'The Purge': Ethan Hawke's Low Salary Turns Into Millions

Ethan Hawke The Purge Tribeca - P 2013
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Ethan Hawke The Purge Tribeca - P 2013

The actor gave producer Jason Blum the friends-and-family rate, working for almost nothing on the breakout microbudget horror movie and skipping the perks: "No trailer, no driver, no BS."

This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

How does a movie that opens to $34 million cost just $3 million to make? Microbudget horror maestro Jason Blum says his formula is simple: Everyone works for nothing (or, in the case of The Purge, for scale).

The Universal thriller marks Blum's second microbudget teaming with his best friend, star Ethan Hawke, after the 2012 hit Sinister first paired the buddies who started a theater company in their 20s. Like Purge director James DeMonaco, the crew and even vendors, Hawke, 42, took almost no money up front in exchange for a slice of the profits.

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Blum, 44, won't reveal what Hawke will make from Purge, but a source says it will far exceed his typical quote. (Sources peg the total as in the mid-seven figures.) Blum, who got his start making indie movies at Miramax in the '90s, learned that small budgets can be alluring for actors frustrated by scarce studio work who are willing to bet on themselves. 

"This model is a way to undo that trap," says Blum, whose Blumhouse is prepping a Purge sequel and has three upcoming microbudget releases: Insidious Chapter 2 (Sept. 13), Paranormal Activity 5 (Oct. 25) and Jessabelle (Jan. 10).

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For his part, Hawke has adjusted to working with Blum. "There were no perks," he says. "No trailer, no driver, no BS, just a great role, a great director. Hell, on The Purge, I slept on his couch the whole shoot."

Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com, Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27