Arnold Schwarzenegger Crafted An Iron-Clad Contract For His Terminator 3 Return

A 2005 Slate feature details the insane contract shenanigans that went on to get Schwarzenegger back into that role, which includes a final draft contract that was 33 pages, a nearly $30 million pay-or-play deal (meaning once signed the studio was going to pay Schwarzenegger the $29.25 million whether they made the movie or not), and a perk package (a fully equipped gym trailer, private flights, personal bodyguards, 24-hour limo service, etc) that added another million and a half to making Schwarzenegger happy.

Was Schwarzenegger worth it? Well, has there been a “Terminator” movie without him? Not yet. The man had so tied to the image of “The Terminator” that the producers had little choice but to pay him what he wanted. He had the most powerful weapon going into this contract negotiation: leverage. 

Warner Bros, Sony, and Tokyo Distributor Toho-Towa went in together on putting up the money for “Terminator 3” and their financing was contingent on only one thing: Arnold Schwarzenegger had to star. James Cameron, one of the most powerful filmmakers in the industry, was expendable for the financiers, but not the leading man and Schwarzenegger knew that if he didn’t sign on the movie died, slurping up the many millions the producers had already paid for development.

So, he not only got one of the biggest paydays on record, but he also got 20% of the gross of the movie, meaning that for every dollar of box office or DVD sale or TV/streamer licensing deal “Terminator 3” made, 20 cents went to directly Schwarzenegger. This is also not the norm. Hollywood loves to use accounting tricks to make even the most successful film a loss on paper, so most participation deals are crafted to pay out “net” percentages, meaning they pay only on the profits of the film, which any good agent will tell you is almost nonexistent.

Who knows how much money Schwarzenegger ended up with for returning as The Terminator, but I hope he bought his agents and lawyers something nice for negotiating such an insane contract.

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