a talent rep with a star in the film, which could have the slow-but-steady adult space to itself. Brooks’ 1997 holiday release As Good as It Gets rode Oscar buzz to $314.2 million worldwide, but his most recent December effort, 2004’s Spanglish, fizzled. “They thought it would do a couple hundred million worldwide,” a source says. “It did $55 million all-in.”

But Sony hopes How Do You Know will perform like It’s Complicated, an $85 million-budgeted Universal pic from Nancy Meyers.That film pulled in nearly $220 million worldwide last winter.              

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