It is very difficult to become a highly respected director in Hollywood and it can be equally hard to get paid well for the type of work that gets one that kind of respect. In many cases, respect doesn't equal a massive payday, but in the chase of Christopher Nolan, the two are going hand in hand. His latest movie Dunkirk, a World War II epic due out next summer, has officially made him the highest paid director in Hollywood.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Christopher Nolan will be getting paid $20 million up-front for Dunkirk, which represents a small fortune on its own. However, the director is also said to be getting 20 percent of the gross for Dunkirk and If his last handful of directorial efforts are any indicator, that will represent a tremendous payday. This is said to be the most lucrative deal for a director since Peter Jackson got a similar deal for King Kong more than ten years ago.
It is no surprise that Christopher Nolan is getting paid well for his work as his last several movies have absolutely crushed at the box office, most of which have also enjoyed quite a bit of critical acclaim. That is a rare thing to find in Hollywood, which is part of what makes a guy like Christopher Nolan so special and valuable to a studio. Often times, a director will go make a big-budget studio movie and then take a break to go make a smaller movie that may garner more critical acclaim and awards season recognition. In Nolan's case, his movies tend to do both. That is also probably why a movie like Dunkirk is getting a primetime summer release date, instead of a fall or winter, more awards-friendly release, as one might typically expect for a World War II drama.
The report noted that average salaries for directors in the current Hollywood landscape range from around $750,000 to $1.5 million. That makes what Christopher Nolan is making for Dunkirk all the more impressive. A "top producer" that spoke to THR on the matter also said that it is becoming more common for directors to get paid less up-front and more on the back end, after the studio has recouped their money, which has caused some problems. In this case, Christopher Nolan is getting a sizable chunk up front and a pretty hefty amount of back end. Given that he has never really had a movie flop and that his movies to date have grossed $4.2 billion at the worldwide box office, not to mention quite a few Oscar nominations, it doesn't seem that outlandish.
"That's the big trend - the increasing distinction between what a director gets upfront and the overall payout."
Dunkirk will be the director's first attempt at a war movie, but as we have seen, he is very capable of tackling quite a few different genres with a lot of success. He has taken on the superhero genre with his Batman trilogy, which resulted in a ton of money at the box office and The Dark Knight, which many consider to be one of the if not the best superhero movie ever made. He has also tackled sci-fi with Interstellar and Inception as well as the thriller and mystery genre with Insomnia, The Prestige and Memento. Even the worst of those movies is regarded pretty well and did good business at the box office. Dunkirk is set for release on July 21, 2017. We'll have to wait and see if all of that money was worth it, but given the stellar cast that includes Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Mark Rylance as well as the first teaser trailer, we can probably guess Christopher Nolan was worth every penny.