Brad Pitt earned $20 million for his role in the upcoming action thriller, Bullet Train. Directed by David Leitch and starring Pitt, Bullet Train tells the story of five assassins who find themselves on the same bullet train in Japan and come to realize that all of their individual missions are actually connected. Set to appear alongside Pitt in the film are Joey King (who has been spotted in costume), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Zazie Beetz, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Brian Tyree Henry, and Sandra Bullock. The film is based on the acclaimed 2010 novel, Maria Beetle, written by Kotaro Isaka.
Leitch, who got his start as a stuntman, is best known for his work on John Wick, Atomic Bonde, and Deadpool 2, with Bullet Train marking the first real collaboration between him and Pitt (if Pitt’s cameo in Deadpool 2 doesn’t count). Pitt, who has recently taken interest more in film roles behind the camera instead of in front of it, is even said to perform the vast majority of his own stunts for the movie. Bullet Train marks Pitt’s first starring role in an action-oriented film since 2014’s Fury.
In a recent report from Variety, it was revealed that Pitt was paid $20 million for his starring role in Bullet Train. The figure of $20 million per movie has been industry standard for big stars since 1996 when Jim Carrey grabbed a $20 million paycheck for his role in The Cable Guy. Pitt earning $20 million for Bullet Train puts him somewhere in the middle of the pack for this particular year in terms of actor paychecks. Beating him out are Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson, and Daniel Craig, who tops out the list at a whopping $100 million for his deal for Knives Out 2 and 3.
Although a $20 million payday for a big star in a blockbuster film is still the norm, the industry has been shifting in recent years, skewing the amounts actors are paid. This change is largely due to streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, which calculate actor payments differently than regular studios would for theatrically released films. Netflix, for example, pays actors for projected back-end box office revenue that they would otherwise make if the film were to release exclusively in theaters. It’s this new compensation model that explains why Pitt is making less money for Bullet Train than, for example, Dwayne Johnson is making for Red One. Since Bullet Train is anticipated to release exclusively in theaters, Pitt’s salary doesn’t factor in the additional money he will make on the back-end from box office performance. Red One, on the other hand, is an Amazon Studios movie, which means Johnson’s paycheck includes project back-end box office money, explaining his larger initial payday.
Bullet Train is currently set to release in April of next year and, considering the talent both in front of and behind the camera, is likely to be a big hit (assuming Covid-19 doesn’t cause any release date delays). Pitt has been the star of many great movies over the course of his career, but, over the last decade, hasn’t seemed to truly embrace the action star part of himself that seems to be lurking just below the surface. With action-centric roles in Fury, World War Z, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Troy, and Spy Game, Pitt has proven himself more than capable as an action star and seems poised to become a John-Wick-like figure when Bullet Train releases next year.