As of the writing of this article, “Top Gun: Maverick” has generated $1.5 billion at the global box office and hundreds of thousands more from streaming and viewing revenue. Thanks to a $13 million upfront payment and a liberal cut of the “first dollar gross” return, Tom Cruise is easily able to make a $100 – $130 million payday for the sequel. And while this is a very impressive paycheck, it still doesn’t come close to matching the $194 million earned by Bruce Willis in 1999, thanks to his generous back pay for “The Sixth Sense.”
And while earning $130 – $200 million in one movie is really impressive for an actor, those paychecks still absolutely pale in comparison to what Mel Gibson earned from 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
And as it turns out, Mel did not do it in the Passion. It earned a payday as the first budget film, another producer. A payday that still stands as…
The biggest payday in Hollywood history…
Before various public meltdowns tarnished his reputation (if not necessarily saved his ability to work), Mel Gibson used to be one of the most beloved movie stars in Hollywood, thanks to his iconic turns in the “Mad Max” and “Lethal Weapon” franchises. as well as films like “Signs,” “What Women You Want,” “Redmas” … and the list goes on and on.
Mel also later revealed his behind-the-scenes work, arranging the classic “Braveheart” before revealing what was too much to describe his “passion project” 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
When she approached the studio to help fund her passion project, they were slightly uncomfortable with the idea of making it purely religious and extremely uncomfortable after learning that Mil was planning to make it a “very graphically violent Christ-telling movie”.
Nor would he touch the pole with the foot of the pole in his study.
So Mel Gibson bet everything. In himself.
Mel Gibson was interested in telling the story of Christ in an extraordinary graphic film years before it happened. However, even for someone with proven Hollywood star power, the project is simply too much for any major studio to undertake.
One, the subject of religion, was dangerous, as was the graphic force, which Gibson wanted to make more shocking and realistic than any previous film about the crucifixion.
And then it happened that he wanted to make a film in historically accurate Aramaic with English subtitles. It all ended up costing Gibson himself the move.
There is an old axiom in the business of watching: “You never put your money down.” But sometimes it’s the only way to get a movie made, and if you’re passionate enough (and lucky enough to have the necessary financial resources to your name), it’s been known to happen.
That ended with Gibson and Passion.
Mel Gibson put it $30 million with his own money to cover the film’s prominence.
Unfortunately, before it was completed, he put another $15 million into the project, taking his personal investment in the film to a total of…
Gibson was taking a big risk by investing so much money in such a non-commercial project. And the film actually met the expectations of a low industry, which could be the end of the story – Mel Gibson’s weight gain significantly worsened as an actor who meant a lot to himself.
But, as is already known, the “Passion of the Christ” had a wonderful impact. The controversy surrounding his release had large audiences of the faithful and the simply curious.
The film grossed around $600 million at the box office, which means that Gibson’s personal investment in the project paid off big time.
How much did Mel Gibson put off “Passion”?
Before the film was released, Mel struck up a distribution deal with a company called Newmarket Films. The agreement left New Market and Gibson each owning 50% of any profits generated.
Mel Gibson’s 50% cut in box office earnings alone came to $150 million.
Then there’s another $75 million from DVD sales, which they racked up back in 2004, probably still making money today (along with revenue from streaming rentals and the like).
Also, a second version of the film was released in the spring of 2005: “Passion Recut” is an alternate version with most of the graphic violence removed. This one was far from the box office phenomenon of its predecessor, but it managed to gross more than half a million dollars compared to other players.
Then there is the merchandising – it might seem strange for a biblical film of this kind, but “The Passion of the Christ” generated opportunities for public goods, which Christ supplied with nail necklaces and other things. The new market did not receive the precision of these benefits. Gibson, it’s a lot of fun, it’s a good time.
When you add it all up, Mel Gibson’s personal merits for “The Passion of the Christ” come somewhere in the range.
$60 million to $475 million
Not one bad thing!
To give you some perspective that involves Tom Cruise again, Mr. Cruise has earned around $300 million off the various iterations of “Mission Impossible” to date. He earned $300 million for six movies.
Similarly, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp made hundreds of thousands of dollars from The Matrix and Pirates franchises.
No matter how you stack it up, Mel Gibson’s “Passion” project still stands as Hollywood’s biggest payday single ever.