Leslie Moonves Trims Wife Julie Chen's Salary for Celebrity 'Big Brother'

"He comes home for dinner and says in a very Godfather, mafioso-style, 'Jules, you tell your lawyer this is not a negotiation,'" the host says of her husband (and CBS chief) strong-arming her to take a pay cut for the show's new celebrity edition.
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Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen

When CBS announced Sept. 7 the first U.S. celebrity version of Big Brother, veteran host Julie Chen let it slip to THR that her husband, CBS chief Leslie Moonves, strong-armed her into taking a pay cut because of the edition's shorter run.

"If you know one thing about my husband, it has to make economic sense. He comes home for dinner and says in a very Godfather, mafioso-style, 'Jules, you tell your lawyer this is not a negotiation. This is what the deal is and you're going to accept it.' And I said, 'Is that the way you speak to your wife?'" she laughed, before continuing, "He said, 'You tell your attorney this is not a game we're playing. Everyone's taking a haircut. This is the only way it will make sense financially. You shouldn't be expected to be paid as if it's a full series. It's a condensed version.'"

The twist: Chen's lawyer is none other than Les' brother, Jon Moonves.

The reason Les wanted his wife to take a hit to her wallet is due to the season's shorter schedule, which will require less time for both her and the stars that they get to participate. Though a schedule has yet to be announced, it's expected to be significantly shorter than the typical 90-plus-day summer broadcast of Big Brother. One thing that won't change: The installment will still invite viewers in for their 24/7 unfiltered live feed.

Chen's dream roster of celebrity house guests include "Sean Spicer and Melissa McCarthy, which we'll never get," she says, along with Martha Stewart, Snoop Dogg, Tonya Harding and superfan Andy Cohen. Says the Bravo guru on his chances: "I’d like to think I’d do great but I think I’d have a target on my back because of my background stirring things up with the Housewives." 

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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