Wes Anderson, hot from the art-house success of Moonrise Kingdom, has cast big money mega-star Johnny Depp in his next movie The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Now that sounds like a good match, Depp is the King of Quirk, and Wes Anderson is considered the master of quirky characters, so it should be inevitable.
But I suspect that there might be more to it than just a director hiring an actor he thinks is right for the part.
You see both Depp and Anderson are represented by the United Talent Agency or UTA, and this is where the cold calculation kicks in.
Depp is one of UTA's biggest money-makers thanks to the Pirates movies and other big buck fantasias, but there's a catch.
Depp is in serious danger of being priced out of his career.
Depp traditionally gets an obese up front fee with a hefty piece of the back end. Normally it should be all sunshine and unicorns, but there have been some setbacks recently.
1. The Pirates movies make huge money at the box office, but they have to break records just to break even.
2. He had a huge bomb with Dark Shadows, an overpriced boondoggle. A good chunk of the movie's bloated budget resting on his slender shoulders.
3. Disney is having tons of budget problems with Depp's version of The Lone Ranger, which seems to be completely out of control, cost wise.
4. Warner Bros. dropped his dream adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man. The reason: Thanks to Depp's fees, perks, and other assorted costs, the film couldn't be made for less than $100 million, even though 2/3s of the action take place in one hotel suite.
Depp's stardom is becoming a liability, because his image in Hollywood is not of someone who can sell tickets, but someone who eats up profits just by showing up.
I'm pretty sure that the good folks at UTA see this. Agents tend to be smart cookies, and they know they have to do something to change this image.
So what's better than putting Depp with Wes Anderson a filmmaker who is not only a critical darling but someone whose average production budget isn't big enough to cover Depp's usual fee. Even Anderson's most expensive and indulgent productions, like The Life Aquatic, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, still cost less than the usual budget of some big studio romantic comedies with more than one "star."
UTA can then go to the studios and say: "Hey, Depp's not a black hole for money, look at what he did with Wes Anderson."
Now I'm not saying that Anderson is doing this solely to please his agents. I'm pretty sure he was already interested in working with Depp, the folks at UTA saw an opportunity to keep their biggest ship afloat, and sold Anderson and Depp on signing on the dotted line.
That is what agents do, you know.
Personally, I hope things work out. I don't like to see someone get sunk, even by their success.