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Director Bryan Singer is set to earn tens of millions of dollars off the massive success of Bohemian Rhapsody, despite being fired from the movie mid-production and surrounded by controversy.
Thanks to a track record of years of hitmaking (including the X-Men franchise) and what is said to be a strong backend provision in his deal, Singer’s final payday for the Freddie Mercury biopic is expected to exceed the $40 million range, two knowledgeable sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Singer was fired from Rhapsody with only two weeks of shooting left on the movie for not showing up to set. Dexter Fletcher was then hired to complete the film with producer Graham King and others. But since Singer retained his director credit, he is likely in line to receive backend compensation. Sources say Fox, the studio that co-financed and released the movie, is exploring its legal options in terms of its financial obligations to Singer.
To the surprise of even its own studio, Rhapsody endured the Singer ouster and middling reviews to become a massive hit, grossing a fat-bottomed $817 million worldwide to date. It also has become a player in the awards race, with the film up for five Oscars and star Rami Malek winning a Golden Globe and SAG award for his performance as Mercury. Singer, meanwhile, signed on to direct the female-empowering tale Red Sonja for Millennium Films and in recent weeks found himself back in the spotlight for alleged sexual misconduct and rape after The Atlantic published a story including several new accusers.
While Singer’s upfront pay on Rhapsody is unknown — his up to $10 million fee for Sonja will be a career-high — Singer likely negotiated a percentage of profits after the $50 million movie broke even, as well as box office bonuses at various milestones.
But this is where it gets complicated. Backend could be forfeited if a director is fired for cause (studios reserve the right to fire over creative differences). Singer was indeed fired….but he retained credit, thus ensuring some sort of contingent compensation, according to top dealmakers who work with directors and producers. A negotiated resolution in this case was likely, say sources, but that would have been before Rhapsody became an $800 million box office behemoth.
Fox and a rep for Singer declined to comment.
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